Women played significant roles in the emergence of Zionism and since statehood have made dynamic contributions to the state’s growth and well-being.
While complete gender equality has often been elusive, Israel stands as a model for women’s rights in both the Middle East and among other democracies. From the period of the Yishuv (the Jewish Community in pre-state Palestine) until today, women have contributed to virtually every aspect of Israeli politics and society; including defense and security, government and leadership, social action and arts and culture.
In the 1990s, the Knesset created a special committee for women’s issues. Today there is an official Authority for the Advancement on the Status of Women as part of the Prime Minister’s office. In recent years, the Knesset has passed laws that ensure non-discrimination based on gender. Controversial issues regarding gender equality in Israel today relate to tensions between religious and secular Jews. In the current Israeli parliament of 120, 23% are women, as compared to 20% in the US Congress, 18% in European parliaments, and less than 7% in Arab countries.
Click here for a list of women who have made significant contributions to Israel in politics, culture, business and science. (This is by no means an exhaustive list, but one that is meant to represent the vast contributions that women have made to Israel’s growth and development. Have a suggestion for additional people who should be included here? Feel free to contact us with your suggestion.)
Abdo-Zubi, Nahla, and Ronit Lenṭin. Women and the Politics of Military Confrontation: Palestinian and Israeli Gendered Narratives of Dislocation. New York: Berghahn Books, 2002.
Abdo-Zubi, Nahla. Women in Israel: Race, Gender and Citizenship. New York: Zed Books Ltd, 2011.
Atkinson, Linda. In Kindling Flame: The Story of Hannah Senesh, 1921-1944. New York: Beech Tree Books, 1992.
Azmon, Yael, ed. Will You Listen to My Voice—Representation of Women in Israeli Culture. Tel Aviv: Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House (Hebrew), 2001.
Azmon, Yael, and Dafna N. Izraeli. Women in Israel. Vol. 6. Studies of Israeli Society. New Brunswick, N.J. (U.S.A.): Transaction Publishers, 1993.
Baskin, Judith R. Jewish Women in Historical Perspective. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998.
Baumel, Judith Tydor. “’Teacher, Tiller, Soldier, Spy’? Women’s Representations in Israeli
Military Memorials.” 93-118. Gender and Israeli Society: Women’s Time, ed. by Hannah Naveh. Tel Aviv: Vallentine Mitchell, 2003.
Ben-Zvi, Rachel Yanait. Before Golda: Manya Shochat: A Biography. Biblio Press, 1989.
Bernstein, Deborah. Pioneers and Homemakers: Jewish Women in Pre-state Israel. Albany: State University of New York, 1992.
Bernstein, Deborah. The Struggle for Equality: Urban Women Workers in Pre-state Israeli Society. New York: Praeger, 1987.
Biale, David. “Zionism as Erotic Revolution.” 176-203. Eros and the Jews: from Biblical Israel to Contemporary America. University of California Press, 1997.
Chesler, Phyllis and Haut, Rivka. “The Fight Against Being Silenced,” 115-133. “The Politics of Women of the Wall,” 180-204. Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site. Jewish Lights, 2002.
Dajani, Souad. “Between National and Social Liberation: The Palestinian Women’s Movement in the Israeli occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.” 33-61. Women and the Israeli Occupation:The Politics of Change, ed. by Tamar Mayer. New York: Routledge, 1994.
Diament, Carol, and Lily Rattok. Ribcage: Israeli Women’s Fiction. New York: Department of Jewish Education, Hadassah, 1994.
El Or, Tamar. “Paradoxes and Social Boundaries: Ultraorthodox Jewish Women and their World.” ed. by Fuchs, Esther. Israeli Women’s Studies: A Reader. New Brunswick: NJ, Rutgers University Press, 2005.
Espanioly, Nabila. “Palestinian Women in Israel: Identity in light of the Occupation.” 106-120. Women and the Israeli Occupation: The Politics of Change, ed. by Tamar Mayer. New York: Routledge, 1994.
