Tag : Elana Sztokman

Live from the Lilith Blog

September 27, 2012 by

My Daughter, The Soldier

Photo courtesy of the author, Avigayil Sztokman is third from the right.

It was a two-hour drive, mostly through endless desert on all sides, to get to my daughter’s army base. She had been inducted into the Israeli Defense Forces only a month earlier, as part of Israel’s compulsory service, and had just finished basic training. We were on our way to her swearing-in ceremony, and were thus looking for a compound that was not listed on any map and had no road signs indicating its location. We took a wrong turn about five minutes too early, and landed at a different cluster of unmarked army bases heavily guarded by kids in uniform holding big guns. I suppose I should stop calling my 19-year-old daughter and her contemporaries “kids”, since they are now charged with protecting the entire nation from attack. “Look for the row of palm trees on your left,” a soldier on duty directed us nonchalantly, “around seven kilometers down the road.” We miraculously found those palm trees on the first try – I suppose one of many miracles involving the daily function of the IDF – or perhaps due to the fact that in this particular miracle, we were guided by the more obvious and familiar queue of cars in the middle of the desert filled with parents on the way to watch their children become soldiers.

There were 120 soldiers being sworn in to the Intelligence Corps that day, two all-women units of forty, and one coed unit. In Intelligence, soldiers are not supposed to reveal too much about what they are doing, so I really have no way of verifying why some groups are single-sex and others are mixed. Perhaps it’s a reflection of a deeper ambivalence about women soldiers – on the one hand equals, but on the other hand, still at times relegated to “women’s” jobs. Or maybe that’s an unfair characterization – despite the fact that there still exists the “women’s corps” in the army, making one wonder what everything else is, and despite the fact that some of the most important jobs in the army, pilot notwithstanding, are still closed to women. Nevertheless, the young women in all units fulfilled the same roles and tasks throughout the ceremony as the men, running and saluting and holding their guns the same way. And even though it was a coed space, the women outnumbered the men. So it was an event of excellent soldiering in which women dominated.

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Live from the Lilith Blog

February 21, 2012 by

Abortion in Israel, Contraception in the U.S.

Updated May 1, 2012.

It has been over 50 years since American women have had birth control pills to help manage fertility and family planning, yet it seems that the battle for women’s body autonomy is still not over. Just when we think that the future looks bright, that there are medical advances and widespread educational programs for consciousness-raising, some movement from the ultra-conservative Right emerges and reminds us that when it comes to women’s bodies, pockets of American society remain in the Dark Ages.

The latest trend is to make not only abortion illegal but even preventive measures of contraception.

There are people out there who would like to equate the use of contraception with abortion, and of course equate both of these with murder. This is not just the Catholic Church talking, either, but also various Christian denominations leading the call. The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, was quoted in the New York Times last week, telling a House committee on the subject:  “We object to the use of drugs and procedures used to take the lives of unborn children,” referring not to abortion but to contraception. The idea that a bunch of Christian preachers are testifying in Congress about the future of women’s ability to use contraception is no less than frightening.

I may have inadvertently stepped into this with the article that my colleague, L Ariella Zeller, and I wrote about abortion in Israel in Lilith’s winter issue. We mistakenly conflated RU 486 and the abortion pill. Monica Whitcher, President of CHOICE: Campus Health Organization for Information, Contraception, and Education at Vassar College, corrected us in an email to Lilith’s editors, “RU486 is an abortion pill and terminates an established pregnancy. The morning after pill, by contrast, PREVENTS pregnancy, by either preventing the sperm from entering the egg, or by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus.”  I do apologize for the mistake and for unintentionally adding fuel to this fire.

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