Is there a place for feminism in the Middle East today?

Sharon Wapnick (WIZO), Dr Einat Wilf and Rabbi Julia Margolis
Sharon Wapnick (WIZO), Dr Einat Wilf and Rabbi Julia Margolis

On Tuesday morning I attended with several of our ITJ students an “Exclusive Women’s Breakfast” organised by Sharon Wapnick, WIZO. Dr Einat Wilf, the invited guest speaker, led a discussion on “Is there a place for feminism in the Middle East today?” Since leaving the Israeli Parliament in 2013, Dr Wilf has travelled the world as a “roving ambassador” for Israel, presenting Israel’s case to Jewish communities, student groups and parliaments. She is a powerful advocate for women’s rights and feminism in the Middle East and Africa; world-acknowledged expert on the BDS crisis and how to combat it; and one of Israel’s most articulate representatives on the international stage.

Dr Wilf is an eloquent and charismatic speaker who speaks to all women irrespective of their status, age or creed; and who believes that the essence of peace is Palestinian recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Some impressions from Jacqui Upton:
Yesterday we attended the women’s breakfast with Einat Wilf, who discussed the topic of whether or not there is a place for feminism in the Middle East today. One of her initial points was that in order to judge the wellbeing of a country, one needs to look at the treatment of the women, and namely the girls, within that country. While there seems to have been some progress made in this regard, the Middle East remains very much behind in terms of gender equality, especially in the Arab run countries.

Gillian Read, Jacqui Upton, Belinda Walt, Neebashnee Kristnasamy and Rabbi Margolis
Gillian Read, Jacqui Upton,
Belinda Walt, Neebashnee Kristnasamy and Rabbi Margolis
Israel continues to make significant progress with regards to gender equality although there are still significant gaps for women leaders within society. She compared Israel as being on par with other large European countries in terms of the amount of women within parliament. She also discussed studies from Columbia University that prove that when women are in positions of leadership, they tend to promote more women into higher positions of authority. Another point she made was that words such as ‘feminism’ and Zionism’ have purposefully been tainted by those opposing the movements. If those that are practising feminist or Zionist principles withdraw from using those terms to describe their actions and beliefs, then the advances that have been made by both movements would be put in jeopardy.  

Wishing you a peaceful weekend. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Julia Margolis


Recipe for Potato Latkes – for Chanukah – from Gillian Read (ITJ)

Ingredients: 1kg old or baking potatoes, peeled, soaked in cold water until needed; 1 onion, peeled; 25g plain flour (or fine matzah meal); 1 free-range egg, beaten; salt and freshly ground white pepper; olive or vegetable oil, for frying. Method: Finely grate the potatoes and onion and mix together. Place the grated potato and onion into a colander and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Or roll up the potato and onion in a clean kitchen tea towel and wring well to extract the liquid. Mix the potato and onion with the flour, egg and salt and freshly ground white pepper. Heat the oil in a frying pan until moderately hot and then place heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the pan to shallow-fry. Lower the heat to medium, flatten each latke with the back of a spoon and fry for about five minutes on each side, turning over when the edges turn golden-brown. If the heat is too high, the latkes will become dark-brown on the outside before they are cooked inside. Remove the latkes from the pan and drain on brown paper bags (they absorb the oil, leave the latkes crisper and the latkes won’t stick to the paper). Serve the latkes hot with soured cream and apple sauce.

Chanukah is this year from 6 December to 14 December. Enjoy your latkes!

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