Religious Zionism, Women, and the Hamas Kidnapping

October 14, 2014 | Beth Kissileff
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Rachelle Fraenkel, whose son Naftali was murdered by Hamas this past summer, has become a living symbol of Israel’s collective feelings during the recent war. In her professional life, she also exemplifies a major transformation within Israel’s religious Zionist community: the unprecedented number of women engaged in traditional Jewish study, especially of the Talmud. Perhaps, writes Beth Kissileff, there is a connection between Fraenkel’s vocation and her newfound role in Israel’s public sphere:

[Fraenkel] brought everything she learned as a scholar and teacher to her unwanted role as a personification of, and spokesperson for, Israeli grief and national unity. This was particularly apparent during her speech to the United Nations in Geneva, which she infused with spiritual and theological meaning, emphasizing her deep understanding of what it means to wait for salvation. She consistently expressed her thanks to those praying around the world for her son’s safe return. . . . The “wisdom and encouragement” Fraenkel exhibited on the public stage was no accident, but something Fraenkel has practiced and taught over many years.

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