First, I would like to send my best wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded in the terrorist attacks – the shooting attack in Jerusalem and the stabbing in Petah Tiqva.
I have just come from a very moving meeting with our female ministers and members of Knesset. The Israel Antiquities Authority showed us the seal of Elihana, Elihana bat Gael. It dates back to the First Temple period and was unearthed in the excavations in the City of David. This seal is unique because, first of all, we do not often see seals. It is not unique, but rather rare – you do not see many seals that belonged to women because seals, by their very nature, only belonged to people of a certain class who had the authority to sign documents. The documents could be property deeds or those for authorized signatories. It is likely that Elihana was a legal counselor, but you [referring to chairwoman of the session, MK Tali Ploskov] are in a higher position than that.
We should not be surprised, because in the history of our people there were women who had special status – the four matriarchs, Miriam, the prophetess Deborah, Yael and of course many others. This trend has been renewed and increased in our time, as women in Israel are leading in science, law, politics, technology, business, the economy, education, culture, medicine, diplomacy and all other areas of life in the State of Israel.
Needless to say – but I will do so anyway – women lead the Supreme Court, banks and major companies, government ministries and local municipalities. Though the number can be increased in all these areas – although I am not sure the banks have any more room – in many other areas the participation of women can and should be increased. Women also represent Israel in the world as ambassadors, and they bring our country a great deal of pride and honor.
I must say that I admire the women in Israel because they combine work, family and children in an admirable way. I certainly know this from seeing my wife, Sara, but I also know that this trend exists in many households in Israel. This is not an easy task; it is very difficult. I think that we, as men, should recognize the fact that we need to increase our participation in carrying this heavy burden. I am telling you this not only because it is what I tell myself, but because I also try to act this way in my position. I think the world is changing and this change should be manifested also in our deeds as men.
There is another thing that we work for and that is the right of women to equality under the law. We will continue to fight fiercely against sexual harassment, violence and discrimination. I am talking about things that are directed against women in different parts of our society. We also are also working to reduce wage gaps, especially in the Civil Service.
I am proud to have had the privilege to establish the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women during my first term as Prime Minister, and then the Ministerial Committee in charge of this matter, and now the Ministry that deals with gender equality, headed by Minister Gila Gamliel. I think these tools enable us to advance, step by step, the goals and actions we want to achieve. We still have a long way to go but there is no doubt we are progressing.
We want to encourage women to realize their full potential and participate in public life as equals. This is our duty and great privilege. I congratulate the women in Israel as we celebrate International Women’s Day, and I am positive that Israel will continue to serve as an example for progress in this issue not only in the Middle East –that is easy. Our goal is to serve as an example for the whole world, to be a light unto the nations.