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.
This could explain Levian's pearl clutching at the thought we, the people of Israel, replaced a slickly dressed tech-millionaire (who compromised all measure of morality to ensure his ascension to office), and his sultry sidelined side-kick, with an incomparable, incorruptible and dynamic husband-and-wife team, who far better represent the will of the people, as it is willed today.
Truth be told, and unlike the author, I unabashedly admit my bias. I consider Ayala, the First Lady of the National Security Ministry, and her husband, my colleagues, my friends… my Israeli family. In fact, I sacrificed much of the past year working, with great honor and humility, in support of both their individual goals. I stand alongside Ayala as a fellow Temple Mount activist and founder of the civil rights non-profit, High On The Har, and alongside her husband, in pursuit of his political aspirations - before, during and now after the campaign in which we pursued and achieved them.
My experience, as such, leads me to believe - or rather know without a doubt - there is simply no other spouse currently in the political arena today, more capable of being the 'wife of' a Minister. And I can think of no other woman currently in Israel today, more capable of being a leader of, or for, all Israelis.
Because Ayala Ben-Gvir embodies all that is good about the Jewish state… and all that is great about Jewish women.
A daughter, sister, wife and mother; a professional educator; a keeper of the faith, and an activist for its freedom; a gever(et) unashamed to cover her head or carry an unconcealed gun, Ayala is a woman not wanting. She is bold, brave, brilliant, and now, becoming. And this says nothing of her incontestable culinary skills - a fact which I can personally attest to having been graciously hosted, and warmly embraced, as a guest in her Hebron home on Shabbat.
Because the Ben-Gvir household is indeed her home. She is the calm and caring commander of the raucous, rowdy and irresistibly remarkable Ben-Gvir Brigade - consisting of six spectacular children, each who reflects their own measure of her selflessness and sincerity.
I am, therefore, particularly grateful that our newly appointed Minister of National Security returns here, to this home, each night (when he has the opportunity to do so between securing our nation or fighting for our freedoms), and encounters the stability, strength and love of such a wonderful wife and wise woman. Because he - her husband, our Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir - will certainly draw upon these crucial characteristics during the many battles he confronts. For as the Talmud tells, "a man's wife is his home…" (Yoma, 2a).
Perhaps we would be better served - maybe even have a better government - if we elected women like Ayala Ben-Gvir. Or if those we did elect, had the strength of character Itamar Ben-Gvir does; the ability to recognize that the most important measure of a man, his greatest asset, is the woman with whom he builds a family, establishes a home, and partners with, in his private - and, yes, public - life.
The institution of marriage in the Jewish faith is the foundation upon which our society rests, ensuring the preservation of our people and the moral fortitude of our future generations. We are only as whole as the half which completes us. Moreover, we could only hope that behind every great Jewish man stands an equally great Jewish 'wife of', like Ayala Ben-Gvir.
This is not to say that every woman whose husband is in politics should take up the mantle of leadership. But on the rare occasion that they are so prepared, so capable, so willing to do so, we should desire their leadership, not denounce it. We should delight in their participation, not decry nor proscribe it. And perhaps, most importantly, we should consider how we - especially as women - can live up to the example these so-called 'wives of' provide, not exemplify pettiness when provided with it.
I am proud to call Mrs. Ben-Gvir the wife of Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. And I know she is too.
But I am even more proud to call her simply, Ayala Ben-Gvir, my friend, and a leader of our time.
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