An actress, a scientist, a tennis player, a hi-tech CEO, an ambassador – these five women, and nine others, will light the torches this year as part of the official Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. This is the first year the Israeli government has chosen to grant this prestigious honor only to women, as part of its “The Era of Women” theme for Israel’s 67th year of existence.
The fact the government has chosen to showcase women is commendable and an important internal message for us Israelis. At the same time however, it also brings to light the stark differences between how we in Israel perceive ourselves, compared to how the world views the Israeli nation and environment.
On the whole, we – the Israelis – consider ourselves a society that promotes gender equality, and we all know women have rights here like in other Western countries.
And yet, a brief review of research from around the world about how we’re perceived discloses an entirely different understanding of our complex and vibrant society.
In fact, according to recent research by Y&R’s Brand Asset Valuator as well as research commissioned by the Brand Israel Group in the US, while we are considered daring, straightforward and leaders, we are also viewed as mostly masculine, militaristic and aggressive.
This perception goes well beyond the gender-related issues and paints a daunting picture of what the average Israeli looks like to the world at large. It appears, then, that perceptions of Israel and the Israeli people do not seem to aptly reflect what we’ll all sit down and watch on our TVs on the evening of May 5.
Israel is a multidimensional, vibrant and highly energetic country where innovation and creativity can be found everywhere – this is who we really are.
When Israel was first established, our national characteristics were embodied by “Srulik,” a young man with khaki shorts and a “Tembel” hat. But times, they are a changing; Srulik is long gone and this year only women will light the torches as a sign of our progressive society. Why not, then, do more than just pay lip service to “The Era of Women”? By adding a bit of feminine flair to how we present ourselves to the world we will go a long way to bridging the gap between perception and reality. This approach is not limited just to changing the way Israelis are viewed in terms of gender-related issues, but rather can be implemented as a wide-ranging strategy to change the way people think and feel about Israel in general.
The author is the founder and CEO of Kinetis.