Women in Israel - some statistical data:
Violence against Women
* One in seven women are beaten; one of six battered women report the incident
* Every twelve hours a rape takes place in Israel
* Each day between 60 and 120 women suffer sexual attacks
* One in three women is attacked during her lifetime; only 10 to 20% report the
* In 1998, 13 women were killed by their husbands or other male relatives; five of
these were "honor killings", murders of women by family members for alleged
* The government supports 10 shelters for battered women, a number considered
inadequate by women's rights advocates
* Some 200,000 women suffer from domestic violence each year
* Israel is officially acknowledged as a "host country" for trafficked women; a
multi-million dollar forced prostitution trade now exists in Israel
* 10% of married woman in Israel are victims of domestic violence
* Nearly 50% of Israeli women claim to have suffered sexual harassment at work
* Women receive lower wages for comparable work, are promoted less often and
have fewer career opportunities
* In 1996, women made up over 30% of the boards in only 39 of 118
* Over 70% of employees earning minimum wage are women
* The percentage of top level positions held by women is 10%
* The average monthly salary earned by women is $930; the average monthly
salary earned by men is $1730
* Only 14 of the 120 Members of Knesset are women - less than 12%; the
previous record was 12
* Prior to this year's municipal elections, when two women mayors were elected,
Israel had not had a female mayor since 1956
* Women's representation in local councils now stands at 10.8% - this is after a
40% rise since 1993
* A women’s party was elected only once, in the first Knesset in 1948
* Of the 24 (?) ministers in Israel’s government, only 2 are women; a total of 8
women have held cabinet positions since the founding of the state
* Women soldiers were barred from most combat positions untill the year 2000
* Only since 1995 have women been eligible to become Air Force pilots
* The past years have seen a 20% increase in complaints of sexual harassment
in the Army
* 20% of new academic jobs go to women, although they earn 43% of all doctoral
* 44% of women who enter academia become professors, compared to 74% of
* Only one in eight Israeli professors is female
Marriage and Personal Status
* Women can be denied a divorce by their husbands on the basis of religious law,
and be left unable to remarry
* Men can be granted permission to remarry prior to receiving a divorce
* There are incidents of husbands who withhold their consent to a religious
divorce in order to extort exorbitant sums of money from their wives
* A woman who refuses to accept a divorce can be denied maintenance and
While Jewish law through the ages protected and supported, today that same law is
being used by some as a tool to deny women their rights to equality in marriage,
divorce and establishing a family.
The adjudication of personal status law in the areas of marriage and divorce is left to
religious courts, where Jewish and Muslim women are subject to restrictive
interpretation of their rights.
The Good News (1997):
* 55% of Israeli bachelor's degree holders are women
* 40% of advanced degree holders in Israel are women
* One third of Israel's Ph.D. candidates are women
* One half of Israel's law school and medical school students are women
So what else is new?
Division of Labor: Women Still Do Twice as Much Housework as Men
Sharing Chores More Fairly May Be Key to Happy Marriage
By Denise Mann
WebMD Medical News
Reviewed by Dr. Tonja Wynn Hampton
Dec. 8, 2000 -- Gone are the days when "All in the Family's" Archie Bunker
would come home from work and plop down in his easy chair while his wife,
Edith, rushed to bring him a cold beer and put his dinner on the table.
Or are they?
In the November issue of the Journal of Marriage and the Family, sociologist
Scott Coltrane reviewed more than 200 articles and books written about the
division of household chores among couples that were published between 1989
Although women have decreased their hourly contributions to housework and men
have slightly increased their share, women still do twice as much housework
as men, reports Coltrane, an associate professor of sociology at the
University of California in Riverside.
But those women who report a more balanced sharing of such tasks as washing
dishes; washing, ironing, and mending clothes; and cooking are more satisfied
with their marriage and report feeling less depressed, writes Coltrane,
author of "Family Man: Fatherhood, Housework, and Gender Equity."
And marriage counselors tell WebMD that figuring out how to divvy up such
tasks is a crucial ingredient in the recipe for a happy marriage.
Couples in which both partners work outside the home and those in which wives
make more money are among the most likely to report a more balanced
distribution of household chores. Additionally, housework is more likely to
be split when wives feel more strongly that both paid work and family work
should be shared and that men and women are equals. And, Coltrane reports,
younger women tend to do less housework and share more of it than older women
because younger women may be more likely to hold jobs outside of the home.
