Opinion: It's time for Religious Zionist women to lead the way

More religious women taking up national leadership roles. Last week's Moskowitz Prize proves this is no fluke but a natural, welcome trend.

Adi Arbel,

Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover, Award winners of The Moskowitz Prize for Zioni
Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover, Award winners of The Moskowitz Prize for Zioni
Gershon Elinson/Flash90

The Moskowitz Prize for Zionism was awarded for the 12th time in a moving ceremony in Jerusalem last Tuesday. The prize, also known as the 'Lion of Zion' Prize, is awarded annually to three people as recognition for their life's work and for their contribution to the State of Israel and the Jewish People. Since 2013, the ceremony has also included the awarding of a further prize – the 'Spirit of Zion' Prize – to two young Israelis with a promising social initiative.

The prize recipients at last week's ceremony were Dr. Aliza Bloch, mayor of Bet Shemesh; Prof. Moshe Koppel, founder of the Kohelet Forum; and two women activists in the settler movement, Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover. They were joined by the young entrepreneurs Dr. Maor Farid and Ruti-Anatoohun Turetsky, both of whom are promoting their own promising ventures.

This distinguished list of recipients joins the 38 previous worthy and esteemed winners of the Moskowitz Prize. While this may seem just another flattering magazine article, an interesting trend can be discerned over recent years: more and more women are winning the prize intended to acknowledge the endeavors of national civil society leaders. This trend was especially noticeable at last week's 2019 ceremony. If the list of previous female prize winners numbered only 8, last week's ceremony increased this figure by 50 percent, bestowing the prize on another 4 female recipients.

As a member of the Young People's Prize steering committee since its inception, I can testify that the only criterion when selecting the winners is acknowledgement of those truly deserving of it in those fields of endeavor important to the committee, while disregarding any other, perhaps more visible, considerations. All those receiving the prize, whether male or female, did so solely on their own deserved merit. After all, the tough world of social endeavor is dominated by natural selection. Only the strong prevail and succeed in exerting an influence. A social entrepreneur is judged almost solely by his/her ability to exert an influence, and not by other irrelevant parameters.

A field with such rules enables anyone to succeed if abilities and talents are channeled to the right areas. Recent years have seen a significant upsurge in civil society activity in Israel, one that has been accompanied by a natural and healthy trend of increased growth (even if admittedly, still insufficient) in the number of female social entrepreneurs.

The magnitude of this welcome trend, whereby women are taking up national leadership roles, can be measured by the spontaneous circle of women dancing together following the ceremony. Apart from the new prize winners themselves, the circle included the Chairwoman of the prize Committee Cherna Moskowitz, her daughter Laurie who also accompanies the committee, and the Prize Director Ruth Lieberman. They were joined by other prominent leaders and by current and recent MKs: Tzipi Hotovely, Shuli Mualem, Orit Strook, and Idit Silman (most of whom have a long history of involvement in civil society). Nearby were other former prize recipients: the journalist and activist Caroline Glick, Chairwoman of 'My Israel' Sarah Haetzni-Cohen, and founder of the student villages, Tirael Cohen.

Such an esteemed list surely suffices to demonstrate the rising power of female activists in the national religious community and the national camp. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is very good news.

The author is the director of the Civil Society Forum.




top