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When I go places with my friends, I cannot help but notice the obvious difference between my male friends and female friends. Men and women are very different; however, this does not mean that they should have separate roles in society. I believe the United States has done a nice job of providing equal opportunities so that women have a choice of what they want to do. But not all places have done as well. In Israel, women are badly discriminating by the gender roles assigned to them. Even though many people will tell you that this is due to their traditions and customs, I still believe there is too much discrimination against women. Recently, changes have been made to relive some of the discrimination on women, but more changes must be made.
The discrimination begins very early for women. The Arab society has a strong preference for male children, especially the first child. Eight days after the birth of a male child, a large party is held to celebrate the occasion. They are often held in enormous halls with large numbers of guests are invited. There is no equivalent ceremony for girls; however, recently some young Jewish couples have celebrated the birth of a daughter. Despite this, females are viewed by most as temporary residents who will eventually become a part of her husband's family. These practices are very discriminatory to women because they teach people the wrong message. Older sisters of a newborn male may begin to feel inferior. Also, the mother of a female child, especially her first child, may begin to feel inadequate. These things all combine to make many women in Israel unwanted.
Gender differences are not quite as bad in the childhood years as in the later years, but there are still some discriminating practices in the school years. One of the problems is ability tests. Girls' performances on these tests have been significantly poorer than the performances of boys. In a book organized and edited by Leonore Loeb Adler, she writes that, "Amia Lieblich and Marilyn Safir suggested that teachers, by reflecting their cultural preference for boys, may provide girls with a psychological environment that negatively affects their self-esteem" (Adler 150). In Adler's book, it was also stated that Safir and others, in fact, demonstrated that primary school teachers view boys as more outstanding than girls.
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The occupational difficulties for women have improved greatly; however, they still need some more improvement. In 1976, only 29.6% of all jobs were available to women, but this number has increased greatly since. In recent years, about 60-65% of jobs were open to women. This is a great increase, but it is still very low. In the United States, virtually all occupational fields are open to women. Not only this, but unemployment rates are significantly higher for women. The unemployment rates have been consistently higher for women, and in the 1990's the gap between men and women unemployment rates has doubled. Many Arab women will work until their marriage or the birth of their first child and then stay at home to aid their men and raise their children. All of these factors, combined with the education factors, make it especially difficult for women to find and maintain a job in Israel.
The problems for women in childhood, education, and occupation are undoubtedly significant, but they have worse problems. In Israel, both men and women are partners, but they serve in different ways, and their contributions are valued differently. Adler's book states that the biblical metaphor of women as "helpmates" to men is prototypical of the structure and tenor of gender relations in Israel. Women are considered to have an important, but secondary role in society. Israeli tradition, in fact, treats women as subordinate to men. For this reason, women in Israel may feel obligated to stay at home and serve their men. If they do not stay home, but instead go into the work force, they may then feel bad for disobeying Israeli tradition. Not all women will have these thoughts, but some may. Recently, however, equal opportunity legislations have been passed to help women make this transition from housewives to laborers. These laws have helped women tremendously; however, the feelings of subordination and inferiority are still largely experienced by women.
All of these problems for women in Israel come down to one thing, the contradictory pulls of a tradition that is valued but that is also problematic with regards to women's status. This problem has caused women in Israel to feel inferior and subordinate for hundreds of years. In recent years, however, many changes have been made to relieve some of women's problems, but more adjustments must be made in Israeli legislature and beliefs. I feel women should be equal to men in the present world. Israel should use the United States as a model for women's rights in order to relieve the discrimination on women.
Adler, Leonore Loeb. International Handbook On Gender Roles. Westport: Greenwood
Publishing Group, 1993.