Today, the 30th of Shvat, Israel celebrates Family Day (Yom Ha’mishpacha). Known for decades simply as Mother’s Day, in the 1990s, in recognition of social and cultural changes in Israel, the focus moved from just mothers to the whole family. While it’s truly wonderful that my workplace is letting all its employees leave early today to go spend time with their spouses and children for Family Day, on a personal level, it’s an ideal opportunity for me to reflect.
For just over a year I have worked at WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) at their Tel Aviv headquarters. Being a male at WIZO (affectionately known as a “MIZO”) has some distinct advantages. For one, since men are a small minority in our WIZO offices, all my female colleagues know my name (though I admit I have yet to master all of theirs).
All kidding aside, working in a female-dominated workplace has truly enlightened me. Over the past year, I have I participated in WIZO events to mark International Women’s Day and The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, important days which I never marked or experienced before.
A year ago, in an article entitled, “Family Day: A Salute to Wonder Women” I compared myself to the character Steve Trevor, the lone male pilot who crash landed on Wonder Woman’s island of warrior women. A year later, I am even more in awe of the wonder women – the vast majority of whom are also mothers – I have the privilege of working with. These WIZO women, both volunteers and professionals, are true female warriors, fighting major battles daily, for the welfare of children, youth, women and all sectors of Israeli society that WIZO serves.
Just two weeks ago, a whole army of wonder women from across the globe descended on WIZO’s Tel Aviv headquarters for the annual MOR (Meeting of Representatives). From Austria to Australia, from the US to South Africa, I saw firsthand how the representatives from WIZO’s federations around the world (all volunteer leaders) all share the same fighting spirit as their WIZO sisters in Israel.
Perhaps the most amazing part of being a male at WIZO is that I am not treated any differently nor do I feel any different than anyone else in the organization. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. No matter if I’m working at the WIZO offices or out on assignment visiting one of WIZO’s hundreds of projects across Israel (day care centers, schools, youth villages, women’s empowerment programs and more), I get the same warm welcome everywhere. In just one short year, I have become an integral part of the WIZO family.
So when I leave work early today for Family Day, I guess I’ll just be leaving one family to go home to another.