Politics, You, and a Cup of Cold Brew

Stav Shaffir, the youngest female Knesset member in Israel's history.

Two great loves that I’ve discovered in high school are politics and coffee. These are two critical elements of who I am today, but one would think they rarely intersect. That’s what I thought too—until Stav Shaffir came along and gave Israeli politics a total caffeine jolt. Stav Shaffir is a young female member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), a star to be sure. She’s thirty years old and is shaking up the government for the better. Stav boldly redefines feminism and Zionism, and is an inspirational young feminist with whom I’d love to share a cup of coffee.

My experiences visiting Israel as a young Jewish woman have been fairly “decaf,” as I’ve been hushed and forced to wear a skirt more times than I care to recall. One tends to lose a sense of empowerment when relegated to a second-class role as a woman at the Kotel (Western Wall). Israel is an intensely gendered society, and in all walks of life, women, though blunt and forthright, are nearly always treated as inferior. Aware of this blatant inequality, it’s easy to lose faith in the nature of the Israeli political system. I consider myself a Zionist, one who loves the Jewish homeland and who always will. However, it’s important to me that women too see an engaged and politically active future for themselves; yet in Israeli political life, so few do. The Rabbinate (Jewish religious governing body in Israel) has a stranglehold on society, and they severely curtail women’s rights. While Israeli politics is energized by a head-spinning number of political parties, the spark of progressive Zionism that advocates for women’s advancement is almost non-existent.

Enter Stav Shaffir, a breath of fresh air and a long overdue liberal female voice.

Upon first being introduced to Stav Shaffir, my decaf view of the Knesset gained a few shots of espresso. I have always felt completely iced out of the spiritual space in the Old City of Jerusalem, but with her avid support for Women of the Wall, Stav Shaffir has enabled me  to experience a renewed sense of hope for women at the Kotel. This allows me to imagine a more inclusive future for women in Israel. Before Stav and Women of the Wall, girls and women in Israel were shut out of the holiest places, but Stav is working to change all that. She can be seen in the heart of Jerusalem proudly praying in her talis (traditional Jewish prayer shawl). In addition to actively supporting Women of the Wall, Stav recently proposed legislation that would allow same-sex couples in Israel to receive government recognition for civil unions. In many ways, Stav speaks truth to power, and is not afraid to talk honestly and openly, and when necessary, even rebuke the Prime Minister.

Even in the American political experience, the role of women is marginalized. There are so few women, and even fewer younger women. At the grassroots level, women are natural activists, demonstrating what’s just and ethical. But in order to rise up, one requires, among other things, serious money. Stav is the youngest and poorest member of the Knesset, with a net worth of merely twenty-thousand dollars, a stark contrast from Donald Trump’s four billion, for example. Even in today’s modern society, women often earn far less than men. Additionally, women frequently are provided with fewer financial and career opportunities, so the fact that Stav Shaffir’s voice has overcome her small paycheck is truly refreshing in today’s political world.

Thanks to Stav Shaffir, I can one day hope to walk down the streets of Jerusalem with my head held high, and to pray at the Kotel with the same privileges now only afforded to men. She is going places in Israel, and changing the country for the better. I’ll be watching her work and benefiting from the change that will she will undoubtedly bring about.  I’ll be in her corner, and she’ll be in mine, and one day I hope Stav Shaffir and I will share a fair trade cup of joe at last.

This article was also published on Teen Voices at Women’s eNews.

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

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How to cite this page

Gayle-Schneider, Eliana. "Politics, You, and a Cup of Cold Brew." 25 January 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 24, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/politics-you-and-cup-of-cold-brew>.