For Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Women, a New Political Party

February 12, 2015 | Beth Kissileff
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Among the newly-formed parties running candidates in the upcoming Israeli elections is bi-Zkhutan. The name means “on their own merit,” with their in a feminine grammatical form. Currently, ultra-Orthodox parties do not allow female candidates on their lists, and the all-female leaders of bi-Zkhutan hope to field political representatives who will defend their interests. Beth Kissileff profiles the party’s head, Ruth Colian:

Colian is well aware of the risks involved in what she is doing. One prominent haredi figure has already hinted ominously that she could be excommunicated for her political activities. When asked about the threats against her and the fear that her children will be asked to leave their schools, Colian says, “. . . I’m afraid, I am terrified. But I don’t have any choice.” For Colian, bi-Zkhutan is not just a political party, but a moral imperative. “These [haredi] parties get money from my taxes as a woman,” she says, but they won’t let her or other women run for office. . . . She feels that the process has now taken on a life of its own, and “thousands and hundreds of thousands of women want my process to be completed and successful.”

[W]hatever her misgivings about haredi society, Colian is a religious woman. Indeed, her faith encourages her to believe that she can complete her “process.” “You need to believe in God to do the right thing,” she says. “If God is with you, there is no chance you will not get help if you are doing the right thing.”

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