I was disheartened, but not surprised, when I encountered a short, sharp, and snippy soliloquy from Leora Levian, entitled, "When political spouses are unclear about their roles", in the opinion section of Israel Hayom this past week.
Lamenting the fact that Itamar Ben-Gvir, the newly appointed Minister of National Security, was featured in an interview on one news channel while his wife Ayala Ben-Gvir was featured on another at the same time, the woebegone writer wistfully whines, "yes, Ben-Gvir's Otzma Yehudit garnered a respectable amount of Knesset seats in the election, but that does not mean that his wife is his representative."
Indeed Mrs. Ben-Gvir is the 'wife of' Mr. - now Minister - Ben-Gvir. Perhaps it was the shared surname, or maybe the bi-sectioned gendered titles which revealed to the author this tremendous truth.
And despite Levian recognizing, "both spouses are public figures in their own right," she nonetheless continues to caustically "caution" the press to be wary of those, "individuals whose title boils down to 'wife of' or 'husband of'", lest they be perceived as "unprofessional", or the work of politicians "undermine[d]."
Boils down to…?
Does Levian mean to imply that women, regardless of their professional life and achievements, at day's end, are merely a 'Mrs. Someone'?
It would appear as such.
Undermining the work of their political husbands…?
Does Levain mean to imply that a successful woman, like Mrs. Ben-Gvir, should 'know her place' and surreptitiously shroud herself in the shadow of her husband's increasingly bright spotlight?
I guess so.
What is most startling to me is that Levian appears not that different from Mrs. Ben-Gvir. The author presents herself as an Orthodox woman; at least her engaging editorial photo would suggest as much, featuring a neatly wrapped scarf fashioned around her head. She proudly (and rightfully so) features pictures of her family - including her husband and children - on her social media. And her impressive biography reveals she is not only a mother and wife (two important titles I myself have yet to acquire and deeply admire in those who have achieved them), but also a college graduate, with not one, but two degrees! This, in addition to, being a passionate professional, with the title of "social media manager" at My Israel, a significant institutional player on the Israeli political right, and to whom credit is certainly due for shifting the ideological mindset of the Israeli population over the past few years towards the conservatism which assuredly resulted in the government we have now proudly sworn in.
So why does Levian overlook the long and lasting professional career of Mrs. Ben-Gvir - before she was the so-called 'wife of' Minister Ben-Gvir?
Why does the author seemingly cast aside Mrs. Ben-Gvir's prodigious list of public appearances - on television and radio, at the Knesset, or at gatherings and rallies across Israel - before she was the so-called 'wife of' Minister Ben-Gvir?
And why would she diminish Mrs. Ben-Gvir's many accomplishments preserving the Jewish family, advancing the settlement movement, securing freedom of worship on the Temple Mount, and more recently, as a champion for the right to bear arms - before she was the so-called 'wife of' Minister Ben-Gvir?
Perhaps it is presumptuous for me to think that the author - who appears to share so much in common with Mrs. Ben-Gvir - would applaud another Orthodox mother, wife and activist, hailing from a similar ideological disposition. Perhaps it is imprudent of me to think the author would be inspired to see another Orthodox woman, who reflects so much of herself and her own accomplishments, taking a central - if not critical - role in the political, social, cultural and religious life of our nation at this time.
Of course, it should not be lost on us who the leading luminaries of My Israel are. The organization was, after all, founded by Naftali Bennett - who now holds the distinguished record of having served the second shortest term as Prime Minister after Yair Lapid (discounting the 19 days during which Yigal Allon was acting Prime Minister), and Ayelet Shaked - whose political prowess had, not long ago, left many on the right entertaining the fastidiously forgotten feeling she was a feasible fit for the Prime Minister's Office herself. Yet somehow, now, Shaked can neither find a party to support her political ambitions, nor a place in the Knesset to supply her with political access.