Marcia Freedman, feminist former Knesset member, died in September at age 83. She was an American-Israeli activist for peace and justice, with special devotion to feminist and queer causes.
After an academic career in the United States and years of work in the Civil Rights Movement, Freedman emigrated to Israel in 1967. She was elected to the Knesset in 1973—making her the first and only openly lesbian woman in the Knesset—and served for four years as a member of the Citizens Rights Movement. During this time, she advocated for feminist reform and the rights of Palestinian citizens in Israel. She co-founded the Women’s Party in 1977 and co-founded Israel’s first shelter for battered women in Haifa that same year. Additionally, she introduced legislation that helped reform Israel’s restrictive abortion law and co-founded the Kol Ha-Isha Women’s Center.
Speaking to the New York Times, her friend Terry Greenblatt described the vitriol she faced, and her legacy. “They called her crazy and a pervert, and they said she was a traitor against the Jewish people… And yet there are now two generations of Israelis who look up to her, who consider her a pioneer and know how courageous she was in her time.”
Freedman returned to the United States in 1981 and found home in the Bay Area. She helped create the Women’s Computer Literacy Project and also published her memoir, Exile in the Promised Land, in 1990. She returned to Israel for extended stays between 1997 and 2002 and co-founded the Community School for Women and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, a nonprofit grassroots organization that supported the establishment of a Palestinian state. More recently, Freedman worked with Ashby Village and co-founded Elder Action.
Freedman leaves behind her daughter, Jenny Freedman, and granddaughter, Ella Freedman-Hague, countless people whose lives she improved and enriched, and organizations that grew through her leadership.
She requested that any donations made in her honor should be directed to Gun Free Kitchen Tables (GFKT) in Israel. GFKT works to challenge and undo the militarized equation of guns with security throughout civil society in Israel.