Women Rights Violations In The West Bank And Gaza
Editor’s note: Beside a report on the Violations of Children’s Rights under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Jerusalem Institute for Justice also prepared a report on Women Rights Violations in the West Bank and Gaza. Click here for the full report or read the executive summary below:
This report examines the Palestinian Leadership’s adherence to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in the West Bank and Gaza. Research shows that Palestinian leadership fails to protect women’s rights both in legal code and cultural practice. Discrimination against Palestinian women stems from legal, social and cultural patterns of conduct, facts that are supported by Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ) sources and their testimonies.
There is evidence of Palestinian leadership attempting to rectify the rampant lack of women’s rights and protections, as seen with the 2011 Palestinian Authority (PA) report, which outlines an 8 year strategy to counter violence against women in the Territories. However, laws and strategies, while brought to the table, are poorly and inconsistently enforced. Regarding CEDAW, PA President Mahmoud Abbas symbolically signed onto the Convention in 2009, formalized in April 2014. International law obligates non-state actors, like Hamas, to respect the Convention as well. From this, we conclude that both the PA and Hamas are in direct violation of the Convention.
Information for this report was obtained through news sources, NGOs and testimonies on the role of women in Palestinian society.
Within the territories, there is greater concern for the content of women’s education, rather than education access. Two categories of women who face barriers to education are young, married women and rural women. Schools do not permit married or pregnant girls to attend school, and if they do permit it, the girls’ husbands have the authority to forbid it. A West Bank hospital says that women from rural areas are less likely to attend school than women in urban areas,though a report from one Palestinian Christian woman challenges this, stating that 90% percent of the female students at Bethlehem University come from village communities.
In Gaza, all schools (private or UNRWA) are gender segregated by law, resulting in 2 key issues: a) An uncertainty on the equality of content and quality of materials for both male and female students, and b) Given that male teachers cannot teach female students, girls are denied access to the resources made available to male students. In the West Bank, most schools are gender segregated due to a cultural norm of women preferring single-sex schooling, and not necessarily due to gender segregation laws. However, single-sex schooling and segregation contributes to gender-based violence and the sexualization of women within Palestinian culture.
JIJ’s sources report that boys’ schools in both the West Bank and Gaza perpetuate gender role stereotypes, specifically that women should stay home and obey her husband. One source shares that he was taught that Palestinian martyrs would be rewarded with 72 virgin women in paradise, a lesson that not only sexualizes and objectifies women, but glorifies violence. Yet another source reports that messages in today’s schools are changing: “They keep changing, developing the textbooks…Now it’s also the girl that exists in the books; not only the boy.”
In addition, CEDAW stipulates that education must include sexual education; however it is clear that sexual education is severely lacking in both the school system and at home due to the issue of sex being regarded as taboo in much of Palestinian culture.
Article 11 of CEDAW states that all appropriate measures must be taken to eliminate discrimination against women in the workforce, yet heavy restrictions are placed on women relating to the fields they can work in, which not only bars women from certain professions but strips them of opportunities that are open to men. A number of resolutions (including those from the Council of Ministers and Palestinian Labor Laws) call for restrictions on the hours women are permitted to work, not only reinforcing gender-based discrimination but also encouraging women to fear ‘dangerous night hours’ (Palestinian Labor Law No. 7 – 2000).
Women are less involved in the workforce than men due to these legal restrictions, as well as cultural standards. In the West Bank (2013), 25.9% of women were unemployed compared to 16.8% of men. In Gaza, 53.1% were unemployed compared to 27.8% of men. The driving factor for the gap in women’s employment is explained by several sources: in Palestinian culture, the woman’s place is in the home with her children. Should a woman try to go against those cultural norms, she faces severe discrimination from her family and community. However, there are some who believe the cultural norms are changing for the better, with one source explaining that now, men inquire into a woman’s profession — today it is smiled upon to be active participants of one’s society.
Despite these positive developments, for those women who do work, heavy discrimination is still reported. In Gaza (2009), 32.5% of working women reported exploitation and discrimination, with the PA recognizing verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and discrimination against pregnant women.
