In a keynote speech at the pro-democracy demonstration in Tel Aviv on January 14, NIF Board Member Elah Alkalay spoke about the contribution of Israel’s women to the country’s economy and society and called out misogyny from government leaders. She was addressing comments made by MK Avi Maoz, of the hardline Noam faction of the Religious Zionism party, who has been appointed a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of the Unit for External Programs and Promoting Partnerships in Israeli schools. Maoz has condemned the unit’s progressive programs which promote women’s and LGBTQ+ rights.
Alkalay is a veteran capital market investment manager and chair of IBI Mutual Trust Funds and VP Business Development. She also serves as Chair of NIF’s Board’s Grants Committee, Chair of the Israel Women’s Forum (IWN), and on the board of Ma’aleh.
She said, “‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ wasn’t made up by the left. ‘Do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow,’ wasn’t made up by human rights organizations. But the elected officials who call themselves the landlords of Israel refuse to sign an international agreement to prevent violence against women. Those who claim to represent the people are now acting to repress and get rid of anyone who is different from them. These people were elected but they are not expressing the Judaism that they pride themselves on, nor the wishes of the voters.
“Avi Maoz. You don’t have to take core studies (math and English) to be able to look around and see that countries that fail in their treatment of women are failing countries. Even in Tehran, girls and women have declared that men can no longer dictate what they wear and have sent the Morality Police on their way.
“But on public transit around Israel, some people don’t understand their place and seek to segregate by gender. Really Avi? You have the right to decide that the only contribution that I can make, or that my daughter or all the girls here can make, is to take care of their husband and children?
“Does it make sense to anyone that yeshiva students cannot serve with women or be in their company. If you think about it, you will realize that there is something wrong with educating people to live in complete separation. Anyone who bothers to look beyond one specific interpretation of one book will see the value in living together in an inclusive society. A society where everyone is listened to as we understood in the Declaration of Independence, as the Jews in the Diaspora understood long ago. You don’t need a degree in the Hebrew language to understand that there’s no integration in separation and that there is no diversity without inclusivity.
“You don’t need a degree in business to understand that you can’t trust any tender, any contract, or any agreement, if the judicial system and law enforcement aren’t independent but rather dependent on political whims. There are many countries that can demonstrate the economic price we’ll pay if this happens.
“All of us here want to enjoy a prosperous economy. All of us here want to enjoy human rights, freedom of speech and social justice. All of us here want to live in a place that allows each and every one of us to live according to their faith and beliefs.”