Feinberg, Miriam P., and Miriam Klein. Shapiro. Hear Her Voice!: Twelve Jewish Women Who Changed the World. Cedarhurst,NY: Pitspopany Press, 2006.
Freedman, Marcia. “Theorizing Israeli Feminism 1970-2000.” 1-16. Jewish Feminism in Israel, Some Contemporary Perspectives. University Press of New England, 2003.
Fuchs, Esther. Israeli Women’s Studies: A Reader. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005.
Fuchs, Esther (ed.) Israeli Femininst Scholarship, Gender, Zionism, and Difference, Austin: University of Texas, 2014.
Gidal, Nachum Tim. Henrietta Szold. Jerusalem: Gefen Publishing House Ltd., 1997.
Halperin-Kaddari, Ruth. Women in Israel: A State of Their Own. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
Hay, Peter. Ordinary Heroes: The Life and Death of Chana Szenes, Israel’s National Heroine. New York: Paragon House, 1989.
Henriette Dahan-Kalev, “Mizrahi Feminism: The Unheard Voice,” 96-112. Jewish Feminism in Israel, Some Contemporary Perspectives. University Press of New England, 2003.
Herzog, Hanna. Gendering Politics: Women in Israel. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999.
Herzog, Hanna. “Women in Israeli Society,” 195-217. Rebhun, Uzi, and Waxman, Chaim. Jews in Israel: Contemporary Social and Cultural Patterns. Brandeis UP.
Israeli Foreign Ministry, “Women in Israel: Report on the Status of Women in Israel.” 2001.
Jacoby, Tami Amanda. Women in Zones of Conflict: Power and Resistance in Israel. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.
Kahn, Susan Martha. “’The Time Arrived but the Father Didn’t’: A New Continuum of Israeli Conception.” in Reproducing Jews. Duke University Press Books, 2000: 9-53.
Kandiyoti, Deniz, ed. Gendering the Middle East, Emerging Perspective. London: I.B. Tauris, 1996.
Kark, Ruth, Margalit Shilo, and Galit Hasan-Rokem. Jewish Women in Pre-state Israel: Life History, Politics, and Culture. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2008.
Katz, Sheila H. Women and Gender in Early Jewish and Palestinian Nationalism. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2003.
Kraus, Vered. Secondary Breadwinners: Israeli Women in the Labor Force. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.
Levin, Marlin. It Takes a Dream… The Story of Hadassah. Jerusalem: Gefen Publishing House Ltd., 1997.
Lomsky-Feder, Edna, and Eyal Ben-Ari. The Military and Militarism in Israeli Society. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999.
Mayer, Tamar. “From Zero to Hero: Masculinity in Jewish Nationalism.” 97-120. Israeli Women’s Studies. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000.
Mayer, Tamar. “Heightened Palestinian Nationalism: Military Occupation, Repression, Difference and Gender.” 62-87. Women and the Israeli Occupation: The Politics of Change, ed. by Tamar Mayer. New York: Routledge, 1994.
McCune, Mary. “The Whole Wide World Without Limits.” International Relief, Gender Politics, and American Jewish Women. Edited by Jonathan Sarna, American Jewish Civilization Series. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005.
Meir, Golda. My Life. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1975.
Rachel, Robert Friend, and Shimon Sandbank. Flowers of Perhaps: Translated by Robert Friend with Shimon Sandbank. New Milford (Conn.): Toby Press, 2008.
Raday, Fransis, Carmel Shalev, and Michal Liban-Kooby, eds. Women’s Status in Israeli Law and Society. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: Schocken Publishing House (Hebrew), 1995.
Raider, Mark A., and Miriam B. Raider-Roth, eds. The Plough Woman: Records of the Pioneer Women of Palestine. Hanover: University Press of New England, 2002.
Reinharz, Shulamit and Mark A. Raider. American Jewish Women and the Zionist Enterprise. Waltham: Brandeis University Press, 2005.
Sasson-Levy, Orna. “Gender Performance in a Changing Military: Women Soldiers in Masculine Roles” 265-278. Israeli Women’s Studies: A Reader. Rutgers University Press, 2005.