Honor Killings are motivated by suspicion or knowledge of extramarital affairs and pregnancies. They are common in both the West Bank and Gaza, with approximately 27 cases reported in 2013. Data gathered from the West Bank from 2005 to 2006 indicates the killings are carried out through several methods, including poisoning, stabbing, and strangling. JIJ sources in the West Bank report that the practice of honor killing is perpetuated by Palestinian officials who use the threat of death to manipulate civilians to do their bidding.
One source explains that though honor killings are still prevalent, at least now attitudes towards them have changed. Whereas once a community would say ‘she deserved it,’ individuals are now starting to speak out against the practice. Certain legal efforts have been made to combat the practice, including Abbas’ decision to suspend two laws that ‘excused’ the actions of men who committed honor killings. Yet, though laws have been changed to accommodate these new ideas, the problem lies in the culture itself. According to one JIJ source, honor killings is a practice taught and enforced by the Koran and its culture.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND PROSTITUTION
The language used in both the Jordanian Penal Code (1960) and the Egyptian Penal Code (1936), which are both applied by the Palestinian Authority, fails to protect women with regards to prostitution, coercion into sexual relations, or human trafficking. Both laws claim to bar against forcing a woman to have illegal sexual intercourse, but then include the clause, “provided that such a woman is not a prostitute and is not known for her immoral character.” Here, language is open to subjective interpretation, leaving room for exploitation and failure to protect a woman because she is accused of having an ‘immoral character.’
While the laws of the PA seem to reflect a ‘no tolerance’ approach towards sexual exploitation of women, the reality of the situation does not. According to various NGO sources, the PA is aware of the human trafficking that takes places, the sexual exploitation in brothels and with prostitution, but does little to confront it. Fieldwork conducted by SAWA (All the Women Together Today and Tomorrow) indicates that subjects of trafficking are usually female students of Palestinian colleges and universities; they are being trafficked by Palestinian woman 40 to 50 years of age. Women and girls are engaging in human trafficking due to economic insecurity and limited education, among other reasons; though according to SAWA, Palestinian police claim that “the majority of women engaged in prostitution do it by their own ‘will.’” Those women who do return to their communities after engaging in prostitution are often subject to social stigma and face severe consequences, like the previously mentioned practice of honor killings.
Despite the PA recognizing economic discrimination against women in its National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women (2011), many of the issues addressed are still in effect. From 2011 to 2013, nearly 100 women (from Gaza and WB) called the SAWA hotline to discuss issues of economic exploitation. A number of other Church based organizations have found that 62% of families refuse to grant women their right to inheritance when it is requested, further financially crippling these women. When asked why this is the case, JIJ sources explain that “these are just the social norms” in Palestinian society.
While women are involved in West Bank Palestinian political life, equal male-female representation has not been reached. Certain cultural norms and legislation act as barriers to women’s total access to political and public life. Women have been recognized by PA Elections Law with having the right to political participation, and laws are in place calling for at least 20% representation in the political sphere. However, these laws are not reflected in practice; the quota system in place for women does not succeed in establishing equal representation.
Regarding political protest, women are allowed to participate, though up to a certain point — women “cannot cross the red line” in their political activism, a red line determined by culture. Similarly, within the criminal justice system, cases are decided according to Islamic Sharia Law, which dictate that “a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man.” The implications of this are simple: to be heard and accepted in a court of law, a woman must be accompanied by another, preferably a man. This also contributes to the challenge of accessing legal documentation like passports, visas, and ID cards. Though some advancements have been made, traditional practices are still looked to with regards to the passing on of national identity (restricted to men), requiring the signature of the man for a woman to obtain a passport, and, as is done in Gaza, the requirement that all women carry ID cards specifying their relationship to the man they are walking with in public.
Within the institution of marriage, Palestinian women are stripped of their autonomy to choose a partner, in the decision of when to get married, or drawing up their own wedding contract. All are done and decided by the woman’s male guardian, in contrast to men who are free to act independently. Lack of autonomy over marriage decisions lead to arranged marriages, which sometimes tread into the realm of forced marriages, despite both Egyptian and Jordanian legal codes banning forced marriages.
