Below is 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.):
Sarah Aaronsohn: Born in 1890 in Zichron Yaakov, she joined her brother Aaron’s spy network, known as Nili, eventually coordinating all its efforts. She was captured by the Turkish authorities in 1917 and committed suicide after being tortured by her captors rather than divulge any information about Nili’s activities.
Chava Alberstein: One of Israel’s most popular and influential singers, releasing over 50 albums during her career, Alberstein is also well-known for championing liberal causes and as an ardent peace activist.
Shari Arison: Owner of the Tel-Aviv based Arison Group, which includesBank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank; Arison is one of wealthiest women in the world. A leading proponent of values based leadership in her business; she founded Muiya, a global water efficiency company and directed the Ted Arison Family Foundation.
Dr. Suheir Assady: In June 2009, Assady was appointed as the new Head of the Nephrology Department at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel, becoming the first Muslim woman to lead a hospital department in Israel. Assady was born and raised in Nazareth and completed her medical studies and internship at the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Orna Barbivai: In May 2011 Barbivai became the highest ranking female officer in the history of the IDF, when she was promoted to the rank of Major General as head the Personnel Directorate.
Dorit Beinsich: The first woman to serve as the President of the Israeli Supreme Court. Her work on the court has focused on government corruption, child protection, and women’s rights.
Miriam Ben-Porat: In 1977, Ben-Porat was appointed to Israel’s Supreme Court, becoming the first women to serve as a judge on the highest judicial authority of any country with a common law system. In 1988, she became Israel’s first women Comptroller where she investigated and exposed many shortcomings in the government, including flaws in the absorption of Russian immigrants, mismanagement of water resources and the distribution of defective gas masks during the first Gulf War.
Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi: A 19 year old delegate to the seventh Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, she made Aliyah in 1908 and settled in Jerusalem. She was a member of the Haganah defense forces and in the 1950s was a major proponent of recruiting women to serve in the IDF. Her husband Yitzhak Ben-Zvi became the second President of Israel.
Orna Berry: The first woman to serve as the Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Dr. Orna Berry is one of Israel’s leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2012, she received the Yakirat Ha’Negev award from Ben-Gurion University for her achievements and excellence in the technology industry.
Rachel Bluwstein: Considered the “founding mother” of Modern Hebrew poetry, she helped define the culture of the yishuv and later the State of Israel. More than twenty different editions of her collected poetry and other writings have been published since her death continuing to impact future generations.
Leah Goldberg: Dedicating her life to the literary movement in the yishuv, she produced numerous works in the areas of children’s books, drama, and poetry. In 2011, it was decided that Goldberg’s image would appear on the new 100 shekel banknote.
Lea Gottlieb: A Holocaust survivor who arrived in Israel in 1946, Gottlieb became the “queen of Israeli fashion,” and one of Israel’s most successful businesswomen after she and her husband founded the Gottex swimwear company in 1956.
Rachel Cohen –Kagan: Active in WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization, Rachel was instrumental in improving the conditions for women in the Yishuv. A signer of Israel’s Declaration of Independence Cohen-Kagan would be elected to the First Knesset where she introduced the original Law of Family and the Equality of Women.
Claire Epstein: After immigrating to the Land of Israel in 1937, Epstein joined the British Army women’s unit in 1942 becoming the first female Sergeant –Major from the yishuv. At the age of fifty, she embarked on her formal studies to become an archaeologist, earning her Ph.D. in 1962. Her highest career achievement was discovering the culture of the Chalcolithic period (4500-3300 B.C.E.) in the Golan.
Recha Freier: In 1932, Freier, a German Zionist developed a plan to bring Jewish youth from Germany to Palestine to escape growing anti-Semitism. Despite being initially rejected by Henrietta Szold, the program, called Youth Aliyah would rescue over 11,000 Jewish children during World War II. Years later, Freier finally received recognition as the founder of Youth Aliyah and in 1981 she was honored with the Israel Prize.
Rivka Guber: Born in Russia and raised on a Zionist collective farm, Guber immigrated to Palestine with her husband Mordecai in 1925. She lost her two sons in the War of Independence, and from then on devoted herself, together with her husband, to the absorption of immigrants. In her last years she devoted herself to writing and keeping up with her many “sons” all over the country. She received the Israel Prize in 1976. In 1979, she was part of the official Israeli delegation accompanying Prime Minister Menaḥem Begin to the United States to sign the Camp David Peace Treaty with Egypt.
Anat Hoffman: A former fourteen year member of the Jerusalem City Council, Hoffman serves as the Director of the Reform Movement’s Israel Action Center. In her role as Chair of the Board of women at the Wall, she has been at the forefront of fighting for women’s equality especially in religious matters in the State of Israel.