Sered, Susan Starr. “The Militarized Body.” What Makes Women Sick? Maternity, Modesty and Militarism in Israeli Society. Brandeis, 2000.
Senesh, Hannah. Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Pub., 2004.
Sharoni, Simona. Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Politics of Women’s Resistance. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995.
Sharoni, Simona. “Homefront as Battlefield: Gender, Military Occupation and Violence against Women,” ed. by Tamar Mayer. Women and the Israeli Occupation: The Politics of Change. London: Routledge, 1994.
Simmons, Erica B. Hadassah and the Zionist Project. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, INC., 2006.
Svirsky, Gila. “The Women’s Peace Movement in Israel.” 113-131, ed. by Kaplana, Misra and Melanie S. Rich, Jewish Feminism in Israel: Some Contemporary Perspectives. University Press of New England, 2003.
Swirski, Barbara, and Marilyn Safir. Calling the Equality Bluff: Women in Israel. New York: Pergamon Press, 1991.
Yishai, Yael. “Dilemmas in the Political Life of Israeli Women” 1-26. “Women’s Associations and Movements.” 57-90. Between the Flag and the Banner: Women in Israeli Politics. Abany: State University of New York Press, 1997.
Alroey, Gur. “”And I Remained Alone in a Vast Land.” Women in the Jewish Migration from Eastern Europe.” Jewish Social Studies, 12, no. 3 (Summer 2006): 39-72.
Ben-Porath, Yoram. Gronau, Reuben. “Jewish Mother Goes to Work: Trends in the Labor Force Participation of Women in Israel, 1955-1980.” Journal of Labor Economics, 3, no. 1 (1985): 310-327.
Berg, Gerald M. “Zionism’s Gender: Hannah Meisel and the Founding of the Agricultural Schools for Young Women.” Israel Studies 6, no. 3 (Fall 2001): 135-65.
Berkovitch, Nitza. “Motherhood as a National Mission: The Construction of Womanhood in the Legal Discourse in Israel.” Woman’s Studies International Forum 20, no. 5/6 (1997): 605-619.
Bernstein, Deborah, and Hannah Ashley. “The Soul of a New Yishuv: Pioneers and Homemakers: Jewish Women in Pre-State Israel.” Bridges 5, no. 2 (Winter 1995): 94-100.
Bernstein, Deborah. “The Plough-women Who Cried into the Pots-the Positions of Women in the Labor Force in Pre-state Israeli Society.” Jewish Social Studies 45, no. 1 (1983): 43-56.
Boumel, J. T. “The Heroism of Hannah Senesz: An Exercise in Creating Collective National Memory in the State of Israel.” Journal of Contemporary History 31, no. 3 (1996): 521-46.
Brush, Candida. Hisrich, Robert. Lerner, Miri. “Israeli women entrepreneurs: An examination of factors affecting performance.” Journal of Business Venturing, 12, no. 4 (1997): 315-339.
Chazan, Meir. “The Struggle of Kibbutz Women to Participate in Guard Duties during the Arab Revolt, 1936–1939.” Journal of Israeli History: Politics, Society, Culture 31, no. 1 (2012): 83-108.
Cicurel, Inbal and Sharaby, Rachel. “Women in the Menstruation Huts, Variations in Preserving Purification Customs among Ethiopian Immigrants” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 23, no. 2 (2007): 69-84.
Erdreich L. “Strategies Against Patriarchy: Sexualized Political Activism of Palestinian Women on Campus,” Israel Studies 11, no. 1 (2006): 35-58.
Fenster, Tovi. “Ethnicity, Citizenship, Planning and Gender: The Case of Ethiopian Immigrant Women in Israel.” Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 5, no. 2 (1998): 177-189.
Fogiel-Bijaoui, Sylvie. “Women in Israel: The Social Construction of Citizenship as a Non-Issue.” Israel Social Science Research 12, no. 1 (1997): 1-30.
Greenfield, Zvia. “Is it Really Benign? Gender Separation in Ultra-Orthodox Bus Lines.” Law and Ethics of Human Rights 1, no.1 (2007): 237-270.
