Women’s rights in modern Israel
Anat is a founder of “Dana ve Anat” — a cultural production company that manages The Tel Aviv Pride Parade and many other significant municipal and private events. She gives lectures at Beer Sheva University, consults a hi-tech startup and volunteers for several social organizations. This summer she made a decision to sell her prospective business, leave all her projects and enter politics. YOMYOM asked Anat to speak about women’s rights in Israel.
Before going to politics you had so many interesting and successful projects. Why are you leaving and selling everything?
— Me and Imri Kalmann are running to be the leaders of Meretz party. The problem of the party is that it’s very idealistic but it has no power to make its ideas come true. We want it to become younger and more multicultural. Our aim is to expand it and to get it a place in the coalition. I started my company right after the army, I had it for 17 years so it’s something I’ve been doing for all my adult life. It allowed me to save some money to take this step. To work for society I need my mind 100% free and I feel that it’s the right thing to do. But still it’s a huge challenge for me.
Till recently you were also a head of marketing at Moovz, the app that connects LGBT community around the world (about 2 300 000 downloads). For a straight person it may sound weird to communicate with someone just because he has the same sexual orientation. Why does it work with gays?
— Well, look at you. You are a straight Ashkenazi hipster in Tel Aviv. You consider yourself a citizen of the world. And it’s a privilege to talk the way you are talking. If you are black, or gay, or you had a sex reassignment surgery, you feel differently. To take testosterone for the first time or to wear men’s clothes for the first time, to tell others that you are a woman although you look like a man — for all these you need support. It’s very hard to break the gender and sexuality norms. People need a place to feel equal. So we share our power with each other to overcome being a minority.
You are a chairperson at Feminanci. What is this organization?
— The name of the company comes from two words together — feminine and finance. It’s financial education for women. We make classes all around Israel and teach women how to be financially independent from men. It’s not an academic education, but practical skills — how to negotiate with a bank, how to save money, how to write your last will, make insurance, how to get out from the minus in your bank account.
Women don’t deal with money not because they are unable to calculate well, but because it’s considered inappropriate and they prefer not to. We take care of kids and the house and leave the financial problems to our husbands. But if we divorce (14% of Israelis are divorced) the man gets a better standard of living and the woman goes down.We want it to change. My mother built this academy and I continue her work as I want family in Israel to have a more balanced and fare structure.
Nowhere else in the world have I seen so many fathers on the playground with small kids and babies. Women in Israel seem very independent. How do you estimate the women’s situation in Israel?
— Here, in Tel Aviv, it seems that women are equal, man are raising babies, gay rights won and the revolution is over. But what you see on Sheinkin street is not what you see in Petach Tikva. Women in Israel earn 68 Agorot for every shekel men do. In some religious quarters of Jerusalem women still have to sit in the back of a bus. In 2017, man! And it’s a hi-tech country, we are not poor like India, so what’s going on?
It’s nice that a man is taking his kid to a kindergarten, but if he and his wife say goodbye to each other, she is going to have financial problems. I’m glad you have this nice picture promoting equality, but the truth is that it’s a machismo society with chauvinistic traditions. Even in Tel Aviv municipality woman may hold a high position in culture or education, but never in finance or construction. We have never had a female security minister. In Israel women never touch money and security and that’s what I’m going to change.
How are you GOING to do it?
— The United Nations resolution 1325 was adopted in the year 2000. It demands equal representation of women and men in every parliamentary debate and in every decision that concerns security. Israel voted for this resolution and implemented it, but doesn’t follow it.
When this resolution was approved the Israeli politicians said: “OK, we agree with it, but we don’t know women who understand security. Who could sit here with us to make these decisions?” So they made a list of such women and one of them was my mother. But of course they never called her.
Today in the ultra-Orthodox parties women can’t occupy any major posts at all. Call it a conflict, a question of security or a takeover — it can mean many different things for different people. But I say that women are needed in this discussion crucially. And I want to enter the parliament to bring women to these issues as our law binds us to do. This is my little flag.
Not only men, but also many women don’t like feminism.
— I think every woman is a feminist. Just many of us do not accept this word. One reason is patriarchy saying: “Oh, these feminists are so aggressive!” But also it’s about being a fighter. To get our rights we need to upraise, which is never a pleasant thing to do. But I am a proud fighter, and I’m a proud feminist and I’m a proud bisexual. And now I’m a proud politician, although politics in Israel is considered dirty. But I’m going there and I’m going to bring dignity with me. I believe in change and I’ve done changes all my life. And not to be bragging but there is my input in the freedom and acceptance that you see in the streets of Tel Aviv.
Text Asya Chachko
Photo Masha Kushnir