Jesus and Mary.
(photo credit: ARIEL COHEN)
Women in leadership roles from across the state of Israel gathered at Magdala, a Christian spiritual center and pilgrimage site in the Galilee, to honor International Women's Day and discuss women's empowerment on Monday.
The center, which lies at the crossroads of Jewish and Christian history in the supposed town in which Mary Magdalene grew up, provided inspiration for the day’s events. Diplomats, their wives and other women present discussed issues revolving around women’s abuse during a symposium titled “Reflections on Women's Dignity.”
Advocates spoke of the issue of legal prostitution in Israel and the struggles of the over 15,000 Israeli women who are drawn into the industry, often against their will.
An estimate 4.5 million victims are now caught in the global sex trade and the Israeli prostitution industry generates over $500 million per year in revenue, according to speaker Valerie Dilcher of the organization Exodus Cry. Statistics from the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI) show that one in every three Israeli women has been raped or sexually assaulted.
“To break this equation it is not enough for the law enforcement to fight against pimps and traffickers. It´s important to take action against these human rights violations that until now has not been not touched by the law” Flavia Sevald, General Manager of Jerusalem Institute of Justice, told the crowd.
Each speaker related the issues of feminism and women empowerment to the lessons of Mary Magdalene, speaking about how the healing process for women who have suffered such abuse. Consecrated woman, Jennifer Ristine, spoke of how Mary Magdalene inspires hope and healing for victims of abuse.
“Through the transforming experience of love, Mary Magdalene’s dignity was affirmed and she becomes a leader among leaders, inspiring hope and reconciliation,” Ristine said. “Do we have anything in common with this woman? When a woman is deeply convinced of the truth that she is unconditionally loved, she is set free to be what she is called to be for others. She becomes a catalyst for reconciliation.”
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Magdala, which consists of an archeological site and a worship center, opened in 2005 and this is the first symposium they have held. Magdala hopes to soon open a guest house for pilgrims, and even plans on founding a women´s institute during later phases of its construction, offering opportunities for ministry, training, cultural interaction, and service.
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