Shari Eshet
Not giving up yet

We are the 81 percent

Someone suggested to me that I write a blog on why gender equality is important to me. I don’t want to write about that. I think it is obvious why gender equality is important to everyone and if it isn’t, it should be for the sake of all civil society. I want to write about the new office of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Senior Citizens, and Minorities. Ok yes, that pretty much covers just about everyone, or at least 81 percent of us living in Israel.

Some say the new ministry is a fig leaf offered to the new minister, Gila Gamliel (Likud); some say without a big budget – which it does not have – it is useless ; and some say that the Prime Minister had to incorporate some women as ministers (there are now 3 out of 20 ) because it was not PC without them. I say that both Minister Gamliel and the citizens of Israel and all those who care about life in Israel have received a golden opportunity to make change.

And yes, while big budgets help, it is not always about the money. The late Uri Ohrbach was Minister for Senior Citizens without a big budget and changed the lives significantly of many senior citizens in Israel who are 10 percent of us today. And what’s more, when he passed away this year, we all knew who he was and what he did for the seniors. After all, we either have senior parents, we are seniors, will be seniors. You get my point.

So we are not all Arabs, but 20 percent of the citizens of Israel are and that is why we need to care about parity for them. We need to be concerned so that they too can live good lives and be proud to be citizens of this country. So that takes care of 30 percent of us, and now comes the other 51 percent of us – the women. We are not all Arabs, we are not all seniors, but more than half the population of Israel is female. And that is why the Ministry of Gender Equality, Senior Citizens, and Minorities must make a difference.

Without equality for women in the private and public spheres of life, none of us will really enjoy the status of a democratic Western country based on Jewish values and dedicated to justice. Without the right for women to marry or divorce as they choose, pray as they choose, and receive equal pay and equal opportunity in the workplace, we cannot define ourselves as a Western democratic country – even if we are allowed to compete in the European song contest. Without the right to reproductive justice and the right of every woman to determine for herself what to do with her body, we all know that there is no gender equality. And we all know that the transgender population is the most discriminated against in the LGBTQ community, and that is part of the conversation on gender equality as well.

So let’s all wish the new minister good luck, let’s all keep her apprised of what we know about the issues, and be sure to tell her how she can help us change the ways things are now. Not just for the 81 percent, but for Israel as a whole.

About the Author
Shari Eshet is the former director of NCJW's Israel Office, based in Jerusalem. Now a private consultant, she still works for the betterment of the State of Israel.
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