In both the West Bank and Gaza, families are able to marry off their younger daughters, despite certain laws in place that bar against the practice of child brides. While in Gaza the legal marriage age for women is 17, women in the West Bank can be legally married at 15. In both areas, a judge can permit exceptions at the request of the woman’s (male) guardian. Once again, sources confirm that while laws are in place, culture and traditions take precedence: “Child marriage is normal. There is no legal age…the problem is that they do not marry in the government, they marry in the mosque…” To get around the ‘legal age’ requirement for marriage, families can work with clerics who agree to officiate the marriage, then later register it with the courts once the girl comes of age.
Regarding divorce, law grants priority and right to the husband in both the West Bank and Gaza. Under Jordanian law, a woman can only file for divorce if her situation meets certain requirements, including if her husband has an incurable disease, is unable to consummate the marriage, or if he is unable to pay the dowry, among others. Harm or mistreatment are also grounds for a woman to request divorce; however it is left to the courts to decide what is deemed as mistreatment: ‘emotional’ suffering is not included. Though it does happen, the woman being able to request a divorce is the exception, not the rule. In contrast, a man can divorce his wife for “any reason,” with or without her consent.
One article of law that seems to protect women’s rights in divorce states that should a woman be divorced in an “abusive manner,” the woman has a right to request compensation from the judge. However, this law also stipulates that if a woman is ‘uncooperative’ with her husband she will not be eligible for alimony. There is no equivalent clause for men.
Sources report that if a woman requests divorce, chances are high that she will lose all her money, and possibly her children. If a woman remarries, she can lose custody over her children entirely. Based on the Hanafi School of Sharia Law, Palestinian practice is that a male child, once reaching puberty, chooses which parent will have custody; custody of female children is defaulted to their fathers. Yet, despite this tradition, sources explain that in practice, fathers refrain from taking the children in favor of moving on with a new marriage and new family after divorce.
In both the West Bank and Gaza, adultery is illegal — with punishments for women being much harsher than for men. For example, the Jordanian legal code stipulates that punishment for a woman is between six months and two years in prison, while the man receives between one month and one year, dependent on if he had the affair in the marital home or in public. The laws of the West Bank and Gaza imply that women are held to a stricter standard of behavior than men and are therefore subject to harsher punishment, regardless of men and women behaving in the same way.
SEXUAL AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Statistics surrounding sexual violence in the West Bank and Gaza are staggering. In 2014, the PA reported that 53% of Palestinian women had been exposed to violence with 18% of unmarried women reporting being victims of sexual violence. 45.9% of these cases saw the woman’s father as perpetrator, with 25.5% the brother as perpetrator. From 2011, 76% of callers to SAWA’s hotline were under the age of 21. Between 2011 and 2013, female callers reported a total of 10,663 cases of abuse, including domestic violence, sexual violence, attempted rape, rape, and sexual abuse within the family.
Incestuous relations within the territories is prohibited by both Jordanian and Egyptian Penal Codes. Yet despite the legal prohibitions, a culture of incest still permeates Palestinian life, especially in more rural areas where traditional practices of marrying within the family, as a means of protecting the dowry, are continued. Regarding incestuous rape, one source estimates that, in Bethlehem, between 50 and 80 babies are born each year as a product of intra-family rape.
Certain cultural views on rape and sexual violence prevent women from getting the help they need. Palestinian culture is one of many that normalizes sexual abuse, thereby instilling a fear in women about speaking out. This is reflected in a legal clause of the Jordanian Penal Code that states a perpetrator will escape prosecution if he marries his victim for 3 to 5 years. Some sources argue in favor of this practice, saying that it may be in the woman’s best interests socially — the woman protects herself by marrying her perpetrator and keeping her honor in tact.
