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A lesson in cultural differences: Israeli women vs. American women

By Eliana Rudee, Aliyah Annotated is published every Wednesday in JNS.org

Hi, my name is Israel Girl and I am a feminist. While this may not be a shocking confession, the mere mention of the “f-word” sparks apprehension and even resentment in many people. Yet in the six weeks that I’ve been in Israel, I have been inspired by Israel’s special brand of feminism.

“Feminism” is often thought of as a “dirty word,” as it is largely portrayed by mainstream culture as an extreme ideology associated with angry, militant women, bra burning, and man hating. At its core, however, it’s exactly the opposite, especially in Israel.

When I was 21, an American male peer “complimented” me for being “so impressive for such a young girl” (although at that point, I was clearly considered a woman by all standards). I thanked him, remembering my grandma who taught me that “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” In response, he pulled a Mean Girls-style reply: “So you agree? You think you’re really impressive?” I replied, now slightly taken aback, “Well, yeah, I’m proud of myself, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with owning it!” He replied sarcastically, “Wow! You’re impressive and modest!”

That moment has stuck with me for years. I still wonder what he expected, or wanted, me to say: “Who, me? No! I’m really not as impressive as you think! (insert girly giggle).”

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