Motherhood as a national mission: The construction of womanhood in the legal discourse in Israel

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The paper looks at the notion of womanhood that emerged from the discourse around two laws passed in the first years of the State of Israel: the 1949 "Defense Service Law" and the 1951 "Women's Equal Rights Law." Law is conceived of as "producing" the cultural meaning of "women" as a social category and defining its relations to the state. My main argument is that in this discourse, the Jewish-Israeli woman is constructed first and foremost as a mother and a wife, and not as an individual or a citizen. The construction of a distinct category of women that emphasizes women's difference takes place within an ideological context of the self-conscious myth of gender-equality. Motherhood is defined as a public role that carries national significance. And it is via this notion of "motherhood as a national mission" that women are incorporated into the state and not through the universal characteristics of citizenship. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict, coupled with the central role that the family and the military play within the Israeli culture and society are the major determinants of this specific definition of Jewish-Israeli women's citizenship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-619
Number of pages15
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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