With International Women’s Day on March 8th, this month is the perfect time to highlight the incredible women around the world who are leading the way.
In Israel, there is no shortage of female voices who are paving paths for a better future from medicine to sport to technology and beyond. While there are certainly challenges in Israeli society when it comes to gender equality, here are 10 of the Israeli women you should know who are shattering the glass ceiling in Israel, and making the world a better place.
Dr. Ronit Almog
Dr. Ronit Almog is a senior gynecologist at Ichilov Hospital and the CEO of the Israeli humanitarian organization of Ichilov Hospital, “Bringing Life to the World" which focuses on reducing fetal and maternal mortality in developing countries.
Each year, the organization sends delegations around the world to assist women in need and provide high-level training for medical professionals on the ground in those countries. So far, delegations have been sent to Myanmar, Nepal, Liberia, India, Brazil and Guatemala. At the end of 2022, Dr. Almond led a delegation to the Amazonian jungle and impoverished favelas of Brazil, places that have no healthcare infrastructure.
"We're here to help the destitute who live in extremely crowded conditions with no sense of security", said Dr. Almog. "People are afraid to walk the street and the option of advanced medical care is non-existent. When they heard that doctors from Israel were coming over, they flocked here."
Countless men, women and children are alive today because of the work of Dr. Almog around the world, and the sky is the limit, for the good work this organization can do to improve healthcare in developing nations.
CEO, OCON Healthcare
A powerhouse for the intersection of technology and women’s health, Leshem leads OCON Healthcare, an innovative women’s health company with a mission to introduce safer intrauterine drug-delivery technology to improve and impact women’s health and quality of life.
As a result of the impact of OCON Healthcare, Leshem, who has over 20 years of experience in the medical device & pharmaceutical industries, was named by Forbes magazine as one of 3 women shaping the future of women’s health, named one of 100 women of influence by Entrepreneur magazine, and she was also invited to the World Economic Forum as a technology pioneer.
In her spare time, she’s consistently gone above and beyond to elevate other women in the field and serves as a mentor to other women through various programs including the Israeli 8400 Healthtech Network Program.
“Leading a company for women, by women it is apparent that women leaders not only make a true impact on the workplace and to their peers, but can also be the force, the example and the initiators of pushing forward and promoting other incredible women, which we make sure we do every day!” said Leshem to Ynet.
Dr. Dalia Fadila
Founder and CEO Q Schools
Dr. Dalia Fadila is the founder of Q Schools: Education, Consultation & Development, which is an institution for promoting quality education in the Arab society in Israel. Her commitment to the advancement of women, and Arab women, has faced pushback with her emphasis on feminism and literature, but despite all odds, she has succeeded consistently.
Previously, she was the provost of the Al Qasemi teacher education college, and the president of the Engineering & Science college, leading it from a small technological institute into a leading academic and professional college for qualifying engineers in the Arab community in Israel. She was the first Arab Muslim woman to lead an Israeli academic institution.
Dr. Fadila is also a lecturer at Bar Ilan University and was previously a faculty member at Reichman University (previously IDC Herzliya). She has also served as a member of the governmental civil-service higher committee, as well as former President Rivlin’s committee for a shared society.
In 2023, she was awarded the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor from President Herzog, “for her work to advance Arab society and build bridges between Jews and Arabs in the Land of Israel; her persistent efforts to develop and make high-quality, tailor-made education accessible to Arab-Israeli society and the wealth of opportunities she has opened up for women and young people.”
Few women have had the global impact that Sivan Yaari has had. As the founder and CEO of Innovation: Africa, she has brought clean water, and solar and agricultural technology to rural villages throughout Africa – using Israeli innovation to literally light up the continent.
Born in Israel, Sivan has been working in Africa for over 20 years and over the past decade, using Israeli technologies, has brought clean water and light to more than 4 million people across 10 African countries.
For her incredible humanitarian work, Sivan and Innovation: Africa, have received numerous awards including the Innovation Award from the United Nations. Sivan has been named as one of 50 "Most Influential Women in Israel" by Forbes, and the “Light of Israel” by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Senior Advisor on Middle East Affairs and Strategic Communications, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Keren Hajioff is a powerhouse for women in leadership in Israel. The child of Iranian Jewish refugees to the UK, Hajioff made aliyah in 2009 without speaking a word of Hebrew. She joined the IDF where she served for 13 years, rising to the rank of Major and serving as the head of the IDF's Public Diplomacy Office, then the head of the IDF’s Social Media Department, and finally the Spokesperson for the IDF’s Northern Command.
After her military service, Hajioff served as the International Spokeswoman and Special Advisor for Foreign Affairs and Communications for Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – the youngest person to ever hold this role. When Yair Lapid became Prime Minister in 2022, Keren continued in her position.
As a senior advisor to two Israeli prime ministers, Keren was instrumental in shaping Israel's foreign policy and strategic communications. She worked to revamp the country's Iran strategy, was involved in mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine, and helped to strengthen regional relationships through the Abraham Accords.