A previous study showed that American women's time spent on housework dropped
from 24 hours per week in 1965 to 16 hours in 1985, a decline of about
one-third. During this same time, men's contribution to housework increased
from two to four hours a week.
"Women still perform most routine cooking and cleaning tasks, and although
fewer men confine their efforts to the occasional outside chore, husbands
rarely take full responsibility for a wide range of household tasks," he
concludes. We now know that when men perform more of the routine housework,
employed women feel that the division of labor is fairer, are less depressed,
and enjoy higher levels of marital satisfaction."
The division of household chores "comes up very frequently as part of the
larger question of choreographing family life," says Susan Heitler, PhD, a
clinical psychologist in private practice in Denver and author of The Power
of Two: Secrets to a Strong & Loving Marriage.
"It is important for couples to pool their preferences and come up with a
plan of action that they both feel good about," she says. "The first
challenge is for people to tune into their inner voices and say what they
like and don't like and then find a tactful way to share that information
with their partner."
Complaints are bad, she says, but requests are good.
"Complaints focus on the negative and criticize what you don't like, while
requests focus on the positive and what you would like, such as, 'I would
appreciate it so much if we could talk over our routines for the hour that we
first get home from work,'" Heitler says.
"In general, people get their role assumptions from who did what in their
family of origin," she says. "A man whose dad vacuumed will vacuum."
But there has been a change in the structure of family life, so most couples
who are now raising children didn't have parents who shared household chores,
and each couple has to negotiate on new territory, she explains.
"What's happening now is that household chores are a family responsibility --
not necessarily his or hers," she says. "And the question becomes: How shall
we divvy up who does what?"
If you travel in more traditional areas of the world like Africa, every
activity is a male or female activity. By contrast, more and more couples in
American society have become degenderized. For example, instead of mailmen,
there are mail people.
"The same thing is happening within family life, but it still has a long way
to go," she says.
"In general, the ability to divide chores in a way that feels good to both
partners correlates with more marital satisfaction [because] it shows an
underlying attitude of mutual respect," says Heitler.
Victor Kline, a psychotherapist and a professor of psychology at the
University of Utah in Salt Lake City, says that when both partners are
working, sharing of household tasks contributes to a sense of fairness.
"If couples can negotiate and have a sense that no one is being exploited and
they both have a fair share of household chores, it absolutely makes for a
better marriage," he says.
If there is not an equal distribution of chores, there can be resentment and
anger. "Some couples may need a mediator to help them negotiate their
household roles," Kline tells WebMD.
When it comes to household chores, men are from Mars and women are from
Venus, says Neenah Amaral, PhD, a marriage and family therapist in Rancho
"I discovered over the years that men tend to be single-task oriented and
women tend to be multitask oriented," she tells WebMD. "If a man is working
in his woodshop, he gets frazzled when he is disturbed, while a woman can be
fixing dinner, feeding the dog, watching television, and talking on the phone
all at the same time."
"If a women wants a man to help out around the house," Amaral suggests, "try
giving him specific tasks, such as: 'Would you please clean and dust the
coffee table?' or 'Could you please take the kids' toys upstairs?' as opposed
This letter was sent to the Israeli Feminist Forum (brought here with some necessary omissions)
I am sending the article, appeared in Haaretz this weekend about Dr Orit Kamir. I think this is
outrages, and that we should do something about it.
A woman scorned
By Dorit Abramovitz (Ha'Aretz 7, March 3, 2001)
faculty lecturer Dr. Orit Kamir received after the bill she initiated concerning sexual
harassment passed in the Knesset. At the time, one of her male colleagues
remarked that the law would hinder him from being able to behave spontaneously
around his female students. Dr. Kamir's friends were not the only ones who feared
that her professional fate may already have been sealed at that point, but they were
still stunned when, about a month ago, she was formally and unceremoniously shut
out of the halls of academia.
Kamir's friends say the night of January 28 was one of the most difficult of her life.
That evening, the dean of the law faculty, Prof. Israel Gilead, had called and tersely
delivered the message that the appeal against her promotion to tenured lecturer had
been accepted - meaning that her contract with the university was about to be
terminated. But when her students heard the news, they were outraged. Hundreds of
them have banded together to try to prevent the dismissal from occurring.