Overall, West Bank and Gaza law do not provide complete definitions of what sexual crimes are, therefore leaving too much open to legal loopholes. In addition, certain terms are too loosely defined, like ‘rapist,’ which is defined in the Jordanian Penal Code as anyone who has “forced sexual intercourse with a female, other than his wife” implying marital rape is legal and acceptable. The language used in both the Jordanian and Egyptian legal codes is ambiguous and leaves too much to subjective interpretation.
The only legal codes that address domestic violence in West Bank and Gaza are the Palestinian Women’s Bill of Rights (2008) and the Draft Law for Family Protection Against Violence (2009). Both are rarely referenced in reports on Palestinian women, and only the Bill of Rights actually addresses sexual harassment. All of this is testament to the fact that sexual and domestic violence are issues that are widely ignored by the PA and Palestinian law.
When asked why the hesitation to report crimes, those interviewed responded that speaking up about sexual violence is useless in the best case scenario, and at worst, speaking up would exacerbate the situation. As well, many Palestinian women are unaware of the resources available to them to report cases of sexual violence, or simply fear the backlash of family humiliation and societal shame.
A key JIJ source laments that Palestinian culture is a culture of silence, arguing that most Gazan children have suffered abuse of some kind and that it would be a severe mistake to take the silence received on the issue to mean that abuse does not exist.
SOCIAL STEREOTYPES AND GENDER NORMS
Gender norms and roles are reinforced by cultural practices and social stereotypes; specifically, rural villages adhere to more conservative, traditional gender relations. This translates to an immense cultural gap, where women do not have access to the same rights as men, or as the women from the cities. However, these cultural norms are supported in both Jordanian and Egyptian Penal Codes, where the woman “must obey her husband” and the husband must “consort with his wife in kindness and treat her with courtesy.”
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas should arrange for an independent task force to conduct thorough reviews of laws in the West Bank and Gaza pertaining to women, specifically focusing on those dealing with sexual and domestic violence, divorce rights, and the protection of the rights of young girls. Under the recommendations of the task force, and guidance by experts of women’s issues and law, all laws should be either annulled, revised, or rewritten, and all should adhere to international standards for women’s rights. Palestinian leadership should ensure enforcement for all laws pertaining to women’s rights. In conjunction with NGOs, Palestinian leadership should establish programming to positively influence cultural attitudes towards women and women’s rights. To encourage women to work outside the home, Palestinian leadership should provide incentives in the form of tax breaks for working women and childcare subsidies. Palestinian leadership should provide funding for NGOs working to protect women in the territories. Finally, laws should be changed to reflect same punishments for both men and women for the same crime, to guarantee just punishment for perpetrators of honor killings, to reflect the equal standing of men and women in a court of law, to reflect the complete range of sexual misconduct women are subjected to, to equalize access to divorce, and to ensure women do not face restrictions on employment that men do not face.
This article originally appeared on Jerusalem Institute of Justice, August 4, 2016, and reposted with permission.
The Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ) is an Israeli non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating and defending rule of law, human rights, freedom of conscience, and democracy for all people in Israel and its adjacent territories.
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Let’s Answer Some Jewish Questions
This topic was given to me by the editor of 21st. Century Christian. As a Jew who believes in Yeshua the Messiah I can easily ask the questions that many Jews have asked about Christianity for many centuries. The questions that are asked by Jews who do not believe that Yeshua is the Messiah are valid, and we as His disciples ought to come up with some valid answers. The answers to these questions are not as important for the Jewish people as they are for us as Christians.
Before I get into this article I must confess that there is fear in my heart when dealing with such a sensitive subject. The fear comes from an uncertainty about the ability of many Christians today to understand the Biblical implications of these questions. With God’s help we all will overcome our fears and go on with the subject matter.
Question #1 – If Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah (Christ), and he is Jewish, and died as “The King of the Jews”, why do many Christians hate the Jews?
Answers: There are a number of different approaches that can be taken in answering this question.
- True Christians do not hate any one, and specially not the Jews. Those who hate on the basis of race or religious beliefs are not true followers of Jesus.
