• Rina Castelnuovo/The New York Times, via Redux

    Middle East

    Israel's Secret Honor Killings

    Inside Israel’s Bedouin communities, the practice of killing women who stain the family’s “honor” is experiencing a dark revival.

    The Bedouins in Israel occupy an interesting place from the point of view of citizenship and tribal loyalty. They are Israeli citizens who serve in the Israeli military; they are also Muslims and so find themselves in awkward situations when appointed at Israeli checkpoints, where they are seen by their fellow Muslims as collaborators. There’s also deep prejudice among the Palestinians against the Bedouins; they are considered ignorant (one of the terms for a certain tribe of the Bedouins in the Judean desert is jahalin, which literally means “ignorant”) and thought to carry with them dark desert customs from before the birth of Islam. When I discussed honor killing among the Bedouins with my Palestinian friends, they said almost unanimously that “those people” still lived in Ayame Jahalia, the Age of Darkness before Islam.

    The family I was dealing with had originally come from Be’er Sheva, the largest city next to the Negev. They now lived in a poor neighborhood of Ramle called Juarish, where there was a kind of desert lawlessness, which most of its residents were complacent about. The flying debris and open sewage were the first of many shocks that would unsettle an unprepared visitor. There were a few extravagantly decorated houses, which everyone knew were built on drug money.

    Permalink
  • An Israeli mother passes by a bomb shelter as she accompanies her girl to school in the Israeli southern city of Sderot. (Anja Niedringhaus/AP)

    Middle East

    Dalia Rabin: Free Education Essential For Democracy

    The key to a strong, democratic nation lies in its schools, says the daughter of Israel's former prime minister.

    As we read of the turmoil across the Middle East, we in Israel see the picture from a different perspective. We are bordered in the North and South by instability, war, horror. The world sees a struggle within the Arab community for freedom, for democracy, and yet for years they turned a blind eye. Israel, my homeland, is the only democratic society in the Middle East. A society truly free that survives amidst a region filled with totalitarianism, suppression of basic rights and demonic acts committed against the citizenry. A society that has thrived not because of a strong defense, but because of an open and free education—it is my belief, that this is the key to truly affecting change in this world. Educate.

    The roots of Israel’s focus on education were actually born from necessity, but were firmly grounded throughout the state’s growth. In the years since World War II, Israel saw an unprecedented amount of new immigrants entering its society, including people from all walks of life, from across the world and Europe. Many of these people never knew freedom and democracy in their lives and they came to Israel to find their new hope. They spoke many languages, yet they lived as one. Over time, education was what turned a diverse society into a vibrant nation, and it can do the same for other countries if done openly, transparently and uncensored.

    Permalink
  • November/Corbis

    Get Me Out

    Israeli Women Stuck in Defunct Marriages

    One in five who seek divorce is rebuked.

    Divorce is hard to come by in Israel: to obtain it, both parties must consent and sign a religious document, called a get, for a rabbi. Many husbands refuse this rite, and when they do, the marriage cannot be dissolved. This applies to all Jewish Israelis: Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox; religious and secular alike. This especially hurts women, and the process has been upheld “even in cases,” reports the L.A. Times, “where a man has abused his wife, disappeared, lied about his sexuality or molested their children.” However, in some cases when a husband flees, the court hires a spy to find him and place him in custody until he’ll agree to the divorce.

    Permalink
  • Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

    PUNISHED FOR PEACE

    Charged for ‘Peaceful’ Demonstration

    Two Palestinian women charged with participating in a nonviolent protest.

    An Israeli military court charged two women from Palestine for involvement in a West Bank demonstration. The women, Nariman Tamimi and Rana Hamadah, were charged with “entering a closed military zone” in a place where people have been demonstrating since 2009. Protesters disagree because the land has been seized by a nearby settlement, according to Fox News. Both of the women, one of which has Canadian nationality, pleaded not guilty. Hamadah and Tamimi were part of a 25-person group that demonstrated on June 28 and was stopped by soldiers and border police as they crossed a field.

    Permalink
  • A Jewish women from the "Women of the Wall" organization, leads a prayer, at the Western Wall. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

    BREAKING BARRIERS

    Win for Women of the Wall

    Israeli group gains right to pray among men.

    After 25 years of campaigning, members of the Israeli feminist group Women of the Wall were finally granted permission to pray on equal terms to men at Jerusalem's Western Wall. Many of the women arrived early Sunday morning, donning white prayer shawls, skull caps, and leather tefillin straps that fixed Torah scrolls to their fingers and heads. The Women of the Wall have faced countless barriers, including the arrest of 10 of its members earlier this year. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that women should be allowed to pray freely among men, angering members of Israel’s conservative religious community. 

    Permalink
  • Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

    TRAILBLAZING

    Ethiopian-Israeli Female Power Players

    After immigrating to Israel for decades, Ethiopian Jews are holding significant roles in government and beyond.

    From a crowned Ethiopian-Israeli beauty queen to a campaign aimed at integration, women are changing the landscape in Israel. The Jewish Agency and the state of Israel are aiming to complete their last mission to bring Jewish Ethiopians to Israel in August. Immigration is up, and since October 2012 roughly 7,000 Ethiopians have moved to Israel as part of the mission. The Ethiopian-Israeli women still face hardship, and many are employed as unskilled workers. Nevertheless, they’re gaining respect in the country. An Ethiopian-Israeli won Israeli Idol recently, and others own businesses. But, as the recently crowned Miss Israel said, there is still a long way to go.