Dalia Itzik: An educator by training who served for five years at the chairperson of the Jerusalem Teachers Union, Itzik was elected to the Jerusalem City Council in 1989 with the portfolio of deputy mayor in charge of education. In 1992, she was elected to the Knesset and in 2006 she became the first woman to serve as Speaker of the Knesset.
Keren Leibovitch: Considered Israel’s greatest Paralympian, Leibovitch won four gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze medal for swimming at the Paralympic Games in 2000 and 2004. Leibovitch was paralyzed from the waist down when she was eighteen while training to be an IDF officer.
Sarah Levy-Tanai: One of Israel’s foremost choreographers and contributors to Israeli cultural lifeLevy-Tanai was one of the first to integratre Mizrahi and Sephardi culture into her art. In 1949, she founded the Inbal Dance Theater which she directed until the 1990’s. In 1973 she received the Israel Prize in Art, Music and Dance.
Tzipi Livni: The first woman to be the leader of the opposition party in the Knesset, Livni served as a member of the cabinet under Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert including as both Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. In 2012, she formed a new party called Hatnuah, was elected to the 19th Knesset in 2013, becoming Justice Minister.
Eilat Mazar: A third generation Israeli archaeologist who is most well known for her work at the City of David site in Jerusalem, Mazar is a professor of archaeology at Hebrew University.
Golda Meir: A force in raising funds for the new state and developing the infrastructure of organized labor, Meir became Israel’s fourth Prime Minister in March 1969.
Dahlia Ravikovitch: Known for her lyrical, intensely personal and highly emotional poems, Ravikovitch’s oeuvre includes more than twenty volumes of poetry, short stories and children’s books and earned many awards, including the prestigious Israel Prize and the Bialik Prize. Her poetry has been canonized in Israel and here collected works were translated into English in 2009.
Bar Refaeli: International supermodel and successful businesswoman, Refaeli has been featured in campaigns for major brands such as Gap and Samsung and was the first Israeli model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue. In 2011, she began an E-commerce which raised $1 million in venture capital in its first six months.
Miriam Schach: A pioneer for Zionism amongst women, Miriam Schach participated as one of the few women delegates to the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland in August 1897. She played a leading role in the Association of Zionist Women and the Organization of Jewish Women for the Advancement and Progress of Cultural Work in Palestine. She would move to Haifa and died at the age of 89 in 1956.
Zelda Schneurson Mishkovsky: One of the most widely acclaimed and personally beloved of Israeli poets, Zelda began writing poetry while she was attending a religious teacher’s college in 1950. Her poetry was and is enormously popular with readers of all backgrounds, in Israel and abroad, and has garnered many prizes. Zelda’s poem “For Every Person There is a Name” is recited each year on Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.
Hannah Senesh: A poet and Haganah fighter who came to Israel in 1939, Senesh joined a group of parachutists to rescue prisoners of war and organize Jewish resistance in Europe in 1942. In 1944, she parachuted into Yugoslavia, where she was arrested by the Hungarian police and then executed on November 7, 1944.
Naomi Shemer: The “first lady of Israeli song,” in 1967, she was asked to write a song for the annual Israel Song Festival. Her composition Yerusalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold) became an instant hit, taking on added significance after the Six Day War.
Manya Shochat: Instrumental in founding the Hashomer guards, a forerunner to the IDF, she was a proponent of communal agricultural settlement and established Israel’s first experimental Kibbutz at Sejera in 1907.
Henrietta Szold: The founder of Hadassah as an organization for women interested in “the promotions of Jewish institutions and enterprises in Palestine.” In 1918, Hadassah sent an entire medical unit to Palestine and in 1934 Szold laid the cornerstone of the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.
Ofra Strauss: Chairperson of the Board of the Strauss Group since 2001, Ofra Strauss is one of Israel’s most successful and influential businesswomen. Strauss Group is composed of five companies, including Elite, Israel’s leading candy producer. Strauss also serves as a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Lia Van Leer: A pioneer in Israeli film, Lia Van Leer created Israel’s first film society in Haifa in 1956 together with her husband Wim. Together they amassed a significant collection of films from which they created the country’s film archive in 1960, today the largest film archive in the Middle East. Lia has served as a member of the jury at many prestigious film festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival and in 2004; she was awarded an Israel Prize for her cultural achievements.
Ada Yonath: The winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Yonath is one of 10 Israeli winners of a Nobel Prize, and the only woman. She is currently the director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Centre for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly of the Weizmann Institute of Science.