Women's headquarters
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Deborah the prophetess was a leader too. Yishai
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Shas launches women's headquarters

New clause in haredi party's platform calls for advancement of women, equal rights. 'There's no discrimination between men and women here,' Chairman Yishai tells Ynet

Shas' gender agenda revealed: The Shas movement views the advancement of equality towards women in the society and encouraging their education and integration in the labor market as highly important, the ultra-Orthodox party says in the last clause of its platform, under the title "Strengthening Women".


"Through education and integration into the labor market, women will be able to break through the frameworks of poverty and distress, and integrate in society from a status of economic strength and high self-esteem," the clause adds.


"There is no discrimination between men and women in our party," Shas Chairman Eli Yishai tells Ynet. "There are equal opportunities here. We have appointed women for many positions.


"Look at our appointments and look at other places. We've done a lot of work on this matter, giving them the tools so that they can really provide for their families in a respectable manner. It's highly important to provide them with the strengths and abilities to go out and provide for their home. It's a very important thing in the haredi public."


Yishai believes that haredi women's failure to integrate into politics is not an ideological thing, but rather a practical one.


"At the time, the person who led the people of Israel was Deborah the prophetess," he notes. "There's nothing wrong with it as far as Jewish Law is concerned.


"In today's reality, we have no women looking for work in the Knesset and for all this mingling. They engage mostly in health, education, welfare, associations and schools. They are more interested in real day-to-day work, in saving the people for the people, and youth in particular, than in the Knesset."


Yishai admits that the timing of the surprising clause, which did not appear in the party's platform in the past, is significant.


"Today this issue is realized more because of the need, the obligation to provide them with the tools. Today it has a central place because of the existing hardship."


Are we witnessing a trend of strengthening haredi women? "Look at the power of the women's headquarters. The work they're doing cannot be compared to any other headquarters. You'll be impressed," Yishai said, and he was right.


Election headquarters – the feminine version

The women's headquarters of Shas, located in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul neighborhood, differs from regular election headquarters.


At first glance, the headquarters do include common motives: Telephone operators phoning activists, volunteers moving swiftly around the place, election signs all over, and a map of Israel divided to sectors hanging on the wall.


At second glance, a clear different can be spotted: The atmosphere is relaxed, and the work is conducted pleasantly, accompanied by smiles.


The headquarters are run by none other than the chairman's wife, Mrs. Tzipi Yishai. Yishai doesn’t usually talk to the media, but was available for a unique interview.


Working with pleasantness and smiles (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


"Our activities differ from those of the men," she told Ynet. "We believe in the power of a women's prayer. In the special days we organize things together, all the women supporting Shas work and pray together."


One such day, dedicated to kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, will be held next month.


Throughout the year, Yishai runs a charity organization called "Tiferet Chen". One of the organization's goals is to help needy brides ahead of their wedding. The organization also offers philanthropic assistance by handing out food baskets ahead of holidays and school kits at the start of the school year.


During the elections, she works round the clock. "I do two things: Strengthening and rights for Israel, and recruiting new voters for Shas," she says.


"It's not a full-time job as far as I'm concerned," Yishai clarifies. "I am first of all a grandmother and mother. All year round, not only during elections."


Recruited by Rabbi Ovadia

"This is the women's headquarters' third tenure," Tzipi Yishai says. "The first one was during the term of (former Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon. At that time we also operated in full strength, but we didn't have our own place. In the previous elections our work was more limited, but this time, with God's help, I received a personal call from our master (Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef).


"He told my husband, 'Ask Tzipora to go out and start working.' He told to the women directly, and when the rabbi asks it's much more powerful. No one asks questions, they all jump in," Yishai says.


Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Asked women to work (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


At the beginning of the month, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called on every activist in the part to bring 10 people who will vote for Shas. "Women are no exception," he clarified, and his words have had an impact on each and every activist.


"Without praying and without believing it won't work, and this is our faith," says Miriam, head of operations at the women's headquarters. One way to convince the new voters is by granting each one with a personal blessing from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef himself.


"There's great potential in the haredi sector," says Tzipi Yishai. They really develop frameworks there, both in education and in employment. Women are very capable, and everyone knows a woman's power.


"If we want to expand haredi women's employment and studies, we must make a cultural adaptation. Without a cultural adaptation there won't be any changes in the Israeli society. The frameworks focus on this. We listen to people's needs and show understanding. This is what provided this upgrade."


פרסום ראשון: 12.25.08, 14:51
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