This past Friday, Roni, the Israeli 19 year old that we have adopted as another daughter this winter and spring, shared that it was “International Women’s Day”.  “What does that mean?” I asked.

But I’ve been thinking about it a lot this weekend. About International Women’s Day and about the role that women are playing in our world nowadays.

I’ve been thinking about Inbal Liberman, a 25 year old woman from Nir Am kibbutz who on October 7th was instructed to “stand by” but instead opted to distribute weapons to a small team of kibbutz Nir Am’s residents. She and this team fought Hamas terrorists for hours. They managed to save the entire kibbutz.

I’m also thinking today of the group of female surveillance soldiers (often referred to as “the eyes of the army”). These young women, who were stationed at Kibbutz Nahal Oz, they saw the activities and training that was happening in Gaza prior to October 7th and sent warnings up the chain of command for months. Sadly, their warnings were ignored. 15 female soldiers were killed at the Nahal Oz base on October 7th and six were abducted and taken to Gaza as hostages.  Had the government paid attention to the warnings of these young women – perhaps we would be living in a different world.

I’m also thinking about the all-female tank crews that responded to the October 7th massacre.  The IDF issued a statement that this was the first time among Western armed forces that tanks operated by women engaged in combat. These “tankers” fought Hamas terrorists for 17 straight hours, performing with distinction and saving lives.

On International Women’s Day I’m also thinking of the young women who are now serving in combat units in Gaza. Most notably, the Oketz, IDF canine unit that drafts women as combat soldiers, as well as the light-infantry Caracal Battalion, where women comprise 70% of the troop strength, and two other mixed-sex infantry battalions: the Lions of Jordan and Bardelas Battalions.

And more than anyone, I am thinking (actually, I can’t stop thinking about!!!) the 14 women who are still being held captive in Gaza. (For 154 days!!!). Liri Albag (18), Agam Berger (190, Karina Ariev (19) Daniela Gilboa (19), Naama Levy (19), Room Gonen (23), Eden Yerushalmi (24), Noa Argamani (26), Emily Damari (27), Amit Esther Buskila (28,) Arbel Yehud (28), Dorn Steinbrecher (30), Shiri Bibas (32), and Carmel Gat (39). #BringBackOurGirls

Maybe today, we can all do some thinking about what WE can do to elevate women, to keep these women in the world’s spotlight, to amplify women’s voices, and to encourage more woman to take on leadership roles in our community and in our world.

There’s a morning prayer called birkot ha’shachar that is a litany of gratitudes. Within the prayer we thank Gd for a whole bunch of things ranging from enabling us to distinguish between day and night, to making us Jews, to giving us our eyesight, to giving us courage, and giving us strength when we feel weary. We even thank Gd for guiding us on our life path. There is one gratitude on the list though that stands out to me. It’s a gratitude that now says: “Thank you Gd for creating me according to your will”.  It didn’t always read this way though. Traditionally, this line of the prayer read “Thank you Gd for not making me a woman”. There were all sorts of modern justifications for this, but a while back it was changed within some prayer books and hopefully, within many hearts. I’m wondering if it isn’t time for us to take that gratitude one step further even…

Today, I will instead proudly and boldly pray, “Thank you Gd for making me a woman!”

Happy International Women’s Day!

Soulfully Yours,
Rabbi Dana Saroken

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