- The Jews have rejected Jesus and therefore they ought to be hated. They have killed our God and they are the God-killers. Christians should have nothing to do with a reprobate nation like the Jews.
- Christians have fallen into sin and heresy over the centuries, and we are sorry that this has happened. It is not according to God’s will, nor is it according to Yeshua’s teaching to hate Jews or any people. Those dark centuries when the Christendom persecuted the Jews are a stain on the pages of the history of the Church. We as Christians in the 21st. century want to do all that is possible to fight against racism and prejudice and to actively be involved in reaching out to the Jews, as to all men, and showing them that Yeshua is their Messiah first.
Question # 2 – If the New Testament speaks of one Church. Why are there over 4000 different Christian Churches which all fight with each over? Why does the Church of Christ continue to split and create new denominations? Is this not a failure of the whole Christian system? Could this inbreed trait of Christianity not be an indication that Jesus has failed in His mission?
Answer: There is a cluster of a few questions which ought to receive the same answer. We have traditionally, and in the Joule Miller film strips, given a cliché answer to the problems of division and denominationalism. We have said that the reason that there is division in the Christian world is that people have followed a ￼mixture of Biblical and human traditions which created many different interpretations and view points. It was taught that in order to unite we must all go back to the Bible. Well, in the Churches of Christ, it has been claimed that “We have gone back to the Bible”, but the divisions have persisted and in fact they continue to gain momentum. If we look at the history of the restoration movement and compare it with the rest of the Protestant world, can we honestly say that the phenomena, and the party spirit, has been spared from us? I propose to the reader that the real reason for denominationalism and division in the Body of Christ is that Christianity has, some time in the early second century, cut itself off the root, the Jewish root, and taken on a Hellenistic – Greco-Roman – world view. The greatness of the Restoration movement is in the desire to return and look at the New Testament as a First Century document. But, practically speaking that would be impossible from both the textual and the cultural place that the movement stands today. The early Church was Jewish and was born in the Jewish Homeland and culture, without re-connecting to the Jewish roots of the New Testament, and relating to them there is no way for the modern Christians to know what the early Church looked like. The New Testament is the pattern for the life and faith of the Church, but it takes understanding and interpretation. When every one interprets according to the baggage that he brings with him, and does not make an attempt to look at the ancient document in light of it’s original background, that in our case is Jewish, the result will always be division. It is impossible to be like the early church without being in a direct relationship and have common interests with the Jewish community. Paul, who was the Apostle to the Gentiles went each Sabbath to Synagogue. It was his “heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved”.
The church is described as a union in the Messiah between the Jews and the Gentiles. If you have a non-denominational church who claims to want to be like the First Century Church and they lack the most basic ingredient for being like the First Century Church, namely Jews, and interest in their salvation, can it still be honestly called “a first century church”.
We should understand that division in a “bad witness” to the whole world. In the West division is discussed as a “stalwart stand for the truth”, in reality it is seen by the non-Christian world as a failure of the “whole Christian faith” itself.
Question # 3 – Who is really the God of the Christians? Jews and Muslims often get confused when they hear Christians talk about God. It is not clear who is really God, or how many Gods the Christians have. One Jewish man one time told me that it seems as if Christians have “retired God from his job and sent him to Acapulco for vacation”. They have made Jesus into a postal Clark, who just transfers messages. The Holy Spirit they have burdened with every trivial pursuit to be the personal nursemaid.
Answer: The Bible as a whole, and the New Testament in particular stands very clear in the teaching that there is only One God, and no more. It is also clear that God’s oneness includes his Son, and His Spirit. The particular relationship and inter-working of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is not directly or clearly addressed in the text of the New Testament. All that modern Christianity has about these, interrelationships, equality and hierarchy, comes from the creeds of Nicea, Chalcedon, and Westminster. We have to give a much clearer sound on the Oneness of God first, and only in stage two start dealing with the interrelationship between the Father and the Son. I sometimes wonder how was it that the early Church managed to survive for over 300 years before Nicea. These are just a few questions that Jews, and I might add, Arabs ask about Christianity. I personally would like to think that even if the questions were not familiar to our readers at least the answers would be familiar. The biggest question for me personally would be how is it that so many of our brothers in Christ can claim to love Jesus, and Peter, and Paul, and Matthew, and Levy, and Joseph, and King David, and etc. etc. etc., and yet have no interest or love for the Jewish people today? How is it that they sing “we are marching to Zion” and have no interest in Zion? How is it that they pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and do not have the desire to bring home the “Good News” that they received from the physical seed of these fathers of Israel. How is it that they have forgotten the words of Paul, “For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.”