Hacker, Daphna. “Inter-Religious Marriages in Israel: Gendered Implications for Conversion, Children, and Citizenship.” Israel Studies. 14, no. 2 (2009): 178-197.
Hassan, Manar. “The Politics of Honor: Patriarchy, the State and the Murder of Women in the Name of Family Honor.” Israel Studies 21, (2006): 1-37.
Hassan, Manar. “Growing Up Female and Palestinian in Israel.” Israeli Women’s Studies: A Reader, (2005): 181-189.
Helman, Sara, and Tamar Rapoport. “Women in Black: Challenging Israel’s Gender and Socio-Political Orders.” British Journal of Sociology no. 48 (1997): 682-
Herbst, Anat “The Legitimacy of Single Mothers in Israel Examined through Five Circles of Discourse,” Israel Studies Review 28, no.2 (Winter 2013): 228-246.
Herzog, Hanna. “Why so Few? The Political Culture of Gender in Israel.” International Review of Women and Leadership no. 2 (1996): 1-18.
Herzog, Hanna. “Homefront and Battlefront: The Status of Jewish and Palestinian Women in Israel.” Israel Studies 3, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 61-84.
Hollander, Aviad Yehiel. “Halachic Multiculturalism in the IDF: Rulings of Official Religious Authorities in Israel Concerning ‘Women’s Singing’.” Modern Judaism 34.3 (2014): 271-86.
Izraeli, Dafna N. “The Zionist Women’s Movement in Palestine, 1911-1927: A Sociological Analysis.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 7, no. 1 (Autumn 1981): 87-114.
Izraeli, Dafna N. “Gendering Military Service in Israeli Defense Forces.” Israel Social Science Research no. 12 (1997): 129-66.
Izraeli Dafna N. Taborey E. “The Political Context of Feminist Attitudes in Israel,” Gender and Society 2, no. 4 (1988): 463-481.
Kaplan S., Rosen, C. “Ethiopian Immigrants in Israel: Between Preservation of Culture and Invention of Tradition.” Jewish Journal of Sociology 35, no.1 (1993): 35-48.
Kuntsman, Adi. “Double Homecoming: Sexuality, Ethnicity and Place in Immigration Stories of Russian Lesbians in Israel.” Women’s Studies International Forums 26, no.4 (2003): 299-311.
Lahav, Pnina, “The Status of Women in Israel-Myth and Reality,” in The American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 22, no. 1 (Winter, 1974): 108.
Lemish, Dafna. “The Whore and the Other. Israeli Images of Female Immigrants from the Former USSR,” Gender and Society, 14 (2000): 333-349.
Levy, Y. “The Clash Between Feminism and Religion in the Israeli Military: A Multilayered Analysis.” Social Politics 17, no. 2 (2010): 185-209.
Melman, Billie. “The Legend of Sarah: Gender Memory and National Identities (/Israel, 1917–90).” Journal of Israeli History 21, no. 1-2 (Fall 2003): 55-92.
Or, Ofra, “Midlife Women in Second Partnerships Choosing Living Apart Together: An Israeli Case Study,” Israel Studies Review 28, no.2 (2013): 41-60.
Remennick, Larissa. “Women with a Russian Accent in Israel: On the Gender Aspect of Immigration” European Journal of Women’s Studies 6 (1999): 441-461.
Rimalt, Noya. “From Law to Politics: The Path to Gender Equality,” Israel Studies, 18:3 (Fall 2013): 5-18.
Rosenberg-Friedman, Lilach. “‘The Religious Women Fighters in Israel’s War of Independence: A New Gender Perception or a Passing Episode?” Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues 6 (Fall 2003): 119-47.
Rosenberg-Friedman, Lilach. “The Complex Identity of Religious-Zionist Women in Pre-State Israel, 1921-1948.” Israel Studies 11, no. 3 (Fall 2006): 83-107.
