Forum member Mary Peterson of New Bern and her husband spent the month of July 2011 “house and dog sitting” in Herzliya, Israel for an American Embassy friend. At the southeast regional lunch on February 4, she shared with the group some photos of day trips they took during the month. (Note: Driving a car with embassy plates can work for or against you!) They were invited on two Embassy trips; one to a “dig” in the Eilat Valley where the excavation was a city in the time of King David and the second was to Nazareth for a culinary tour which included dinner in the home of an Arab woman. You might say this part of the program was a quick travelogue visiting Jerusalem, Haifa, Netanya, Nazareth, Tel Aviv, Jaffa and several National Parks with ancient ruins.
She was asked to share some thoughts about gender equity for Israeli women. Her opening quote was from her Embassy friend, a woman, who had been in Israel for two years:
There are different cultures here and it’s impossible to put them all into one; you have Israelis, Arabs, Bedouins, Hasidic Jews and a hodge podge of others. The women in each of these categories have very different issues. I would say there is a tremendous diversity of women’s issues in this country.
Mary went on to give some generalizations about the issues of gender equity the secular Israeli woman encounters. As in our country there are laws to help ensure gender equity, but in the work place a women’s experience can be very different when compared with that of their male colleagues. The glass ceiling is encountered, as in America, and there have been a few break-throughs: Golda Meir is probably best known and the present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is a woman. Since 1953 women must serve in the military for two years and the military helped some to achieve their goals. 2011 saw the first woman General, so progress is slow there too. As educated women in both Israel and the US we need to keep working to achieve more gender equity.