    Permalink
  • Saurabh Das/AP

    Woeful ignorance

    Israeli Judge: Girls "Enjoy Being Raped"

    Official resigns after making comments during a rape case.

    An Israeli judge resigned on Wednesday following offensive comments in court. Judge Nissim Yeshaya, of Tel Aviv’s District Court said, “Some girls enjoy being raped,” during a hearing for a 19-year old victim who was allegedly raped by four Palestinians when she was 13. The victim is petitioning the court to classify the alleged rape as an “act of terror,” which would make her eligible for compensation from the government. The judge claimed his remarks had been misconstrued, but resigned after pressure from members of Parliament. Even Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu voiced his opposition, calling the remarks “unacceptable,” and withdrawing support for the judge’s appointment as head of the Likud Party’s Court.

    Permalink
  • Facebook

    Say Cheese

    Israeli Soldiers' Racy Facebook Photos: Silly Or Subversive?

    Are the female IDF soliders who posted half-naked photos of themselves on Facebook feeding the beast of objectification, or doing something much more subversive?

    IDF soldiers have once again taken to social media to pose compromising photographs that have caused their commanders to squirm. This time, it’s a group of female soldiers, still in basic training, posting a picture of themselves scantily clad in combat gear, and another image broadcasting their bare bottoms to the world.

    Over at Haaretz, my fellow blogger Allison Kaplan Sommer concludes that if they must engage in immature antics, she prefers her country’s teenagers lose their “dignity” rather than their “conscience.” She is referring to previous photos and videos showing IDF recruits dancing to pop music while on patrol, and channeling images of Palestinians through their rifle crosshairs.

    Permalink
  • Gali Tibbon/AFP

    WAILING WALL

    Vandals Target Women of the Wall

    Jewish women’s group promotes worship equality.

    Black graffiti covers the walls of Peggy Cidor’s home, reading “Women of the Wall are wicked,” “Peggy, your time is up,” and “Jerusalem is holy.” Cidor is a leader of the Jewish organization known as Women of the Wall, which conducts monthly prayer services at the holy Western Wall, a site where such rituals have traditionally been exclusively male. Ultra-Orthodox communities have expressed their ire at the liberal women’s group’s demands for worship equality by blocking prayer services. But Israeli officials recently approved the women’s right to worship.

    Permalink
  • Israel

    Matchmaker, Make Me An (Orthodox) Match

    “Into the Void” offers a glimpse into Ultra-Orthodox marriages and the role of women in Orthodox Jewish life.

    Rama Burshtein, the director of Fill the Void—a new film about the complex world of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish women—only found religion herself two decades ago. Burshtein, now 45, was born into a secular Jewish family in New York; she’s now a practicing Orthodox in Tel Aviv.

    Her own religious journey helped inform Fill the Void, which has been the subject of much critical acclaim and controversy about the role of women in Orthodox Jewish life.

    Permalink
  • Members of the religious group 'Women of the Wall,' during a prayer marking the first day of the Jewish month of Iyar at the Western Wall on April 11, 2013 in Jerusalem's Old City, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

    AT LAST

    A Western Wall for Two

    Women can finally pray alongside their brothers at Jerusalem’s holiest site.

    After years of protests and arrests, which ramped up in recent months, an Israeli court ruled yesterday that women can now worship in prayer shawls at the Western Wall. The Women of the Wall have been instrumental in this change, undergoing numerous arrests after breaking the rules on their monthly visits (the only days they were allowed entry to the main wall). Following the arrests of five women earlier this month, judge Moshe Sobel ruled that they had not violated local custom, and that the practice of praying separately from the men was a suggestion, not a requirement. The group’s chairwoman, Anat Hoffman, attributed the landmark decision to growing pressure from Jews abroad, many of whom are not Orthodox, with a “strong diaspora Jewish voice saying: This is unacceptable.”

    Permalink
  • Knesset member Merav Michaeli speaks at the Temple Emanu-El during the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day in New York on April 7, 2013. (Allison Joyce/Reuters, via Corbis , ALLISON JOYCE)

    Watch Out, Bibi!

    She Who Rules The Knesset

    Merav Michaeli arrived in Parliament last month to take on Bibi over the lack of women in his Cabinet. Caroline Linton on Israel’s new feminist fighter.

    “So what do you think of the show Girls?” asks Merav Michaeli, the Israeli politician, just minutes after I meet her in New York. Michaeli is in town both on a vacation with her “non-husband” and to meet with American Jewish leaders. In an aside worthy of Hannah Horvath, she tells me that she would “definitely recommend that everyone go for a non-husband.”

    “It’s a vicious circle—once you get married, it’s clear what your role is,” she says.

    Permalink
  • Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty

    Israeli group protests ban on females saying the Kaddish at the Jerusalem holy site ahead of the national memorial days.

    Ahead of Israel's national memorial days--including Holocaust Memorial Day and a day of remembrance for fallen soldiers--a group of women are protesting a new Israeli directive that prohibits females from reciting the Jewish prayer of mourning at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall.

    The group, "Women of the Wall," spoke out about a March 14 letter published in Ha'aretz, in which Jerusalem Police Chief Yossi Pariente prohibited women from saying the Kaddish at the holy site. "The police chief's decision is ... not enforceable," group founder Anat Hoffman told the press. "We will continue and fight for our right to pray as we wish and as we see fit. The police are taking the ultra-Orthodox side because they are afraid of them and their power."

    Permalink