Rosenberg-Friedman, Lilach. “The Nationalization of Motherhood and the Stretching of Its Boundaries: Shelihot Aliyah and Evacuees in Eretz Israel (Palestine) in the 1940s.” Women’s History Review 17, no. 5 (November 2008): 767-85.
Rosenberg-Friedman, Lilach. “Traditional Revolution: The Marriage Debate in the Religious Kibbutz – A Comparative View.” Journal of Israeli History 31, no. 1 (March 2012): 109-28.
Triger, Tzv. “Golda Meir’s Reluctant Feminism: The Pre-State Years,” Israel Studies, 19:3 (Fall 2014): 108-133.
Sasson-Levy, Oma. “Contradictory Consequences of Mandatory Conscription: The Case of Women Secretaries in the Israeli Military.” Gender & Society 21, no. 4 (2007): 481-507.
Segev, Zohar. “From Philanthropy to Shaping a State: Hadassah and Ben-Gurion, 1937-1947,” Israel Studies, 18:3 (Fall 2013): 133-157.
Shakdiel, Leah. “Women of the Wall: Radical Feminism as an Opportunity for a New Discourse in Israel,” Journal of Israeli History, 21 no. 1-2 (2002): 126-163.
Shilo, Margalit. “The Double or Multiple Image of the New Hebrew Woman.” Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues 1 (1998): 73-94.
Singh, Maina Chawla. “‘Where Have You Brought us, Sir?’: Gender, Displacement, and the Challenges of ‘Homecoming’ for Indian Jews in Dimona, 1950s-60s.” Shofar 32.1 (2013): 1-26.
Stoler-Liss, Sachlav. “Mothers Birth the Nation: The Social Construction of Zionist Motherhood in Wartime Israeli Parents’ Manuals.” Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues, no. 6 (2003): 104-118.
Tadmor-Shimony. “Women Immigrant Teachers and State Formation in Israel 1948-1959,” Journal of Women’s History 26, no.3 (2014): 81-104.
Teman, Elly. “The Medicalization of “Nature” in the “Artificial Body”: Surrogate Motherhood in Israel.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly, N.s., 17, no. 1 (2003): 78-98.
Tsamir, Hamutal. “Jewish-Israeli Poetry, Dahlia Ravikovitch, and the Gender of Representation.” Jewish Social Studies, N.s., 14, no. 3 (Summer 2008): 85-125.
Vilmain, Vincent. “A Woman within Zionism: The Path of Myriam Schach (1867–1956).” Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues 16 (Fall 2008): 174-95.
Ward, May Alden. “The Influence of Women’s Clubs in New England and in the Middle Eastern States.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 29 (1906): 7.
“Women in Israel: Report on the Status of Women in Israel.” Israeli Foreign Ministry. (2001).
Yakira, Elhanan. “Hannah Arendt, the Holocaust, and Zionism: A Story of a Failure.” Israel Studies 11, no. 3 (Fall 2006): 31-61.
Yuval-Davis, Nira. “The Bearers of the Collective: Women and Religious Legislation in Israel.” Feminist Review, no. 4 (1980): 15-27.
Yosef, Dorit. “From Yekke to Zionist: Narrative strategies in life stories of Central Europena Jewish women immigrants to Mandate Palestine,” Journal of Israeli History, 33 no. 2 (2014): 185-208.
Zalchberg Block, Sima. “The Rush to Modesty.” Eretz Acheret: About Israel and Judaism 51, (2009): 30-42.
“Henrietta Szold’s Letter to Cyrus Adler.” Henrietta Szold to Cyrus Adler. July 15, 1909. Accessed July 09, 2013. http://jwa.org/media/henrietta-szolds-letter-to-cyrus-adler-july-15-1909.
“Letter from Henrietta Szold to Alice Seligsberg.” Henrietta Szold to Alice Seligsberg. October 8, 1931. Accessed July 09, 2013. http://jwa.org/media/letter-from-henrietta-szold-to-alice-seligsberg-october-8-1931.
“Women of Valor – Henrietta Szold – Overview.” Women of Valor – Henrietta Szold – Overview Jewish Women’s Archive. Accessed July 09, 2013. http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/szold.