Yes, we still need International Women's Day

Opinion: We must continue to celebrate Women's Day every year to remind all of us, women and men alike, that women's equal and secure place can easily be shaken and that it is still uncertain, while at the same time Israeli women are serving in the military and holding down the home front
Dr. Anat Engel|
International Women's Day 2024 is on March 8 and will coincide with the current war in Israel. The country faces social and security challenges at a time when the health care system and other essential systems in society are working their best for the citizens with limited resources and growing needs. I cannot help but wonder: Do we need to continue to mark a day dedicated solely to women during this period?
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This question is particularly relevant in light of the publication of the recent United Nations report, confirming the use of sexual violence by Hamas terrorists during the October 7 massacre and as a strategic tool for sowing fear among the hostages. Both male and female hostages experienced sexual violence during captivity in Gaza. It is reasonable to assume that such violence is still occurring against hostages that are still being held there.
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ארדן מקרין בעצרת האו"ם עדויות של נשים שהיו עדות לתקיפות מיניות ב-7 באוקטובר
ארדן מקרין בעצרת האו"ם עדויות של נשים שהיו עדות לתקיפות מיניות ב-7 באוקטובר
Israel's ambassador to the UN presents testimony of Israeli women from October 7
(Photo: UN)
How can we talk about International Women's Day when international organizations, including women's organizations, fail or are unwilling to condemn the horrific acts committed against women and their basic rights? Most organizations are neither willing to take a clear stance, nor raise their voices and demand a severe response in accordance with international law on war crimes and crimes against humanity.
However, alongside the terrible disaster and the mistrust in organizations claiming to champion worldwide gender equality, there is cautious optimism, both in Israel and overseas. France made history this week with the decision to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution two years after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the historic ruling that allowed legal abortions. France's decision is a significant step aimed at protecting women's rights such as abortion and is a sufficient reason to celebrate International Women's Day there.
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הפגמת תמיכה בהפלות בפלורידה
הפגמת תמיכה בהפלות בפלורידה
Pro-choice rally in Florida, U.S.
(Photo: EPA)
In Israel, during these times of war, we are reminded that women are just as capable while they fill heroic roles in the military and serve as civic leaders. If anyone had any doubts about their skills, training, or the fact they deserve equal opportunities, the Swords of Iron war has seen women in key combat and support roles which dispelled those doubts. Now is the time to allow women to advance up the ranks, to the highest positions in the IDF.
This week, the first woman was appointed as a base commander in the Air Force, after being the first woman appointed as a commander of a combat flight squadron. There is no doubt that this appointment is important in itself, but it will also open doors and break glass ceilings for those who come after her.
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יסמין גולן, שירז אמויאל, גאיה דרעי ואביה מזל־ביטון
יסמין גולן, שירז אמויאל, גאיה דרעי ואביה מזל־ביטון
Women just as capable as men in combat roles
(Photo: Gil Nehushtan)
Is there a need to celebrate International Women's Day? If the words "the first woman" join news of high-ranking appointments, the answer is yes. We must continue to mark one day a year intended to remind us all, women and men alike, that the egalitarian and safe place for women can easily be shaken. As a society, we are obliged to continue to act decisively to pave the way for gender equality.
Especially during this period, my heart goes out to the female doctors, nurses and staff at the Wolfson Medical Center who are supporting the war efforts. For example, every morning, I meet a young and determined doctor, who is also a platoon commander in a field medical unit. Immediately upon being summoned, she left to save lives alongside our soldiers in Gaza.
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 סגן ד"ר מעיין
 סגן ד"ר מעיין
Lieutenant Dr. Mayaan
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A senior doctor from another department decided, despite the incomprehensible horrors, with emotional and mental difficulty, to volunteer and serve in the Shura Camp where they identified the bodies of those murdered on October 7. Some female surgeons who are also dedicated doctors and soldiers somehow manage to balance between the hospital, family, and the military.
One particularly memorable moment for me was when I met the mother of a young woman who survived the terrible October 7 massacre. The young woman, whose partner was murdered, was treated at Wolfson and remained hospitalized. Her mother never left her side, and the moment I passed by their room, I saw them.
They were like two powerful lionesses, sharing an unforgettable moment of a strong, tearful embrace. The young woman laid her head on her mother's shoulder, who wrapped her in a strong hug that seemed intended to draw all the pain and sorrow from her daughter.
ועידת הבריאות של קבוצת "ידיעות אחרונות"Dr. Anat EngelPhoto: Yair Sagi
I am committed to acknowledging the strength and greatness of the women who returned from Hamas captivity and were treated in our rehabilitation department at Wolfson. The 10 women of varying ages symbolize the beautiful face of our country, with strength, faith and personal resilience.
My team and I at the hospital had the privilege to get to know them personally, to provide them with personal physical and emotional care during the first days after captivity, and to maintain a close and warm relationship with them. We learned a lot from them, and these days I see them continuing to fight for our citizens who are still missing in Gaza, and we all hope to see them return to us soon.
In fact, if we look closely, these heroic women are all around us. Whether they are alone at home with their children while their spouses are in the reserves or their sons are in the field fighting in the war. Mothers, young women, girls. I salute each and every one of them, especially during this time.
Dr. Anat Engel is the director-general of Wolfson Medical Center
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