(photo credit: Koko/Israel Sun)
Some 150 members of the Women’s International Zionist Organization, a Jewish
activist group celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, gathered in Tel Aviv
on Monday for its annual Meeting of Representatives.
WIZO chairwoman Tova
Ben-Dov welcomed the delegates from 24 countries to the event at the Hilton
Hotel and spoke about the organization’s significant contribution to
“During the last 90 years WIZO has stood for integrity,” Ben-Dov
said. “It is our ongoing commitment which makes WIZO an icon of Israeli
Since its founding in the UK 90 years ago, WIZO has spread
around the world to almost every country with a Jewish community. It employs
around 5,000 people in Israel and runs dozens of day care centers, women’s
shelters and other charitable projects.
However, since the start of the
global recession WIZO, like many other Jewish not-for profits, has had to cope
with diminished donations.
“We’ve carried out a cutback of NIS 15 million
to the core budget and it was very hard,” Ben-Dov informed the
“Here in Israel we are doing everything possible to approach
funds and foundations for support. I know our members in the [WIZO] Federations
are making an extra effort.”
One of the issues on the agenda on Monday
was Israel’s political standing in the world.
Michal Moda’i, the widow of
the late minister Yitzhak Moda’i, spoke with alarm about the challenges the
country is facing on the international arena.
“Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad is using the same terminology used by another dictator in Europe 70
years ago,” she said, drawing parallels with Adolf Hitler. “He is making every
effort to achieve nuclear weapons.”
Moda’i later lashed out against the
Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, saying it ignored
Israel’s human rights record.
“Israel is the only country in the region
which offers equal rights to every citizen regardless of their color, gender and
religion,” Moda’i said.
“Women are not stoned to death in Israel.
Homosexuals are not hunted down in front of cheering crowds. Everyone is equal
in front of the law and even a president can be tried for rape and
One of the more interesting group of delegates was from a
Mediterranean country that cannot be named for fear of repercussions against its
“If you write about us, we will be in jail,” one delegate
implored. “Please forget we were here.”
Ben-Dov said the WIZO group meets
clandestinely at the rabbi’s house without the authorities’ knowledge. She added
that WIZO groups exist in several other countries where public opinion is not
always favorable toward Israel, such as in Greece and Latin America.
President Helena Glaser chose to touch on the relative dearth of WIZO
representation in Eastern Europe, reiterating her call to expand its operations
into that part of the world.
“I resubmit my suggestion.
cannot fall behind other Jewish or Zionist organizations that have already
established themselves in that region,” Glaser said. “In the age old debate
about whether leadership is congenital, I believe it can be acquired and
therefore, it is imperative that WIZO Federations put emphasis on preparing the
future leadership on all levels – local, state, national and international – so
that WIZO never find itself without the right people in the right positions at
the right time. Again, this calls for innovative and ego-free thinking and
focused theme programs. Emphasis should be put on nurturing those committed
haverot [members] who can advance and benefit our movement and organization.