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It may seem obvious that women’s roles in Israeli society have changed greatly in recent decades.The patriarchal nature of traditional Jewish culture could have dictated a domestic and publicly secondary role for women in the new society and State.

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Zionism was not a continuation of the traditional Jewish way of life: on the contrary, it considered itself a reaction to it.

Consequently, many of the assumptions underpinning that life – including women’s role – did not pass into the various streams of Zionism that created the basis of the new society.

Religious Zionism also rejected the traditional role, creating a much more active, assertive role for women in the community.

This is best exemplified by women in the religious kibbutzim.

In theory, therefore, Israel should have aligned itself clearly with other socialist and revolutionary societies around the world, which attempted to define a new role for women in the economic, social and political spheres of public life.

It is possible to analyze the character of pre-State society more deeply, however, and to demonstrate that, in fact, there was always a gap between the ideology of the Zionist movement and reality – even in the kibbutzim.Despite a notable change in women’s roles in Yishuv society and the contributions of some remarkable women in public life, the years following the establishment of the State witnessed a general retreat from the advances of that earlier period.In practical terms, this has meant that the major change developing in recent years is, indeed, due to the rise of feminism and feminist consciousness.This phenomenon will be dealt with in a separate framework.Only a number of the significant aspects relating to women’s place in Israeli culture will be mentioned here.In the years preceding and immediately following the establishment of the State of Israel, feminine voices were lacking in various creative fields.

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