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GOLDA MEIR (1898-1978)

Meir was born in Kiev and moved with her family to Milwaukee in 1906, where she was exposed to socialism and Zionism. She persuaded her husband to move to Palestine in 1921, and after a brief stint on a kibbutz, she began her career in Israeli public life. She served as minister of labor and national insurance from 1949 to 1956, minister of foreign affairs from 1956 to 1966 and became the modern world's third female prime minister in 1969. David Ben-Gurion once called her "the only man in the cabinet." Popular until the 1973 Yom Kippur War, she resigned her position in 1974.

BEBA IDELSON (1895-1975)

Idelson grew up in Ukraine, where she became an activist in the Youth of Zion movement. In 1923, she and her husband were arrested and exiled to Siberia. Deported in 1924, the couple and their daughter arrived in Palestine in 1926, and Idelson served in various political positions. She was a member of the pre-State Provisional Council and a member of the first five Knessets, becoming the first woman to serve as deputy speaker. While she was in office, she laid much of the legal groundwork for women's rights in Israel, fought the religious monopoly on marriage and divorce and tried to define women's equality in terms of human rights.


Born in eastern Galicia, Sanhadray-Goldreich moved to Palestine alone in 1934. The following year she helped found the women workers' organization of HaPoel HaMizrachi, a religious socialist-Zionist organization. Before the 1949 Knesset elections, HaPoel HaMizrachi joined an alliance of four religious parties, which would not allow women on its list. In protest, Sanhadray-Goldreich formed the Religious Women Worker Party, although she did not win a seat until 1959. During her 15 years in office, she pushed for a number of conservative policies, including curtailing abortion rights and the rights of common-law spouses. In 1961, she helped draft legislation supporting equal pay for men and women.

ZVIA VILDSTEIN (1906-2001)

Vildstein managed an orphans' home in Lithuania's Vilna Ghetto during the Holocaust. When the ghetto was liquidated, she, like most of the Jews, was shot, but she survived and lived out the war under a false Polish identity. After the war, she returned to Vilna, where she established a school for orphans. Because of her Zionist activities, she was accused of treason, arrested and sentenced to eight years in the Gulag. She was allowed to immigrate to Israel in 1957 and settled in Givatayim, near Tel Aviv, where she taught in an elementary school. In 1965, she was elected to the Givatayim municipal council.

HAIKA GROSMAN (1919-1996)

An active member of the Zionist youth movement HaShomer HaTzair in Bialystok, in what is now Poland, Grosman moved to Vilna when World War II broke out. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Grosman returned to Bialystok, where she lived under a false name and became an underground activist. Upon arriving in Israel in 1948, she became secretary of Mapam, the Labor Zionist party. She served in the Knesset from 1969 to 1981 and from 1984 to 1993, advocating for legislation serving women, the elderly and the poor.


Born in Iraq, Arbeli-Almozlino joined the Zionist underground movement at age 20. After being arrested and interrogated by the Iraqi police, she made aliyah in 1947. In 1949, she cofounded Kibbutz Neve Or and joined the Ahdut HaAvodah party, an early version of the Labor Party. She served in the Knesset between 1965 and 1992, spearheading social legislation ranging from labor law to insurance reform, and was widely regarded as a supporter of the most vulnerable in Israeli society. As minister of health from 1986 to 1988, she pushed through legislation for organ transplants and government coverage of fertility treatments.

YAEL DAYAN (1939-)

Dayan, daughter of politician and military leader Moshe Dayan, the defense minister during the Six-Day War, was born in Mandatory Palestine. After serving in the IDF, she spent her early career writing novels and nonfiction, entering public life only after her father's death in 1981. "I understand that because I went into politics so late in life, I was never able to achieve all that I had hoped," she told Lilith last year. "But it never seemed right as long as he was still alive." Dayan served in the Knesset from 1992 to 2003, where she founded and chaired the Committee on the Status of Women. In this role, she advocated for stricter sexual harassment legislation, and she championed affirmative action and LGBT rights. She served on Tel Aviv's city council from 2008 to 2013.


Beinisch spent her early career in the state attorney's office, becoming the first woman to serve as attorney general in 1989. She was appointed to the Israeli Supreme Court in 1995, and in 2006 she was sworn in as the first woman president in the court's history, a role she held until her retirement in 2012. She is known for her focus on government corruption, human rights, sexual harassment and the rights of individuals. In 2000, she wrote one of her most well-known and controversial rulings, banning parents from using corporal punishment. Today there are four women out of 15 justices on the Israeli Supreme Court.


Weiss was an early activist in Gush Emunim, a national religious movement dedicated to establishing settlements in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. In 1975, she helped establish Kedumim, a settlement in the West Bank, and was elected its mayor in 1996 and reelected in 2001. She has been arrested numerous times, for obstruction, for assaulting a police officer, rioting against Palestinians and other similar offenses related to her activities against demolition or evacuation of settlements; in most cases she was given a suspended sentence and/or sentenced to probation and a fine. Eightyears ago, she founded Nahala, an organization that helps young people move to unrecognized settlements.

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Author:Wexler, Ellen
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:May 1, 2018

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