A Look at Incredible Israeli Women

Friday, March 07, 2014 |  Esti Eliraz

In honor of International Women’s Day (Saturday, March 8), Israel Today is pleased to profile three amazing Israeli women who have contributed much to the Jewish state and its future well-being.

Hadas Lahav is the executive director of Sindyanna of Galilee, an association that provides employment for Arab women and produces local olive oil. Sindyanna of Galilee received first prize in the recent “First Harvest” competition put on by the Israel Olive Grower’s Association.

Lahav herself has been engaged in social activities since the age of 20. During the Yom Kippur War, many people in her surrounding area were wounded. She and everyone whom she knew started feeling very insecure, and Lahav realized that if she did not find a way to live in peace with Arabs, she would not be able to remain in Israel. In 1997, together with seven other people, both Jews and Arabs, Lahav established Sindyanna of Galilee.

Today, the entire staff is made up of women. It operates in the Galilee with the purpose of creating economic and employment opportunities for Arab women. The association supplies the domestic and global market with high quality olive oil, soap made out of olive oil, traditional food products and handicrafts.

Since 2006, Sindyanna of Galilee has a visitor’s center run by ten women from the village of Kfar Manda. Various activities are organized by the association with the purpose of bringing together Arab and Jewish communities. There is also an enrichment, Hebrew and braiding course offered by volunteers. Both Arab and Jewish women regularly participate in these events.

Ruth Dayan (pictured, left), wife of legendary Israeli general and defense minister Moshe Dayan, founded an embroidery company that changed her life completely. Trained as an agronomist in the famed agricultural settlement of Nahalal, Ruth was later appointed the job of training new Jewish immigrants on agricultural matters. As she walked from house to house presenting herself, Ruth found that those early immigrants all had dowry containing curtains, pillows and tablecloths decorated with beautiful hand embroidery.

Her whole life Ruth had enjoyed knitting and embroidery, so she came up with the idea to give every woman she was meeting scraps of cloth and to ask them to embroider something. Every embroidery produced by those women was brought by Ruth to the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) shop in Jerusalem, which paid the immigrant women for their work.

It was clear to Ruth that this work could bring in a much needed income for immigrant families, so she expanded the endeavor to more villages across the country. She employed professional workers who had immigrated from various nations and cultures: Yemenites, Kurds, Iraqis, Moroccans, Yugoslavians and others. Each created art and crafted work according to her own culture and traditions.

In 1954, Ruth established an official embroidery company, the goal of which was twofold: to provide employment opportunities for economically-weak communities, and to restore the human dignity of Jewish immigrants, and later of different ethnic minorities in the land by fostering their skills, authentic traditions and cultural values.

Sheri Rivkin is founder and executive directory of the Yedid association, established 16 years ago to encourage and support social change. Rivkin realized that many people do not know their rights on matters of labor law, mortgages, public housing, debt and expense.

“Today, the situation seems to only be growing worse,” Rivkin said. More and more young army recruits, who are experiencing economic troubles, turn to her organization for help. According to Rivkin, many young couples and families where both parents work still fail to makes ends meet.

Most, Rivkin has found, fall into financial difficulties because they do not know their rights. With the help of 350 volunteers, including lawyers, accountants and social workers, Yedid tries to assist those in need to get back on track.

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