Although known for their participation in the military, which gives them a powerful image, Jewish women in Israel do not always enjoy an equal status. According to the law, they are equal to men: in 1951, the Women’s Equal Rights Law was enacted. However, in many instances women are not seen as equal and do not enjoy the same opportunities as men. Because of the centrality of the military system and the notion of defending the state, women are pushed into traditional positions of child rearing and jobs providing assistance. The men are needed for the important work of defending the state. Due to the fact that family law lies with the religious institutes in Israel, women, both Jewish and Muslim, are discriminated when it comes to issues such as marriage and divorce. Differences also occur between different groups of women in Israel, with the Ashkenazi Jewish woman as the most privileged group, before Jewish Mizrahi, Ethiopian, Palestinian and Bedouin women.
In regards to employment and salary, women’s positions are much lower than men’s, and their wages are significantly lower. The majority of women work in ‘typically feminine’ job categories, such as teaching, nursing, services and administrative functions.
In 1925, Jewish women succeeded in achieving the right to vote and to be elected in representative institutions (at that time called the Yishuv). However, the political position of women has not been very strong. Israel has only had one female Prime Minister, Golda Meir, in the early 1970s. In the current Knesset, the Parliament, only 27 of the 120 members are women.