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.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

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

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion