The new status quo:

1 woman per religious council, but, God forbid, not more

49 women currently serve on Israel's Religious Councils, but only six Councils have more than one female representative.

Gender inequality

The good news is that following Hiddush's pressure in recent years, the government now only approves religious councils with at least one female representative. The bad news: only 49 female members serve on the 40 religious councils [out of 132 in the country altogether] that have been reconstituted according to the law since the last municipal elections. Most religious councils have not been reconstituted and are governed by "appointees" among whom there is only one woman.

Hiddush presented its updated findings on the integration of women into Israel's Religious Councils to a collaborative NGO coalition, which advances the representation of women on these councils. Thus, once again, Hiddush serves as a leading advocacy organization in data collection and analysis on key issues of religion & state.

40 councils have female representatives, including 31 with women appointed by former Deputy Minister of Religious Services Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan (Jewish Home party), and only nine councils with women appointed by the current Minister David Azoulay (Shas party). Despite the relatively small number of councils with female members (30% of Israel's religious councils), this represents a record number. Hiddush's research, data analysis and legal challenges over the years have made their impact. However, the Ministry still regards this as a minimal formality, merely requiring a check mark, rather than a genuine obligation to integrate women unto Israel's religious councils, nor a step towards full gender equality. It's telling that no council has a chairwomen.

A woman on every religious council is progress, but it's not even close to gender equality - this state of affairs is unacceptable.

A woman on every religious council is progress, but it's not even close to gender equality - this state of affairs is unacceptable. Hiddush will continue to fight this battle for women's rights, taking it to the Supreme Court if necessary, until women's representation on Israel's religious councils increases meaningfully, and until they are appointed to senior positions as well.

Despite the passage of more than 25 years since the Supreme Court ruled against gender discrimination in the appointment of Religious Councils, only 29 women served during the last term, according to the Knesset's Research and Information Center. There were a total of 500 council members across the country so that only represented some 6%.

The Hiddush Report follows up on our special public opinion survey on civil divorce and marriage conducted in partnership with two leading modern Orthodox NGOs that advocate on women's issues.

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