“Jerushalmim” is the name of a political party, a rising star on the Jerusalem horizon. Rachel Azaria, an extraordinary woman, gave birth to this extraordinary party five years ago and became its representative in the Jerusalem City Council.
In last November’s elections Rachel Azaria became deputy mayor of Jerusalem and her party doubled its representation on the council, negotiating its way to key positions and portfolios, representing major aspects of the Israeli capital’s life.
Who is Rachel Azaria? Would you have guessed that this dynamo is a religious, 35-year-old woman, mother of four children, ranging in ages from ten years to eight months?
Rachel was born in Jerusalem and was educated in the National Religious school system. After serving in the Israeli army, she attended the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in psychology for her B. A. and in conflict resolution for her M. A. degree. As a student she was active in political causes, which eventually led her to enter politics. She was deeply involved in environmental activism, coupled with a passionate concern about issues of women’s rights in Halacha (Jewish law).
At an early age Rachel Azaria became the director of Mavoi Satum, an organization that advocates for the rights of women whose husbands have denied them a religious divorce.
In the summer of 2011, she led the “Imahot (Mothers) Protest” in Jerusalem, helping to bring free education for children aged three and up.
Rachel Azaria’s outspokenness and activism on behalf of young families and women rights is open knowledge. She has been at the forefront of the fight against the exclusion of women from the public sphere in Israel’s capital, and in Israeli society in general. An Orthodox feminist, she is not afraid to speak out against those who oppose her and her allies’ efforts to create a more tolerant, pluralistic Jerusalem.
“Every area pertaining to religion and state has been defined in recent years as a battle between secular and Haredi Jews. That has been the accepted view in Israeli society: Ultra-Orthodox and secular are the two camps, and they fight. Shabbat, kashrut, etc., all the battles have been portrayed in black and white, with everything seen as clear-cut,” remarks Rachel Azaria, hoping to see a change in attitudes. Orthodox Jewish feminist, fighter for women’s rights, activist for children’s excellent education, a deputy mayor who teaches tolerance and – a mother.
And one more distinction: The publication Targum Shlishi in its recent study guide, Jewish Sages Of Today: Profiles of Extraordinary People, selected Rachel Azaria as one of its subjects!