Major rise in number of Israeli feminist organizations

More than 400 Jews and Arabs are expected at the first conference on feminism, held in Nazareth.

Israeli women 88 (photo credit: )
Israeli women 88
(photo credit: )
There has been a dramatic increase in the size and scope of Israel's feminist organizations over the past 18 years, with 69 different groups, including nine rape crisis centers and 14 battered women's shelters, currently operational. The information was revealed in the initial findings of a national report compiled by Dorit Abramovitz, director of projects and campaigns for the umbrella organization of feminist groups in Israel. The report, which was sponsored by the German-based Heinrich Boll Foundation, compares today's feminist landscape to that prior to 1990, when only 14 such organizations existed here. It also examines the wide range of feminist activism by Jewish and joint Jewish-Arab feminist organizations, and studies their effectiveness at improving the situation in general for women in Israel. Although the report will be published in full only next January, Abramovitz presented partial data on Thursday at the country's 16th National Conference on Feminism, which runs through Saturday in Nazareth. More than 400 people - Jews, Arabs, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, religious, secular, transgendered and lesbian - are expected to participate in the conference. "This is the first time the conference will be held in an Arab city," Abramovitz told The Jerusalem Post prior to the conference's opening plenary. "It was decided more than a year ago to hold it there in an attempt to reflect the changes in the country's feminist movement." According to Abramovitz, the aim of the conference is for all women's organizations to gather and decide on a united platform. a "I know it appears that things are changing here for women and we can even see three very successful women in key leadership positions," observed Abramovitz, referring to Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni, Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik and the president of the Supreme Court, Justice Dorit Beinisch. "Of course we are happy that there are women holding these jobs, but how much does it really affect the situation for other women? If they do not view themselves as feminists or attempt to further the cause of women, the situation for women in general will not change." Also on the agenda at this weekend's conference, according to Abramovitz, is the place of the lesbian and transgender community in Israel. Until now, those from the transgender community had not been invited as a group to feminist conferences but their battle for social recognition was of growing importance, she said. As for her research, Abramovitz said that, together with the growing size and scope of the feminist movement in Israel, there had also been growth in joint activities. Beyond the issue of Israeli-Arab coexistence, she said, there had been numerous joint campaigns in such areas as sexual discrimination, the sexual abuse of women by public office-holders, and the economic independence of women and their place in the workforce. Abramovitz said the report would be published in Hebrew, Arabic, English and German.