To some on the law faculty, the whole episode is illustrative of how a conservative
establishment can block the path of a talented and successful feminist who stands up
for her views. Since word of Kamir's rejection got out, apprehension over how this
establishment might react has only intensified, and explains why most of those
interviewed for this article consented to talk solely on condition of anonymity. Most
also cited one particular incident in which Kamir incurred the wrath of several of her
According to the story, a few years ago, a woman who was a candidate to join the
department was invited to give a lecture to the faculty. Afterward, a number of staff
members were standing around talking. One senior lecturer was heard to remark: "In
order to decide whether to accept her on the faculty, what does it matter what she
said? What really matters is whether or not she's a slut."
At first, the incident was generally considered an amusing gaffe, since the
candidate's husband happened to be standing nearby and overheard the comment.
But Kamir felt otherwise. She told then dean Prof. Uriel Procaccia that, not only was it
not funny, but that it was inconceivable that such remarks could be made regarding
the hiring of a woman for a job.
Kamir demanded that the faculty hold an open discussion to clarify the norms of
discourse in relation to women. Several of Kamir's colleagues felt that her actions on
this issue constituted an example of "feminist terrorism" that aimed to restrict their
freedom of speech and was, at the very least, anti-collegial.
Alumni of the law school tell of an "overly open" atmosphere between several
lecturers and the female students who studied with them. They claim that there are
some lecturers on the faculty who boast of their many "successes" in their
relationships with the female students. This is the source of the presumption that the
thwarting of Kamir's career stems from the desire of certain faculty members to
preserve this male ethos.
According to the sexual harassment law authored by Kamir, an affair between a
student and a professor may be interpreted as an exploitation of authority and, in the
most serious cases, even as a criminal offense.
In 1992, having completed her bachelor's degree in law and a master's degree in
humanities, Kamir went to the University of Michigan to work on her doctorate. Her
studies there were partially funded by the Hebrew University law school. In any
event, it was clear that Kamir would find a place waiting for her on the law faculty
once she returned with her doctorate. It was in Michigan that Kamir met preeminent
feminist theorist Prof. Catherine McKinnon, who is now pitching in to help Kamir in
her struggle to remain at Hebrew University.
Kamir suffered the first blow shortly after her return to Israel. Then dean of the faculty
Prof. Berhiyahu Lifshitz reportedly told her that he saw no reason to create a regular
position on the faculty devoted to feminist research, since it was "a passing American
fad." But there were some faculty members who supported her position. In the wake
of one of the courses she taught at the time, on sexual harassment, she consolidated
a new legal philosophy which she translated into the bill against sexual harassment.
The Israel Women's Network took it upon itself to promote the bill, and MK Yael
Dayan (One Israel) adopted it and put it on the Knesset agenda. Today, the law is
considered to be one of the most progressive in the world on this matter.
The process that ended as a nightmare actually looked highly promising at first. A
year ago, in early February 2000, the Hebrew University began the formal process at
the end of which Dr. Kamir was supposed to receive tenure and to have the word
"senior" appended to her title of "lecturer."
The first stage of the process went very smoothly. A committee composed of
lecturers from the law faculty, the social sciences and the humanities offered highly
laudatory opinions of Kamir and glowing reviews of her academic work. The second
stage of the process also went well. Kamir's publications were sent to prestigious
universities abroad for review and were also deemed to be excellent.
The third stage was supposed to be the last and decisive one. The university
appointment committee was made up of lecturers from different faculties related to
Kamir's area of study; after carefully reviewing the opinions received from Israel and
abroad, they decided that she was eligible for tenure. But any celebrations then were
premature. In the law school, word spread that the dean, Prof.
Yisrael Gilead, planned to fight the appointment. Thus, no one was surprised to hear that an
appeal against the appointment committee's decision had been submitted.
Even before the Supreme Appeals Committee met to discuss the matter, the law faculty was
awash in rumors that supposedly provided explanations as to just why this unusual step was
taken. According to the rumors, in her course, "Sexual Harassment - Social Reality in the
Legal Mirror," Dr. Kamir asked the students to consider specific lecturers on the
faculty and to discuss their sexual behavior toward female students - the sexual
messages conveyed in their lessons and the sexuality that they project.
Not one of these rumors could be substantiated or attributed to any one particular
source. Prof. Eliav Shochetman of the law faculty sounded shocked: "I think that her
disqualification stems from these groundless rumors. How can a person's fate be
decided this way? After all, she received very high marks professionally."
Students who'd taken the sexual harassment course were mobilized to refute the
rumors. In a petition addressed to the dean of the faculty, they wrote: "As those who
were present in this course in all the years it was given, we seek to bring to your
attention that these rumors are nothing but a malicious and groundless plot. We
cannot stand idly by when the good name of one of the most talented and original
lecturers on the faculty is being so unjustifiably tarnished and when irreversible harm
is being caused to her."