I commend the 21st. Century Christian publication for undertaking so important a subject. It is not only important to me as a Jew, but it is important for the restoration of the first century church in both spirit and in truth.
 Here are some reasons why answer (a) is not correct: In answer (a) the impression is left that the person giving the answer has not and is not participating in any anti-Semitic activity or feeling. He has set himself above the rest of his people. Jewish people do not like this kind of attitude because they know that it is automatically based on prejudice and religious pride.
 Romans 10:1
 Ephesians 2:11-22 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” (Gentiles) by those who call themselves “the circumcision”(Jews) — 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away (the Gentiles) and peace to those who were near (the Jews). 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
 Romans 15:26-27
This article originally appeared on Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry, and reposted with permission.
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VIDEO: Pearls of Torah Parashat Ekev – Just do it!
Join Rabbi Shapira and special guest in the studio Rabbi Marty Cohen for a special teachings from Parashat Ekev.
Tzahi (Itzhak) Shapira was born and raised in a traditional Sephardic Jewish home in Israel. Rabbi Shapira serves as the as the founding rabbi of Ahavat Ammi, an international Jewish organization that is focused on reconciliation between Jews and Yeshua.
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Why This Non-Jewish Girl Moved to Israel
I get this question a lot from Israelis: “Why did you move here (Israel)?”. My heart usually begins to thud a little louder, and in my mind I am like… “why did I move here??” I guess I don’t really have a straight answer exactly. All I do know… is that I love this place! In 2006 I volunteered at a guesthouse called Beit Immanuel in Jaffa. When the plans were in motion for me to go, I thought that I was going to be homesick for my dearly loved home, family and friends. Little did I know that this place would capture my heart, and once I returned back to Canada, I became homesick for this rubbly, stubbly, beautiful little place. It is a rough and sometimes harsh place to live, especially compared to peaceful Canada. But it is also amazing at the same time! I love the palm trees, the ancient and modern history, the food, and so much more! This place holds a lot of meaning and significance, which is no wonder this place is still in conflict to this day.
In 2009, I moved to Israel to study for my BA in Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the IDC in Herzliya in an international program. What an amazing experience! Learnt so much. And so, my plan was to gain a degree, but I gained so much more! As you probably know, there was a boy involved! Tall, dark and handsome! He was very manly and charming, and I was soon madly in love with him! So we started dating after being friends (that liked each other) for a long time. We met while I had volunteered back in 2006, and after I finished my first semester at the IDC we started dating, and of course the rest is history – marriage, babies, after finishing our degrees moving up north to the Galilee, etc…
And this non-Jewish girl is happy here. It doesn’t make much sense, but it works for me. Yes there are challenges and sometimes I feel that I will never fit in completely, and the language has been a struggle for me, but all the same I feel at home here.
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Beyond Marriage, Motherhood and Ministry: Cultivating Personal, Academic and Professional Development (Part 2)
This is part two of a three-part series addressing this topic. To read part one, click here.
Motherhood is often considered the epitome of our existence as women, particularly in the believing community. While bringing new life into this world is a remarkable and profound gift, which offers a unique experience of bonding and child-rearing, it is also easy to lose ourselves in raising children, particularly if this is where we invest the majority of our time and energies. Pouring ourselves solely into motherhood may be rewarding for a period, but it is statistically probable that women have approximately 25 years of work they can engage in outside the home, both before and after child-rearing. As a result, this can lead us to neglect and devalue our self-identity, the people we were before having children, and who we are and what we can do after having children. Regardless of whether you devote yourself to caregiving in the home (part-time or full-time), cultivate and develop your identity and ambition apart from motherhood, and find ways to translate your interests into skill-sets that can grow over time.
