Israel’s first political party made by chareidi Jewish women is running a novel campaign for parliament: no media ads or endorsements by rabbinical authorities, just word-of-mouth suggestions.
But the fact that chareidi women are running at all is news.
“Considering that these women are coming from a world where they have been prohibited from holding public office, the new chareidi feminist movement is radical and revolutionary,” said Elana Sztokman, an Israeli feminist. “It’s creating a buzz both within and outside the community.”
Recent polls show the new party probably won’t get enough votes in the March 17 election to win a seat in the Knesset. But that’s not stopping the candidates from running on the ticket called Bezchutan: Chareidi Women Making Change.
“In theory a chareidi woman votes according to what her husband tells her, which is based on what the rabbi tells him,” said Ruth Colian, 34, a chareidi new to politics who founded the party in January. “But we know that in the voting booth that decision is between the woman and God.”
Colian said she founded the party “because there is no one in the Knesset representing us.”
Only one chareidi woman has served in the Knesset, as a member of the left-wing Meretz Party. In 2013 Racheli Ibenboim, a chareidi woman, said she withdrew her candidacy for the Yerushalayim City Council after she and her family received threats.
Colian, a married mother of four, acknowledged receiving threats. “People have threatened me, harassed me by phone. They have called me [names] for daring to run for office.”
Yitzchok Bezalel, spokesman for the Shas Party, said, “The chareidi public is not yet open to women serving in the Knesset. But we do have accomplished women on our women’s advisory committee.”