4 reasons it’s hard to be a woman in Israel

1) Israel has been famous for its tough women who were not feminists, including Golda Meir, the “Iron Lady” of Israeli politics.

But in 2011 it’s unsettling that a female Knesset member can be rabidly anti-feminist. Kadima’s Yulia Shamalov Berkovich made headlines today for her remarks last month at the conference of an anti-feminist group called Familist.

She blasted unmarried single mothers who seek welfare assistance (conveniently ignoring the fact that many so-called single mothers who need such assistance are divorced from men who are abusive or are serving time for a variety of crimes).

Shamalov Berkovich also insinuated that complaints of sexual harassment are unfounded and declared that she had never been sexually harassed.

Just note that her place on the Kadima list was one of those reserved for women. And that she came into office in 2009 to fill the seat of MK Haim Ramon, who had resigned after being convicted of indecent assault, a sex crime.

2) Laugh and men will come running; cry and they’ll droop away. This startling finding is from Israelis scientists at the Weizmann Institute. Specifically, they found that merely sniffing a woman’s “emotional” tears—even when the crying woman is not present—reduces sexual arousal in men.

A team led by Prof. Noam Sobel collected tears shed by female volunteers while watching sad movies in a secluded room. Each male subject had a pad dipped in tears applied under his nostrils. Though the tears have no distinctive smell, they caused the men to rate faces of women they viewed on a computer screen as less sexually appealing.

A further stage of the experiment revealed a pronounced tear-induced drop in physiological measures of arousal. A fourth trial using an fMRI machine revealed a significant reduction in activity levels in brain areas associated with sexual arousal after the subjects had sniffed tears.

The findings may evoke a smile, but it’s hard to keep smiling when we have people like Shamalov Berkovich making the laws in this country.

3) Weizmann Institute scientists have also discovered that although antioxidants—which can be found in everything from orange juice to face cream—may slow ageing and promote health, they may also reduce fertility. This finding has special significance in Israel, which has the world’s highest number of IVF treatments per capita.

According to Prof. Nava Dekel of the institute’s Biological Regulation Department, applying antioxidants to the ovaries of female mice caused a precipitous drop in the number of eggs released.

Dekel’s work has focused on fertility, but the finding could also have implications for those seeking to avoid pregnancy. “Further studies might show that certain antioxidants might be effective means of birth control that could be safer than today’s hormone-based prevention,” Dekel said.

So women could be facing a toss-up between staying young and having children. But heck, any mother could have told you that. Which mother hasn’t complained that her kids’ antics have given her gray hair?

4) There is even more hope for infertile women, but this method has yet to reach Israel, so (and here’s the travel connection) one has to be able to afford a trip to Los Angeles—or Korea. The latest in spa treatments in the City of Angels is chai-yok, a vaginal steam bath.

According to The Los Angeles Times, this treatment, whose name sounds like a drink one would best avoid, is said to reduce stress, fight infections, clear hemorrhoids, regulate menstrual cycles and aid infertility, among many other health benefits. In Korea, many use it as regularly as Orthodox Jewish women elsewhere use the ritual bath.

In her Santa Monica spa, Tikkun Holistic Spa (www.tikkunspa.com),
Niki Han Schwarz and her orthopedic-surgeon husband Charles Schwarz reportedly offer a 30-minute V-Steam treatment for $50; a similar treatment for the perineal area is available for men. In the city’s Koreatown, the same treatment (but without the Jewish twist) can be had for a mere $20.

And for $75, one can find such treatments in Manhattan (or DIY with a $330 kit bought on-line).

It’s a long way to go for some herb-flavored steam. Surely some Kabbalah-inspired Israeli spa will pick up the gauntlet?

Text copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.

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One Response to “4 reasons it’s hard to be a woman in Israel”

  1. Tamara Colloff-Bennett Says:

    Great post, Esther! Shame on Shamalov Berkovich and Familist: Why are some women so brainwashed, I wonder. Fascinating about antioxidants, and as far as the vaginal steam bath goes – I read about this recently too and wondered as I never heard about it during the several years that I lived in Seoul back in the 1990s. Let alone all the press it’s been getting, I wonder if it actually works???

    Thanks again for the education and considered details that you have included in this post.

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