Jewish History: Israel
A leading spy for the Nili ring during World War I, Sarah Aaronsohn fought to free Palestine from Turkish rule and withstood torture for her ideals; she committed suicide after arrest by Turkish authorities and was later described as a Jewish Joan of Arc. The semi-military role Sarah carved for herself, her activity, and her voluntary death made her an icon and a model of a new “Hebrew” femininity.
Orit Adato has held many roles throughout her career in security, from head of the Israeli Women’s Corps to Commissioner of the Israel Prison Service. After twenty-eight years of work in security, twenty-four of which were in the IDF, Adato retired with the rank of lieutenant general and founded her own international consultancy firm on security.
Chava Alberstein is a singer-songwriter who by the end of 2020 had recorded over 60 albums (including eight albums in Yiddish but not including singles and song collections), more than any other Israeli singer. Alberstein has toured globally and is considered one of the most important female performers of Hebrew music, Yiddish folk songs, and children’s songs.
Ruth Aliav-Klüger was the only woman among the early members of Mosad le-Aliyah Bet, the “illegal” immigration branch of the underground paramilitary organization Haganah that smuggled Jews out of Europe and into Palestine during World War II.
Shulamit Aloni, Member of the Knesset and Minister, was an important champion of human rights, civil rights, religious freedom, and the Palestinian right to self-determination. As founder and head of the Ratz and then Meretz party, she spearheaded progressive politics in Israel both on the formal level and in civil society for over half a century.
From her upbringing in a traditional Iraqi family to her work in the Knesset and as Israeli Minister of Health, Shoshana Arbeli-Almozlino’s life spanned countries, careers, and experiences. She will be remembered as an active member of Knesset who fought for the rights of the working class and for the equal status of women in Israeli law.
Israeli women artists, second generation descendants of Holocaust survivors, have expressed in their art the grim atmosphere of absence, emptiness, and loss they absorbed. Their individual responses to the Holocaust differ in intensity and power.
The inclusion of feminism in Israeli art was seen as irrelevant in the 1970s, when Israel was seen as a state of gender equality. But in the following decades, amid vast changes in Israeli society, women worked hard to make themselves seen and have their stories told in the wider world of Israeli art.
While women are often excluded from the historical narrative of Israeli art-making, women artists made significant contributions to the canon of Israeli art throughout the twentieth century. Depicting landscapes, creating ceramics, and painting beautiful portraits, many female artists made significant contributions to the development of the Bezalel Art school and Israeli modern art. In 1952, the artistic Group of Ten was founded, to use a modern language in order to express the Israeli experience and landscape.
Miriam Baratz was a founding member of Deganyah Aleph, the first socialist Zionist farming commune in pre-state Israel. She advocated for communal childcare and education, and for a cooperative and egalitarian economic structure. The gender paradigm she helped establish at Deganyah set a precedent of egalitarianism for the entire kibbutz movement.
Israeli author Batya Gur is best known for her mystery novels centering on the investigations of detective Michael Ohayon. Her work brought literary complexity to the Hebrew mystery novel.
Zoya Cherkassky (b. 1976 in Kyiv, Ukraine) is a prominent Israeli artist. She works in a range of media and styles, synthesizing traditional painting techniques with vernacular tools and moving freely between allusions to the European canon and contemporary art. Her work is marked by humor, irony, and satire and at times has been controversial.
Children’s literature in the United States would not be the same without Jewish women. From Sydney Taylor to Judy Blume to Lesléa Newman, Jewish women have written books read by millions of children and teenagers in the U.S. for more than a century.
For many centuries, Cochin Jewish women have sung Jewish songs, both in Hebrew and in the Malayalam language of Kerala, their ancient homeland on the tropical southwest coast of India. Kerala Jews are unusual among halakhically observant communities in the complex intertwining of female and male knowledge and performance throughout their musical repertoire.
A perennial firebrand of the Israeli Right, Geulah Cohen was a major fixture in Israeli politics from the pre-state era through to the twenty-first century. She was a Lehi-affiliated member of the Jewish Underground in British Mandatory Palestine, served in five Knessets from 1974 to 1992, and was one of the first prominent female Israeli politicians of Mizrahi origin.
Veronika Wolf Cohen has shaped Israeli minds in two very different ways, by developing national music curricula and by leading innovative Israeli-Palestinian dialogue groups.