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April 2023

The following is the speech given by CEO, Lisa Ezekiel at the recent "Saving Israeli Democracy" rally. Lisa focuses on the potential changes to democratic rights for women in Israel.

"Israel was built on Hatikvah, the hope. The hope for freedom, the hope for opportunities, the hope for a homeland, full of promise for every Jew.

In 2023, just before we celebrate Israel's 75th birthday, it breaks my heart to say it, but Israel does not fill me with hope.

As the CEO of National Council of Jewish Women, a proud Jew and passionate Zionist, the direction in which the status of women in Israel is headed, gravely concerns me.

Today the Supreme Court protects the value of equality and rejects laws that discriminate against women. If these proposed changes are passed, the power of the High Court will be significantly reduced, and it will be possible to enact any law even if it discriminates against women.

If these reforms pass:

1. Israel will continue to not join the Istanbul Convention - an international convention setting standards for the prevention of violence against women

2. Israel will institute gender separation at public events

3. Israel will cancel the open process for selecting senior government officials, which required minimum representation of women

4. Expansion of the authority of rabinnic courts including custody and property (male judges only, and according to Halacha religious law)

5. Approval to discriminate according to religious beliefs

6. Gender separation for bathing in springs in nature reserves and more segregated beaches

This is real and is already being actioned across Israel. Three universities have already approved separate courses for women and men. The next proposed step will be that women cannot lecture in front of men. In a secular school, a girl who was scheduled to perform at a concert, at the last minute was informed that she would not be able to perform as a religious man in the audience, would not feel comfortable hearing a woman sing.

Israel's proposed judicial changes will leave women significantly more vulnerable and with fewer or no routes for recourse. If these proposals pass, it will significantly impact women's rights in Israel. Women, particularly those in marginalized communities, will face many challenges, including discrimination, violence, and limited access to resources and opportunities. These laws could also influence women's reproductive rights, gender-based violence, and workplace discrimination.

Further to this, recently, women serving in senior positions in the knesset and government ministries, have been fired with no justification. This under representation of women in the chamber, means decisions impacting all Israelis are being made exclusively by men.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg said that “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”

Right now, women in Israel aren't even the exception. They are being excluded by the chamber that should be entrusted with leading the nation. The knesset are purposefully precluding women in Israel from having a voice.

So, while I may not be filled with hope, I am definitely not hopeless. Rallies like this one, and others across the world, the footage of Israeli flags flooding the streets or Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and seeing Israeli youth standing up for democracy, thankfully illustrates that not all hope is lost. There is very strong, powerful opposition to these proposed changes, both in Israel and the diaspora.

We, the National council of Jewish women Australia Victoria, will continue to advocate for the women of Israel, standing with our sisters in this battle to ensure Israel remains a liberal democracy for all."



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