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Winter 1974




Oxford University Press




The issue of women's rights has been subjected to reexamination and redefinition in recent years. The legal structure relevant to this issue, so clearly intertwined with traditional values and historical prejudices, is increasingly studied in an attempt to find ways to achieve equality of the sexes in our lifetime. In this context, cross-cultural study of diverse societies and legal systems can make a vital contribution. A step forward in this direction was taken in the fall 1972 issue of this journal, in a symposium on the status of women. Among others, the Israeli legal system was discussed by Plea Albeck, who drew the categorical conclusion that there is no problem of women's rights in Israel since "most rights are enjoyed equally by men and women." Such achievement, if indeed true, is of tremendous importance to women's movements. Israel is a self-proclaimed liberal democracy with a Western-oriented value system. It has no clear separation of synagogue and state. Both Jews and Moslems - who form the overwhelming majority is Israel - and within the Jewish population both European and Afro-Asian originated groups, have traditionally regarded women as subordinate to men economically and socially. Moreover, the legal system prevailing in Palestine before 1948 when Israel became a sovereign state was patently discriminatory: women were denied suffrage in all municipalities except the two all-Jewish municipalities, Tel-Aviv and Petach-Tikva. Given these factors, Israel's alleged success in achieving a stage where no problem of sex inequality is conspicuous is so remarkable that it deserves further discussion. A critique of the Israeli model as forwarded by Ms. Plea Albeck is important both for purposes of self-appraisal within Israel and for scholars elsewhere who may wonder about its supposed extraordinary achievement.

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