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No Voice, No Vote

In Israel, especially in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups and communities, women are expected to earn a living and raise a family. They’ve been able to vote for decades. Which doesn’t sound too bad. Except that they still have a limited say in their country’s government. The Israeli parliament called the Knesset is elected by the party list system. Basically anyone not listed by a party cannot serve. Very Orthodox women have become successful in the workforce, breaking the glass ceiling in a number of industries like law, business and as directors of charitable organizations. The “No Voice No Vote” campaign has been launched to help secure a spot for these women on the electoral lists in their Orthodox parties (United Torah Judaism and Shas parties) where women are never given a chance to run or be represented. If their request for one place on each party list for a woman is not granted they have pledged to not vote for their political parties in the upcoming elections which would be detrimental to the party’s leaders and chances of winning seats.

It’s not that no Israeli women are a part of politics. That is simply false. Over 21% of political party leaders are female, which while that isn’t a huge number, it shows genuine progress from the past decade. The former female Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni might even have a chance of becoming Prime Minister.  BUT, not a single female serves from the 2 ultra-Orthodox parties. Etsy Shushan, head of the “No Voice, No Vote” group says that “The taboo is based on things that have no basis in reality today”. The campaign is really about raising awareness. The leaders of the campaign strongly feel that the more it is talked about and the less it is ignored by the community, the faster the taboo will be broken.

There is definitely a stigma with supporting the campaign. The group, while having over 5,000 Facebook likes, finds many women unwilling to participate or publicly support them out of fear of the consequences. They don’t want to be shunned by family members or see their children suffer in school. There is nothing in Jewish law against women serving in the Knesset. The community just supports strict ideals of modesty and to the men, modesty means the women not participating in politics. On their political party websites, any woman in a picture, whether she is involved in their campaigns or even in an opposing party, is blacked out of the graphic as a sign of this strict modesty.

The campaigners believe it is time for these standards to change. They have presented their party leaders with a list of possible women to put on the ballot. And while they have a lot going against them, they are sticking to their plan. If women are not included, they will not vote come March and their party could lose a significant number of seats without their votes.

Originally published at "Spireandco"


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