Meet the Orthodox Mother of Twelve Who Ran the Office of an Israeli President

July 26 2021

A few weeks ago, an unusual photograph appeared in news outlets: it showed Israel’s outgoing president Reuven Rivlin looking on as Joe Biden knelt in front of Rivlin’s chief of staff. Reportedly, the American president had just learned that the latter, Rivka Ravitz, is the mother of twelve children, whom she raised while serving as a senior staffer to a series of Israeli parliamentarians, and then to her country’s president. Ravitz may be a somewhat unusual figure, but in the ḥaredi community of which she is a part, there is nothing unusual about women balancing careers with large families. Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt writes:

Ravitz has met with Pope Francis (a meeting where she did not shake the pontiff’s hand, for which she received special praise in the ḥaredi community, despite not shaking other male leaders’ hands), Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, King Felipe VI of Spain, and Vladimir Putin, among others.

Ravitz is, in many ways, the face of many Orthodox Jewish women, who identify as ḥaredi, who follow rabbinical rulings and who are uncomfortable in questioning the status quo publicly, who are devoted to traditional family values and community life—yet who are ready to step into leadership positions previously barred to women.

Outside her community, a ḥaredi woman can do whatever her heart desires, whether it’s finishing a PhD in public policy at the University of Haifa, meeting with Putin, or visiting Arab countries on secret missions that she cannot speak about. But in her own community, her public role is limited—for now. Ravitz told me that she believes that one day she will be a Knesset member herself—as part of the very same party whose leader said no ḥaredi women want to run for the Knesset.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Haredim, Israeli politics, Reuven Rivlin, Women in Judaism


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount