Celebrating Our Remarkable Israeli Sisters: A Conversation with Dana Sender-Mulla
On Israel’s 70th Birthday, we’re turning our attention to the women who have made the State of Israel possible — creating and growing a thriving nation’s people, land, and economy in less than a century. Dana Sender-Mulla is the JWRP’s Israel Director. The mother of two children, Dana has taken on leadership roles throughout her life. Since serving as a Captain in the Israeli Defense Forces as an officer of social workers, Dana launched a grassroots organization for Israeli high school and university students and has led multiple Israel education and action organizations for young adults. We spoke to Dana about the unique qualities of Israeli women and mothers, as well as her vision for Israel’s future.
What does it mean to be a Jewish mother in Israel in 2018 and how have roles changed since the founding of the State?
Since the founding of the State of Israel, women and men have had equal rights. In Israel’s early days, women worked in the fields, built Israel with their hands, and voted in elections – which was rather forward thinking back then. They were also responsible for becoming mothers and growing a generation of new Israelis. This belief paved the way for Israel to create social services that make it possible for women to be both mothers and professionals. For example, when necessary, the Israeli government covers the costs of women’s fertility treatments until their mid-40s. Also, all women receive 14 weeks of paid maternity leave and are promised job security when they take up to six months of maternity leave. While there is still much to be done to create full equality in pay and in professional roles, I am proud of all of the female leadership in Israel.
Israeli women are outspoken, strong, and ambitious. They fill top positions at some of Israel’s biggest banks, tech companies, and government ministries. I’m very proud to be a Jewish Israeli woman.
Who is your favorite Israeli woman role model?
There are so many incredible women who have done so much for the State of Israel and the Jewish people and they are role models for me. However, to answer this question, I’ve chosen a personal role model: my mother. She represents so many things that are worth striving for. A woman who thinks globally and acts locally, my mother raised her children to be enthusiastic Israelis and Zionists who are also global-minded and love humanity. She is loving and generous, and she taught us to be both highly independent “doers,” while also strongly connected to our family. While sharing these values with us, she has always worked really hard on behalf of the State of Israel and taught us to focus on our families and the greater good of our people at the same time.
What lessons can Israeli women share with the world?
Israeli women are open, warm, loving, assertive, and entrepreneurial. Israeli women truly take responsibility in whatever they do — whether at home or at work. “Ve’ahavta Lere’acha Kamocha” (“Love thy neighbor as thyself”) is a message that we take to heart. If we see someone fall in the street, we’ll take care of them until medical support comes. Then, we’ll bring food to their home. Before you know it, you’re already family. We take responsibility for our lives and for the lives of those around us. When we see a problem, we act on it.
Why do grassroots efforts have the potential to be so impactful in Israel?
Because we live in a tough neighborhood with so many uncertainties, Israelis never take tomorrow for granted. We know that we must create our own future — personally and for our people. So, we don’t wait to be told what to do. We’re entrepreneurs in every area of our lives and when we have an idea, we take action. Also, because the majority of Israelis join the army and are given enormous responsibility at a very young age, we learn how to lead early on. Locally, we see the potential of grassroots movements and we’ve also seen their tremendous and impactful results. Israel has the highest number of non-profit organizations per capita, created by regular people who saw a problem and decided to do something about it.
What are your personal hopes for Israel over the next 70 years?
There’s so much unknown in the next 10 years — and that’s exciting! I do know that in 70 years, the State of Israel will continue to be a stable and thriving home for the Jewish people.
I hope that Israel will serve as a better platform for both Israelis and for Jews all over the world. I also pray that Israeli society becomes an example of “unity without uniformity,” which is the JWRP’s vision and my personal one. Finally, I hope that Israel continues to be a source of good in the world, and that we share our ingenuity across far-reaching industries and give value to Jewish and non-Jewish people everywhere.