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

Overview

A stunning look at oppression of Israeli women and its dire implications for women everywhere

Across Israel, women are being threatened as a rising Orthodox Jewish faction seeks to suppress them. In this gripping exposé, leading women's activist Elana Sztokman investigates the struggles of Israeli women against increasing religious and political oppression, from segregation on public buses to being barred from public events and erased from newspapers and ads. Interviews and ...

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

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Overview

A stunning look at oppression of Israeli women and its dire implications for women everywhere

Across Israel, women are being threatened as a rising Orthodox Jewish faction seeks to suppress them. In this gripping exposé, leading women's activist Elana Sztokman investigates the struggles of Israeli women against increasing religious and political oppression, from segregation on public buses to being barred from public events and erased from newspapers and ads. Interviews and investigative research weave together a cutting-edge look at this alarming reality, while the author proposes solutions for creating a different, more egalitarian vision for religious culture in Israeli society and around the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
07/14/2014
Combining a chilling warning with a rousing call to action, feminist activist Sztokman (The Men’s Section) documents the places in Israel where “a radical religious misogyny has been gradually creeping into public spaces.” With outrage and bewilderment, she chronicles how Israeli business leaders, lawmakers, politicians, and police have caved to the demands of an ultra-Orthodox minority to remove women’s faces, voices, and even their physical presence from public venues, creating “female-free zones” in the name of modesty. She exposes the “entrenched culture of sexism” in the Israeli army and legislature, and explores how the Orthodox rabbinical courts cause disproportionate harm to women in their governance of “personal status” issues (marriage, divorce, and conversion), among other concerns. Sztokman rejects the “false claim of moral equivalence” that regards a woman’s basic human rights as equal to “a man’s right to silence her.” Instead, she implores the public to set aside the “distanced reverence for religion” that tolerates such practices and enjoins support for the “powerful alliance” among Orthodox feminists, religious pluralists, and human rights activists. Cutting, candid, and lucid, Sztokman’s account of injustice makes an eloquent plea for “the assertion of a secular-democratic vision for Israeli society” and will inspire more dialogue. Agent: Fern Reiss, Publishing Game Literary. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Combining a chilling warning with a rousing call to action

Cutting, candid, and lucid, Sztokman's account of injustice makes an eloquent plea for "the assertion of a secular-democratic vision for Israeli society" and will inspire more dialogue.
" - Publishers Weekly

"a worthwhile and eye-opening study." - Kirkus

"Sztokman's articulate call for attention toward and action on behalf of women's rights in Israel will be of interest to all readers with a passion for global feminism and Jewish women's lives. " - Library Journal

Library Journal
06/15/2014
Sztokman (executive director, Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance; The Men's Section) draws from her experience as a women's rights advocate in this indictment of the religiously motivated curtailment of women's rights in Israel. Sztokman documents, in a series of thematic chapters (women's dress, women in the military, marriage and divorce law), the ways in which Israeli women's lives are limited by the expectations of a powerful religious minority. She argues that the Israeli government's deference to ultra-Orthodox communities and the Orthodox rabbis who serve in civil religious offices has increasingly allowed ultra-Orthodox leaders to dictate where and how all Israeli women and even preadolescent girls should conduct their bodies and lives. Sztokman's case is well evidenced and persuasive yet has some unfortunate gaps; for example, she neglects sustained discussion of nonstraight and non-Jewish women, particularly Palestinians. While both populations deserve books in their own right, their distinct situation as women within Israeli legal and religious culture should have been noted here. VERDICT Despite its discontinuity in places, Sztokman's articulate call for attention toward and action on behalf of women's rights in Israel will be of interest to all readers with a passion for global feminism and Jewish women's lives.—Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc. Lib., Boston
Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-11
An exploration of radical Judaism’s treatment of women in Israel.Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance executive director Sztokman (The Men’s Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World, 2011) takes on the Haredi, a segment of Orthodox Judaism that rejects contact with the secular culture. The Haredi are growing in numbers and influence in Israel, and the role of women, both inside and outside of their community, is a major point of contention. The Haredi believe in strict rules of modesty and specific gender roles in the home and in worship. Sztokman presents instances in which these cultural differences have run into conflict with modern Israeli society. One example is where women may sit on public buses. The author documents the development of segregated buses around Haredi-dominated areas and how women who board them, often unknowingly, are subjected to verbal and physical attacks.Sztokman also explores issues of military service for women in Israel and how conscripted Haredi often refuse any contact with women as commanders, trainers or medical personnel. The author documents the ongoing fight for equality of worship at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where women have been abused and arrested for years for attempting to pray as men do. Sztokman labors to note that the arguments go beyond points of religious law or issues within Haredi communities themselves. Instead, she witnesses a growing desire among Haredi men to have total control over the society in which they live, and that includes a complete separation of the sexes in every way. “If one point becomes clear from this entire book,” writes the author, “it is how much separation from women is increasingly a key element of identity for religious men.” The tales of Haredi misogyny are often shocking, but they provide open avenues for reflection and discussion. Sztokman is at her weakest when trying to tie these problems to larger, more global questions of women’s freedom, such as American Christian movements toward modest dress for teenage girls.Overall, a worthwhile and eye-opening study.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781492604594
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks
  • Publication date: 9/16/2014
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 569,274
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman is the Executive Director of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, and a leading author and activist on the issue of religious feminism in Jewish life. Her first book The Men's Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World, won the 2012 National Jewish Book Council Award for Women's Studies. She lives in Modi'in, Israel, and works in New York.
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