Today, she serves as a senior advisor on Middle East affairs and strategic communications at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
On the role of women in Israel’s society, Hajioff told Ynet, "Israel is a hotbed of trailblazing women who are conquering both the boardroom and the battlefield. These fearless women bring a potent mix of intelligence, resilience, and compassion to every task they undertake. Watching these inspiring women shatter glass ceilings and break barriers is nothing short of empowering. They inspire me to dream big and reach higher every day.”
Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll
Cofounder, Chochmat Nashim
Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is a writer, activist, and co-founder of Chochmat Nashim. On a daily basis, she raises awareness of dangerous trends against women in Orthodox Judaism, elevates the voices of Jewish women, and advocates women’s representation in Israeli religious communities (and beyond).
She is one of Israel’s fiercest fighters for women “chained” in marriage (agunot), and she has been vocal against the dangerous erasure of women from the public sphere in some religious communities. Keats Jaskoll is also a proud zionist who speaks against antisemitism and defends Israel as the home of the Jewish people.
On the issue of agunot in Israel, Keats Jaskoll told Ynet, "In Israel, a woman can be a supreme court judge or a pilot but she can't get a divorce if she wants to. We need to do better at merging our Jewish and democratic identities so that there's justice and freedom for everyone, while still being a strong Jewish state that we can be proud of."
Maj. Ella Waweya
Deputy Commander, IDF Spokesperson Unit, Arabic Media
Maj. Ella Waweya is the highest-ranking Muslim Arab Israel in the IDF. A recipient of the President’s Award of Excellence, Maj. Waweya is breaking barriers when it comes to the advancement of Arab women in Israeli society.
Originally from the village of Qalansawe and born to a conservative Muslim family, Maj. Waweya sought to integrate with Israeli society and improve the situation for minorities, first joining the national service and later the IDF. Though she initially faced pressure from her family, her mother was by her side when she received her IDF Officer rank.
Today, Maj. Waweya is a regular face in the Arabic media advocating for her country and combating the misinformation that often plagues Israel in the Arabic media and social media. On serving in the IDF, she said, “this is my place, to change the image in the Arab society and to show the togetherness of the State of Israel.”
Linoy Ashram captured the hearts of the state of Israel when she became the Olympic Champion in rhythmic gymnastics in Tokyo in 2021. But beyond being a star athlete, Ashram has continued to use her platform to elevate the voices of young women.
Ashram has spoken openly about the role that having self-confidence has played in her athletic achievements, and following her Olympic win, she has become a mentor for young girls as part of a new program by her sponsor, Always, called the “Academy of Self-Confidence” – a pilot program that arose out of a collaboration with the Shavot organization, which aims to empower young girls.
“Life has taught me that belief in oneself can enable you to break glass ceilings, can bring you to the summit, can help you to reach the top stop of the most important podium in the world; and yes, even if you dropped a hoop in the very first exercise,” she said, referring to her error at the Tokyo Olympics that almost cost her the gold. Despite the mistake, her belief in herself gave her the courage to finish to the end and recover, ultimately winning the gold.
Swell Or Ariel
Raised at the beach in Tel Aviv and named after large waves in the sea that are best for surfing, Swell Ariel Or has catapulted to the international stage as an actress in the past few years after the completion of her service in the IDF.
Known globally for her starring role in Yes TV’s The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, which is available internationally on Netflix, her maiden voyage into acting quickly became the first of a continuing and developing career. She was also cast in a production for Disney+ entitled How to be a Carioca, filmed in Brazil. Despite her rise to global stardom, she maintains a love for her home country.
On being an Israeli actress on the international scene, she told Ynet, “I feel like my story and connection to this county is rooted in my heritage and my family’s history. My mother's family came to Israel from Ukraine and Iraq and my father's family from Yemen. My family’s story spanned several continents, cultures, languages and peoples. Yet they all had one thing in common, the yearning to return back to Zion, our home. That’s where the Jewish story and my story began and where it shall forever live on.”
While Israel has produced many stars such as Gal Gadot, there’s no question that Swell is one to watch for the future of Israel’s acting scene.
CEO & CTO - Diagnostic Robotics
Kira Radinsky is an Israeli computer scientist and a pioneer for women in the field. Her specialization in data mining has helped save lives around the world such as the case in which she was able to predict the first cholera outbreak in 150 years in Cuba based on analyzing data from various sources historically.
She later cofounded the company SalePredict, which was acquired by eBay in 2016, where she worked as chief scientist and the director of data science from 2016–2019. Today, she is the CEO and CTO of Diagnostic Robotics which uses advanced technologies in the field of AI to make healthcare better, cheaper, and more widely available.
"A lot of patient visits to physicians could have been prevented and so we work with nurse call centers to make sure they divide people with the right clinical interventions. Our goal is to touch more people's lives and every story is important,” said Radinsky.
Radinsky was named by MIT Technology Review as one of the 35 Young Innovators Under 35. In 2015, she was named in Forbes 30 under 30, and in 2016 she was selected as "woman of the year" by Globes.
While there are hundreds of remarkable Israeli women, these are just a few of the women in Israel from all backgrounds who are making waves globally for good. Happy Women’s Month!
First published: 17:54, 03.09.23