How are women doing? It depends on where you look.

Women fill the ranks of the illiterate around the world, and women continue to be restricted, limited and oppressed in countries across much of the globe.

Where legal barriers are removed, women gain ground. Where restrictive custom eases, women enjoy full rights, privileges and opportunities…and they flourish. Angela Merkel is the most admired political leader in Europe. Christine Lagarde is the powerful managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Women are having impact on the world in increasingly public ways.

Israel is no exception. Three extraordinary women were thrust into the public eye this past summer. Although their public position came very much against their wills, they rose to the tragic occasion with extraordinary grace and dignity. The mothers of the three kidnapped and murdered boys could have cried out for revenge. They could have withdrawn into private grief and bitterness. But they did neither. Instead, they turned their personal tragedy into a blessing for the nation, and an example for all nations. The bereaved mothers of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach, and Gilad Shaar organized public and private sources to create the Jerusalem Prize for National Unity; an annual public acknowledgement of programs and people who act to build bridges within Israeli society and between Israel and the Diaspora.

These women turned swords into plowshares.

Another courageous Israeli woman arose from anonymity in 2014. Anett Haskia is an Israeli Muslim, ethnically Arab, who took a stand against strong community resistance and declared herself a proud Israeli. Her sons serve in the IDF. Although some 75% of Israeli Arabs in a recent survey affirmed their desire to remain in Israel and not live under a Palestinian government, the survey was anonymous.. Anett Haskia openly expresses an unpopular, even dangerous pro-Israel stand. She is a 2015 kind of woman.

So is Captain Or Cohen, the first woman appointed as an IDF Navy ship’s commander. First appointed as a deputy commander of a navy vessel, she will go on to take the Navy’s advanced commander’s course.

These women are outstanding individuals. In addition, women are uniting to move forward together. Shecodes is an Israeli network of some 4,000 female programmers that has grown incredibly fast in the past year. Its goal is that 50 percent of Israeli programmers will be female within a decade.

Whether stepping forward alone, or in mutually supportive groups, Israeli women are on the move, and the world is a better place because of them.
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