Cinq femmes israéliennes qui ont façonné le visage de notre pays

Golda Meir

Our goal at Integraliah is for you to apprendre l’hébreu while connecting to Israeli culture. On the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the death of Golda Meir, we would like to give you a taste of what you will learn in our Hébreu course. We invite you to discover the story of five exceptional Israeli women – each one of them played key role in building and shaping our Nation!

#1 Alice Miller’s fight for women in the IDF

It has now been 20 years since Alice Miller broke “the wall of gender” by applying to the Israeli Supreme Court her right to become a pilot in the Israeli army.

The Ministry of Defense and the Army initially refused to respond positively to Alice’s request. What was the refusal based on? “Not because she’s a woman,” said Major-General Herzl Bodinger, the Air Force commander at the time, “but because the planned length of service and duties as a reservist are incompatible.” The courts would eventually endorse Alice’s claim, saying that “closing the aviation course to women violates their dignity and degrades them.” Alice was ultimately unable to become a pilot because of health issues, but her fight laid the foundation for gender equality in the IDF and resulted in the opening of fighter positions and other previously male-only roles to women. 

Women now account for 34% of all IDF soldiers and perform a multitude of leadership roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force, including combat units. Currently, 88% of all IDF positions are open to female candidates.

#2 Adina Bar Shalom revolutionizes the ultra-orthodox world!

Born in 1945 in Jerusalem, Adina Bar Shalom grew up in Egypt where her father, the Rav Ovadia Yosef – who was not yet the leader of Sephardic Judaism – was responsible for the rabbinical court. When the family returned to Israel (when Adina was only six years old), her father demanded that she enters the Ashkenazi Orthodox school network Beit Yaakov. A severe quota limited the number of Sephardic schoolgirls in these elitist schools.

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At the age of 14, the girl expressed her desire to become a teacher, but the school imposed on her a seamstress study course. Once married, she opened a confectionery workshop. This experience reinforced her conviction: Orthodox women must be able to access more opportunities and fulfill their dreams! Adina also wanted to bring laypeople and religious people closer to Israel. She believed that by helping the ultra-Orthodox become more active in Israeli society, through study and work, she would be able to improve their image and their quality of life.

Adina then embarked on a crazy fight: encouraging the ultra-Orthodox to study and enable them to integrate into the world of work. She was a workhorse, working day and night to achieve her goal, putting the ultra-Orthodox on the rails of studies and preparing them for the world of work. In 2001, she created the first ultra-Orthodox university in Jerusalem, which has the distinction of allowing men and women to study in separate classes.

The university that Adina created has already transformed the destiny of thousands of women whom Orthodoxy confined to manual or educational professions. The university now trains management specialists, psychologists, lawyers, computer scientists, biologists and engineers.

In 2014, she won the 2014 Israel Prize for her contribution to Israeli society. The Israel Prize has, since the beginning of the 1950s, been the most prestigious distinction awarded by the state of Israel. She also lit one of the 12 candles of Independence Day in 2014.

#3 Golda Meir, the only “real man” in Israeli politics

At age 5, she was playing in the mud of the streets of Pinsk, Russia. At age 10, she served customers at her mother’s grocery store in Milwaukee, where the Mabovitch family had immigrated. At age 15, she ironed lace curtains in a Denver laundry. She had run away from home because her parents refused to let her enter high school. According to them, a girl does not need to study. A girl has to get married. At the age of 70, Mrs. Golda Meir was appointed by her party, Mapai, to take charge of the State of Israel. Here are a few lines, the summary of the exceptional course of Golda Meir.

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Golda displays absolute intransigence when it comes to the Defense of Israel, endorsing the retaliation operations launched by IDF elite units in the 1950s. Twenty years later it will remain faithful to this line, organizing the IDF in systematic elimination of all the perpetrators of the hostage-taking at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

In 1969, Levy Eschkol, Prime Minister of the Six Day War, died suddenly, leaving the Labor Party in full internal divisions. She quickly appears as the candidate of compromise. Golda becomes the first woman prime minister of the State of Israel, the third in the world, thus 

showing the precursory character of the young state. She is compared to Indira Gandhi, who at that time led India with an iron fist.

Golda Meir was forced to resign after the Yom Kippur war, held responsible for failing to price seriously the information that “the war is imminent” and having incurred very serious risks to the state of Israel.

Golda Meir was nicknamed the “Iron Lady” of Israeli politics, before this nickname was attributed to Margaret Thatcher in England. Ben Gurion liked to say that Golda was “the best man” in his government, while the Israeli press referred to her as “the grandmother of Israel.

#4 Neta, singer and ambassador for Israel around the world

Through her songs, her outfits and her performances, all more original than the others, Neta promotes the emancipation of the woman, whatever her physique, her fashion tastes or her origins and helps to modernize the image of Israel around the world.

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Neta Barzilai’s career exploded when she landed first place in February in Rising Star, the country’s most famous radio hook. This success automatically qualified her to represent Israel at Eurovision, where she won! Building on her success, Neta was chosen to sing at the ceremony of the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Since winning Eurovision, she has performed all over the world and has become one of the most influential ambassadors for the state of Israel.

Neta also set the tone by chanting in front of millions of viewers a few moments after her victory in Eurovision: I love my country; I love Israel.

#5 Naomi Shemer, composer of one of the greatest Israeli songs

Naomi was born in 1930 and grew up in the Lake Tiberias region of Israel. She began piano lessons early in her life and wrote her first songs as early as 1950. Naomi Shemer created many of Israel’s leading titles, but her most iconic song remains “Yerushalaim shel zahav” (Jerusalem of gold).

This ultra-popular song became a second unofficial anthem of the state of Israel.

Originally, Naomi Shemer wrote it for a song festival in Jerusalem in April 1967, at the request of Teddy Kolek, mayor of the city. Two months later, the Six-Day War broke out, after which Jerusalem was reunited. Naomi then decided to add a new stanza that evokes the return of the Jews to the old city.

Naomi Shemer died in 2004 in Tel Aviv.

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