As women marry and have kids, duties are often divided in such a way that women fulfill more domestic responsibilities, while men take on more breadwinning responsibilities. Within the Messianic community in Israel, many mothers actually work outside the home (but primarily on a part-time basis) as it is nearly impossible to support a family on one salary. Whether out of need or preference, we believe it is important for women to keep one foot in the work force. Even if this is only on an hourly basis, strategically apply your interests into work in order to continue to develop your skills, maintain earning power, and have a measure of independence outside of the home. When women slow down in their jobs or careers to accommodate marriage and motherhood, they fall behind their male counterparts who continue in full-time positions and advance in their careers; it is nearly impossible to catch up after three to five years outside the workforce, much less a few decades, without maintaining at least a part-time presence in the labor market.
If work beyond domestic responsibilities is not an option (by choice or circumstance), consider this season as an “investment interval” and find other ways to invest in yourself in order to re-enter the workforce or practice a skill once time permits.  For instance, engage in educational reading, enroll in (online or traditional) courses, or strategically volunteer in schools, neighborhoods, or the local government in positions that will help you build connections and develop skills.
We recognize that financial pressure can compel mothers to step out of the workforce, reasoning that the amount we earn barely covers the costs of childcare. While Israel provides free compulsory education for three and four year olds, good subsidized day-care, and better rights for working mothers than the United States, some conclude that it is still not financially worthwhile. At the same time, it is important to consider that the money earned does not just go to cover childcare or basic expenses in the present, but ultimately contributes toward your power to earn and advance in the future.  Furthermore, childcare should not be considered a mother’s sole physical and financial responsibility, as childcare allows both parents to work, not just the mother. As one writer notes, “If everyone benefits from childcare, everyone pays for childcare.” 
Although gender should not define our roles in life, the reality is that women tend to bear the disproportionate responsibility in caregiving and domestic work. Consequently, there is a need to discuss a more equitable division of household labor, while lobbying for policy changes that would not penalize women or men for engaging in this (generally unpaid) labor. Working mothers often return home to begin “the second shift,” namely domestic and caregiving tasks inside the home following a day at work. “Second shift” tasks can easily be divided between partners; while the exact division of labor in the home will vary according to family, it is important to periodically reevaluate these roles as personal, familial and professional circumstances change.
Likewise, one aspect of parenthood rarely discussed is the “soft bigotry of low expectations” toward fathers. While mothers are expected to devote a significant amount of time to childcare and household work, the moment fathers engage in these responsibilities, they are often unduly praised for their contribution. This in turn perpetuates the “halo dad syndrome,” whereby fathers who actively participate in caregiving are applauded for the very same work mothers are expected to routinely engage in. Men need a progressive movement of their own to freely partake in both breadwinning and caregiving without unwarranted praise or censure for their choices.  As women, we need to partner with men to break the stereotype of father incompetence that is detrimental to both fathers and mothers, as it reinforces a double standard in expected behavior and traditional gender roles.
In the upcoming post we will address our final topic — ministry. Suggestions for further reading are listed in part three.
 Anne-Marie Slaughter, Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, 2016.
 Ibid., and Lisa Endlich Heffernan, “9 things I wish I’d known before I became a stay-at-home mom,” Vox.com, 2015.
 Ester Bloom, “Let’s kill til it’s dead the myth that mom’s salary pays for childcare,” Billfold.com, 2015.
 Ibid., borrowing from Matt Vilano and Andrew Romano, borrowing from Michael Gerson. It’s also interesting to note that in The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, one of the most frequently heard regret from male patients was “I wish I didn’t work so hard,” as they missed too much of their children’s lives or their partner’s companionship. From Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, 2012, via Unfinished Business).
Inbar and Yael (pen names) live and work in Israel. They are passionate about justice and gender equality and have devoted their lives to advocating for minorities and empowering marginalized communities.