The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom

Sourcebooks  2014

 

The War on Women in Israel offers a compelling look at the challenges to gender equality and women’s rights in Israel. Sztokman divides her book into three parts. The first part focuses on efforts by ultra-Orthodox community leaders and followers, with the complicity of business and government officials, to block women’s images and presence from the public sphere. These efforts include segregation of men and women on public buses and extralegal enforcement of so-called modesty standards on women in public performances and even on the streets. The second part examines matters of fertility, marriage, divorce, and conversion, all of which raise implications for gender equality and for which gender-biased rules and practices are developed and enforced by official state actors—often ultra-Orthodox as well. The third and final part addresses the reactions from across a range of Israeli organizations and communities – including protests, performances, organizing, and lawsuits – to these instances of gender inequality.

A particularly impressive aspect of this book is the excellent, expert way in which the author provides context for her myriad examples. From the start, Sztokman explains that the situation in Israel is one example of the religious radicalism that aims to force the public in many countries to follow extreme religious practices, and she provides some comparisons to similar examples in other countries. For Israel specifically, Sztokman provides the history of current and long-standing disputes, describing, in one instance, how segregation on buses began in a small way and then expanded, and, from a broader perspective, how political accommodations for ultra-Orthodox communities when Israel was founded in 1948 have led to continued clashes over women’s rights, with severe implications for women regardless of their religious affiliations.

Well researched and well written, this book is a work of advocacy for gender equality and women’s rights. Sztokman recommends a number of organizations – both in Israel and in the U.S. – for readers to support on these issues. She commends individuals and organizations for successful advocacy and provides many examples of successes as well as advocacy-in-progress. Readers will enjoy learning about the issues, and may even be inspired to take action – in their communities, in Israel, and across the globe.

Acknowledgements, Epilogue, Notes, Prologue.

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