Despite the fact that the appeals committee's hearings are kept confidential, many in
the faculty were aware that the dean had appeared before the committee and
expressed his opposition to granting Kamir tenure due to what he claimed was her
lack of collegiality and deficient teaching skills. The composition of this committee
and the reasoning behind its decisions are also confidential, but Kamir's supporters
do know that the committee was made up of nine men and one woman, and they
wonder how it could have reached its decision without hearing any opinions from the
Senior lecturers (both male and female) from various departments in the humanities
and social sciences sent a letter of protest along these lines to the university
administration. Prof. Gilead declined to talk to Ha'aretz.
Word of the appeals committee's decision spread quickly. Uri Sadeh, 27, heard about
it from some of his classmates. "We organized right away," he says. "This is a
lecturer whose classes made it worth it to get up in the morning. First of all, we
wanted to find out just whom we were up against. I very soon discovered all the dirt
that had been swept under the rug."
Sadeh suspects that complaints made by some of Kamir's students, which he says
bear no reflection upon her academic talents, were used against her as well. "It's true
that she's tough, but that's also one of her assets. She gives a huge amount of
reading material and insists that we read it before each class. So maybe that makes
her not nice to all kinds of people, but it's just because she's not willing to cut corners
like other lecturers are.
"I also know that there were students who had a hard time with her because she
sometimes speaks to all of us in the feminine gender [Hebrew grammar uses the
male gender for any plurality that includes at least one male]. I actually found that it
made me think. It gave me perspective."
Sadeh and 15 others wrote a petition protesting Kamir's dismissal; more than 250
students signed it. Lecturers on the faculty have recently been asked to sign a
petition that calls upon the university president and rector to leave the appeals
committee's decision intact. So far, about half of the staff have signed.
Two classes given by Dr. Kamir drew particular attention. In them, Kamir discussed
the relationship between the Israeli legal system and various groups in the country,
including women, Arabs, and gays and lesbians. She also decided to use only the
feminine gender when speaking to her students in order to demonstrate to the men
(and the women) how the other group feels.
"It had become so popular to hate her that he couldn't understand how so many
students could be ready to rally to her cause," says Sadeh. The optimism with which
they left the meeting with the president evaporated after a subsequent meeting, this
time with the dean of the faculty.
"Between the lines, I understood that he didn't take the petition that we'd brought to
him seriously. Suddenly, he started to check if there were names listed twice and
generally tried to say that the faculty had nothing to do with the dismissal. He tried to
convey the impression that it was her research that was lousy, but that it was
unpleasant for him to say so."
Attorney Dror Elner took several courses with Dr. Kamir. "Her classes were
fascinating and very original and were taught very well," he says. "In general, when
you study law, you can just sit in the class and not do anything. With her, the
demands were very high and, most importantly, she gave original interpretations by
involving the students in the discussion. For me as a man, it was very important to be
in her classes, precisely because she often spoke in the feminine gender.
"I suddenly understood how the Hebrew language is structured just for men and that
our culture is the same way ... Everything that's being said against her is false. To a
lot of other lecturers, her dissecting of the social reality that gives rise to sexual
harassment is something that shouldn't be done."
The next day, he was called in for a talk to clarify just what he had meant. He
explained that the remark was not meant to be threatening and apologized. The
apology was not accepted. The dean informed him that he viewed his words as "a
harsh and serious statement unbecoming to an attorney" and that, therefore, he
would have no more contact with him. Shortly afterward, Elner received a letter from
the dean that said: "I hereby instruct the faculty authorities whom I oversee not to
come in any contact with you apart from that which is legally necessary. Be assured
that I do not intend to respond to your letters."
Attorney Gisette Ruhana was Kamir's student. "Her courses were packed," she says.
"I had to submit a special request to get into her course because it was already full.
This is a lecturer who leaves a mark on you, not like the rest. She was always there
for us. She never imposed her views on us. When I heard what happened, I was in
shock. I was sure that she'd been tenured a long time ago."
Ruhana was astounded when she heard about the rumors being spread about
Kamir. "I couldn't believe the amount of gossip against her. Look, with all due respect
to all the lecturers, I, as her student, know better than they whether or not she's a
good lecturer. It's obvious to me that they fired her because of her views. Apparently,
some people aren't ready for a feminist like her to be associated with the institution. I
say this with great sorrow..."
