To empower and appreciate: Women’s Day across the land
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To empower and appreciate: Women’s Day across the land

Take a stand for gender equality with a selection of tours, reading and eating in honor of international annual event

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Actress Liora Rivlin will read her poems at Holon's Women's Festival, three days of events celebrating women's identity (Courtesy Oscar Avosh)
Actress Liora Rivlin will read her poems at Holon's Women's Festival, three days of events celebrating women's identity (Courtesy Oscar Avosh)

It’s time to celebrate women, at least for a day — if not the better part of a week — when International Women’s Day is marked worldwide on Tuesday, March 8. In Israel, the array of events is wide, from a Holon arts festival and tours marking women’s history in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to artisanal chocolates and some novel reading about women’s experiences.

Choose one, choose them all, but be sure to take some time and think about the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

1) Former president Shimon Peres is kicking off his own International Women’s Day celebration by hosting supermodel Naomi Campbell, an old friend, at a conference about women and change at the Peres Center. Peres is presenting Campbell with the “Women Leading Change” award in honor of her work for women and communities.

The two will engage in a joint interview and a panel with nine other female leaders, including businesswoman Ofra Strauss, Adina Bar-Shalom, daughter of the late chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef and founder of the Haredi College, and Nadia Kinani, principal of Hand in Hand, a bilingual school for Jewish and Arab children in Jerusalem. It isn’t Campbell’s first visit in Israel; she was here in 2012 to celebrate her 42nd birthday with her former boyfriend, Russian businessman Vladislav Doronin.

Naomi Campbell visiting Israel in 2012; now she's coming to spend time with Shimon Peres (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)
Naomi Campbell visiting Israel in 2012; now she’s coming to spend time with Shimon Peres (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

Along similar celebrity themes, Israel’s new Q&A based social network, yes.no, will host sex expert Dr. Ruth Westheimer in celebration of International Women’s Day. The yes.no network allows crowd interviews with public figures and celebrities; likewise, Dr. Ruth will answer the most popular user question, which is selected by the app’s Upvote feature. (No, the founder of yes.no isn’t a woman.)

2) Visit the Holon Women’s Festival, an annual event held this weekend, March 10-12, in the museums, centers, shops and corners of Holon, and featuring a long list of known and lesser-known female artists who will perform pieces about their identities and freedom as women.

“I wanted a plethora of voices and stories and to be able to view and understand many identities,” said Sigal Weissdein-Rozman, artistic director of the event. “A woman is already different; she is other, separate from the rest of the world, even today. If you’re Arab, Mizrahi, Ethiopian, married or single, kids or no kids, anything can make you even more different. But when you create, there’s a freedom.”

The artists themselves are operating outside their comfort zones: beloved actress Gila Almagor is doing standup for the first time in her life; while actress Liora Rivlin will recite her own poems and another set of actresses will be performing in their own rock band. There are lesser known artists, like Camila, the daughter of a Muslim father and Jewish mother, explaining her journey through music, as well as a modern flamenco dancer and a Jewish-Arab choir from Jaffa.

“There are a lot of people who don’t just survive, but create something and show their voices,” said Weissdein-Rozman.

Some events are free, others are by reservation only. Go to the Women Festival website for more information, tickets and a calendar of events.

Diana Bletter, whose female-focused novel is set in a beachside town in Israel, where a group of women care for bereaved families following a death (Courtesy Diana Bletter)
Diana Bletter, whose female-focused novel is set in a beachside town in Israel, where a group of women take care of burials following a death (Courtesy Diana Bletter)

3) Books about women aren’t hard to find, but one new novel, “A Remarkable Kindness” (Harper Collins) by American immigrant Diana Bletter, tells the intertwined stories of four American women who are members of a hevra kadisha (burial society) in a small beach village in northern Israel. It’s loosely based on Bletter’s own experiences in Shavei Zion, where she has lived since 1991.

Haviva Reick, a parachutist who was killed during her British Army service during World War Two (Courtesy Wiki Commons)
Haviva Reick, a parachutist who was killed during her British Army service during World War Two (Courtesy Wiki Commons)

4) Want to make a pilgrimage to remember important women? Writer Rochelle Saidel of the Remember the Women Institute recommends a visit to the Mount Herzl grave site of parachutist Haviva Reick, a member of the Palmach, who was chosen to join a special mission of the British military during World War II. She was among about 40 parachutists trained to drop into her home country, Slovakia, to rescue stranded members of the Allied Forces.

Reick was captured and shot by the Nazis and after being left in a mass grave, her body eventually made its way to Israel, but her gravestone had incorrect birth and death dates when it was unveiled in 1952. Saidel discovered the error and eventually convinced the Defense Ministry to change the headstone to reflect the correct dates. International Women’s Day could be the right time to pay our respects. Haviva Reick grave site, Mount Herzl.

Gertrude Kraus, one of Israel's first modern dancers and a member of a Tel Aviv crew of elite, creative women (Alfons Himmelreich, Israeli, born Germany, Gelatin silver print, Collection of the Presler Private Museum, Tel Aviv)
Gertrude Kraus, one of Israel’s first modern dancers and a member of a Tel Aviv crew of elite, creative women (Alfons Himmelreich, Israeli, born Germany, Gelatin silver print, Collection of the Presler Private Museum, Tel Aviv)

In Tel Aviv, the Discover Tel Aviv Center in the Shalom Tower will lead a tour about five little-known women who were active in Tel Aviv in the 1930s. The five — architect Genia Auerbach, actress Hanna Rovina, producer Margot Klausner, writer Leah Goldberg and modern dancer Gertrude Kraus — were independent, creative women, unusually so for the times. The tour will follow the paths of their journeys, homes and adventures. Thursday, March 10, 5 p.m., NIS 40 per person, call 03-510-0337 for reservations.

5) There’s always chocolate — and wine — the two necessities for a happy life. Ornat Chocolates, one of the country’s first boutique chocolatiers, has created a set of handmade pralines for International Women’s Day, inscribed with messages of independence, creativity, curiousity and courage. You can also customize messages for the women in your life. Call 09-891-3399 for orders, NIS 22 for the set of four pralines.

Ormat's messages to women, inscribed on chocolates (Courtesy Ormat Chocolates)
Ormat’s messages to women, inscribed on chocolates. From left to right: Curiosity, courage, independence and creativity (Courtesy Ormat Chocolates)
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