Women played significant roles in the emergence of Zionism. Since statehood, women have likewise 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.