Prof. Frances Raday, a senior lecturer on the faculty, also sees a feminist issue
"I remember when I was a doctoral student and on maternity leave. One of my
lecturers told me that it would be better if I didn't continue to teach one of the courses
since, due to my condition, I wouldn't be able to attain the necessary level. To the
best of my recollection, over the past 20 years, 22 men applied for tenure and all of
them were granted it; of the nine women who were candidates for tenure, only six
received it. In the university, there's a pyramid of advancement: More than half the
students are women, but the higher you go on the pyramid, the less women you
Kamir hasn't completely given up. Her refusal to be interviewed stemmed from her
hope that the president of the university would try to find a way to keep her on the
faculty. "As long as the door is open to negotiation, I'm displaying loyalty and
collegiality to the university," is all she would say.
When Kamir came back to Israel after completing her doctoral studies in Michigan,
many people suggested to her that she try to find a spot with another one of the
country's universities. Other law faculties are known to provide a much more open
environment for newer and more radical fields of study, including feminism. But
Kamir decided to return to Hebrew University.
Law Prof. Alex Stein, who formerly served as vice-dean of the faculty, is not
perturbed by the fact that the appeals committee nullified Kamir's promotion. "I trust
the university authorities in all their decisions," he says. "There's no chance at all that
she was dismissed because of the subject that she deals with. I would guess that she
has problems in teaching, but I don't want to get into that."
He has also heard the rumors about Kamir. "I agree that there is no basis to these
rumors about her, but there are problems with her. She can sit at a staff meeting and
cut people off mid-sentence to berate us, for example, for 'screwing' Arab students.
We don't speak that way here, certainly not at meetings of the faculty council. She's
just rude. There are all kinds of collegial complaints against her and they're important
because we live in a competitive market. Once we were the premier law faculty in the
country. Now we've been shunted aside and we have to fight for every student that
comes to us."
Prof. McKinnon, who lectures at the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan, has
a much higher opinion of Kamir, who was her student when she was doing her doctorate.
"Kamir is the foremost expert in the world in the area of sexual harassment," she says. "She has
a very impressive academic record and tremendous intellectual ability. Her writing is extremely
effective and internationally recognized. What's happened sounds to me like discrimination.
She's being punished precisely because of her extraordinary abilities.
"The fact that students are being used against her makes it intolerable. This is a
flagrant violation of the freedom of academic speech. It's a shame that people there
are still being punished for holding feminist views."
Dr. Kamir is also winning support from the Justice Ministry. Attorney Michal
Leifer-Elbashan, legal assistant to the director-general and the person charged with
overseeing issues related to women's status, hints that Kamir herself has been the
victim of a sophisticated type of sexual discrimination: "Sexual harassment does not
derive from sexual attraction. It's a further expression of the mechanism of
discrimination and oppression of women. The higher the woman's professional level,
the more sophisticated and less direct the harassment generally becomes. A hostile
environment is created around the woman.
"The objective in these cases is to preserve the male hegemony and to prevent
women from fitting into the system. Sexual harassment isn't the only way that such
things happen. The dynamic that occurs in every case is that there's a woman
threatening the male hegemony and they try to push her out in various ways. She
becomes a source of discomfort that disturbs the normal workings of things."
Hebrew University spokeswoman Orit Sulitzeanu responds: "The president of the
university received petitions and requests, from both students and faculty, expressing
various opposing positions concerning the case of Dr. Orit Kamir. The university's
decision is that, at this stage, Dr. Kamir will not receive tenure.
"Out of respect for the person involved and to protect his or her privacy, it is not the
custom of the Hebrew University to make public the reasons and considerations
behind a decision on matters discussed by the appointments committee concerning a
staff member. There is no basis whatsoever to the claim that personal considerations
or rumors were a factor in the discussions held by the Supreme Appointments
Committee concerning Dr. Kamir. Actually, the fact that Dr. Kamir is an 'original voice'
in the academic landscape and in legal research was taken into consideration and
deemed to be to her credit.
"Neither Dr. Kamir's feminist views nor her positions regarding sexual harassment
has any impact on, or connection to, the matter of the granting of tenure."
update: January 2003
Dr. Orit Kamir has been re-enstated in a "senior Lecturer" position, after a long
mediation procedure with the Hebrew University. Both sides were happy with the
results of the mediation, and the reponse from the Israeli Academia and feminist
groups was warm. The Hebrew University has publicly denounced the slander and
rumors about Dr. Kamir.
Read Haaretz's coverage .