The Common Good hosted a panel with the esteemed Dr. Rachel Adato to discuss Israel and the challenges women there face from the conservative patriarchal Orthodox Jewish society.
There is a complex relationship between religion and state, and the contradictory impacts of the integration of the ultra-Orthodox into mainstream society. A consequence of that integration is the ultra-Orthodox making demands anchored in their traditions into mainstream society, such as keeping distance from women. It is very hard for Jewish women in Israel to promote change on issues that directly affect them because the traditional groups they’re a part of often suppress progressive movements to try and maintain their identity and internal cohesion. Moreover, in such societies, women’s issues often come low down on the list of priorities.
The obstacles women face range from personal to socio-political: unhealthy lifestyles, obedience to patriarchal norms, rapid lifestyle transitions, the political situation, poverty and lower socioeconomic status, and limited access to specific health care services. These multi-layered obstacles operate synergistically to limit women's access to social support and health care systems, intensify feelings of powerlessness, and further promote unhealthy behaviors. Most health maintenance strategies being discussed are personal and conservative, and considerate of traditional cultural norms. Another challenge is childcare. Israel has a very high percentage of working women, especially in the Jewish sector, and a significantly higher birth rate than Europe. The trouble is that now, the economy is based on the assumption that both parents work, but policy on childcare has not been reconfigured accordingly.
As an Israeli gynecologist, lawyer, and politician who served as a member of the Knesset for Kadima, Dr. Adato has seen and felt these challenges first hand. She provided valuable insight based on her life experiences to illuminate this complicated and under discussed topic and promote further conversation about how to keep moving forward.