Arutz Sheva Head: I'm No Feminist
Arutz Sheva Director Rabbanit Shulamit Melamed said at a round table discussion about male-female relations and roles that she is not a feminist and never was.
Rabbanit Melamed is one of the most successful and innovative women in Israel, having run Arutz Sheva radio since its inception, continuing on to the internet news sites in several languages and the weekly Besheva newspaper, while raising seven children.
The round table was convened by the Israel Democracy Institute, to discuss the subjects of women in the religious Zionist movement, the role of women in the army, and women's place in the secular public realm – subjects that are increasingly central in the media-generated public discourse.
Rabbanit Melamed said: "Whenever people ask me why I am not a feminist I answer that as long as only a woman can give birth to and nurse her babies, I cannot be a feminist, because it is obvious that the role of a woman is completely different from that of a man. She has the ability to give birth to children, then to raise and educate them – on the day that this stops being so, maybe I will change my mind."
The Rabbanit explained that she has been able to raise children and work because of the technological revolution that has taken place in her lifetime. "When I gave birth to my first child I still had to boil diapers. Now we have time left over. Not all of us – but some women have extra time, and they can go out and work. What remains as our role is educating the children, and in fact, one of the reasons that there is such confusion in educating children is that the roles of father and mother in the family have become confused."
Rabbanit Melamed explained that in her opinion, men are the ones who are currently discriminated against in Israeli law, whereas the plethora of laws designed to assist women often do the opposite. "All these laws that supposedly help women cause employers not to want to take women workers. They tell us that you must take a woman who is pregnant, to give her an hour to nurse, and months of birth leave… all these laws harm the woman, I think, and will cause people to look less positively at the idea of employing her."
"Any women with ability and talent will not run into obstacles. Wherever I worked well, they wanted me, appreciated me and gave me work. These laws cause women to have a lower work ethic. Sometimes it seems all women have to do is sit at home and draw their salaries."
The Rabbanit also criticized laws that set quotas for female representation in Knesset factions and on various committees and boards of directors. "I do not want people to choose me because I am a woman but based on whether or not I am talented."
"The men are the weak ones," she added. "With regard to domestic violence, the man will always be found guilty. I have countless cases and examples. The woman will complain against the man – he will be thrown out of his house, even if it is his. There is no doubt that in 50% of family problems the men are to blame, and in 50% the women are to blame. Yet the man will always be found guilty in court."
Regarding "single parent mothers," as they are known in Israel, Rabbanit Melamed said that widows deserve to receive assistance, as do divorced women who had no choice but to divorce. She noted, however, that divorce has become more acceptable with time and "perhaps if it were not so easy to divorce, people would not divorce as much."
She was less empathetic toward unwed women who choose to become pregnant. "I do not understand them at all," she stated. "Women who chose not to marry and at a certain age decide that they do want a child, and now the state needs to help them. Let their families help – why does the state have to help?"
"Men are not the enemies in my eyes," she summed up, "and a woman who wants to be a queen needs see to it that her husband is a king."
Additional participants in the discussion included former Chief Military Rabbi Avichai Ronsky, Rav Benny Lau, militant feminist Dr. Orna Sasson-Levy, journalists Yair and Bambi Sheleg, Prof. Yedidya Stern and Gen. (res.) Yehuda Segev.