Our constant preoccupation with our body and its image accompanies us from childhood in different contexts and to varying extents, depending on internal and external factors. The feminine body comes in an amazing array of shapes and sizes: we are tall, short, thin, fat, strong or fragile. Our eyes come in a range of shapes and colours, our skin in a large rainbow of hues and our hair in many shades and textures. All the same, we are all judged (by ourselves and by others) by irrational standards which create an ideal image of beauty, not achievable by most.
This chapter deals with how our body image affects our lives, how it shapes it and how we cope. Areas of Israeli culture also shape our body image, i.e. army service or local ethnic attitudes regarding the beauty ideal. The chapter ends with cosmetic surgeries that are available to women today and about choosing to change your external appearance in this way. This section includes a critical discussion of all angles, the chances and the risks, as well as information on surgical procedures and much more.
Eating is not just a physical need which influences our health, but also a product of culturally defining elements. All over the world many more women than men cook, feed, are concerned with food as eaters (or perhaps as ones who do not eat enough – Israel is rated highest in teenagers who are forever dieting). The chapter deals in femininity & eating, the representation of women in food ads, eating & sexual abuse and more. This chapter was compiled by a nutritionist, a specialist in eating disorders, women who suffered eating disorders at various levels, a vegetarian, a vegan etc. The correlation between femininity, love and food is especially strong in the Middle East.
Most of us have used addictive substances at some point throughout our lives, as adult women or as teenagers. Some drink a glass of wine or beer in the pub, others drink daily. Some try cannabis once and some smoke regularly, while others are addicted to pain killers. Even if we ourselves do not use any addictive substance, we often share our homes or our communities with those who do.
The chapter deals with addictive substances and their physical and mental effect on us, how to reduce the risk and damage, ways of fighting addiction, support groups and centers available in Israel, preventative measures and ways to help.
The human body was created to move. Motion does not necessarily mean exercise or sports. Working in or out of the home has become, over the years, much more mechanical, so that women, nowadays, are less mobile. Physical exercise includes an array of activities which can be done alone, in groups, or as competitive or achievement-orientated activities. Physical activities need to fit personal inclination and the health of each of us. The chapter discusses fully the influence of movement and exercise on physical and mental wellbeing. It deals with general Israeli issues such as access to sport facilities and financial support (or lack of) of women’s sports by the government and local municipalities.
The health system in Israel meets, confronts and sometimes even cooperates with holistic practices such as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractics and many other methods. The holistic approach does not only tackle the physical ailment, but aims to strengthen both the body and mind as one. Most of the Israeli public does not yet have access to a large pool of information on holistic practices. This chapter surveys the various holistic approaches while offering the reader basic tools to take care of herself and how to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of different types of holistic medicine. It also reviews the accessibility (or lack of) of such health services to the weaker sectors of society.
The well known Greek saying “a healthy spirit in a health body” is just as true today as it was three thousand years ago. During our lives we deal with emotions, situations and events which require mental support from family members, friends and relatives. It is often their support which provides us with a sense of security and stability. Yet there are situations and events in life in which this support does not provide adequate assistance, and the guidance of a professional is essential.
The chapter on Emotional Wellbeing provides an in-depth description of the array of therapy options available in Israel today, from publicly funded services, options available through the different Kupot Holim (HMOs) and private services. This rich overview, combined with personal narratives collected from women of varying ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds, enables the readers to make educated and informed choices regarding which professionals would be most suitable for them.
Chapter sections include: Therapy as an option – Finding a competent, caring therapist – Is it all in our brain chemistry? – Concerns about medication – Challenges for consumers – Social or political action: an often overlooked source of help. The chapter answers such questions as: Which therapeutic methods are available in Israel today? How to I select the type of therapist which would best suit my needs and values? When should therapy include psychiatric aspects?
The quality of the environment has an impact on our lives and shapes our health in various ways. Our environment has, over the years, become less and less safe. The air is polluted by poisonous gasses omitted by cars, factories and more. The waters are polluted by chemicals and from the over use of pest control in agriculture and more. Our food is sprayed, sterile and full of hormones and chemicals. Even inside our homes we are not safe. We breathe poison from detergents, from the paint on the walls or the infected water and food. These substances affect our health and we need to be aware of their danger.
Even our work place, were we spend a large portion of our day, does not always take enough care of our health and safety. This chapter reviews the various hazards and how we can combat them. For instance, the workers in factories are exposed to poisonous gasses; a growing number of women are working in commerce and are standing for long hours, without rest or available chairs; continuous work in front of the computer can distress joints and sight.
The phenomenon of violence against women is typified by the close relationship with the attacker, who usually comes from within the circle of the woman’s close relatives. The private nature of the violence against women sometimes renders it ‘transparent’, so that it is almost not seen because it takes place within the home or because society views it as legitimate. Violence puts the women victim at risk of death, disability and affects their emotional state and health. A long string of laws and regulations define violence at different levels as punishable criminal offences. Nowadays, women in Israel are regularly battered, raped, sexually harassed, are trafficked and even murdered.
The chapter strives to support women who experience violence and sexual harassment by undermining the common myths relating to rape, highlighting the indicators of violent men and surveying the available legal, mental and medical support systems.
Our personal gender identification and our sexual orientations do not always correlate to the accepted social norms which identify two categories – man and woman. This chapter delves into the complexities and fluidity of gender identification. Such an outlook is challenging or unacceptable for some and an intimate personal story for others. The chapter deals with topics that might influence the relationship we have with ourselves, with others and with the world.
Those of us who find men as partners for friendship, love, support, sex, or any other relationship, face many issues and reflections concerning satisfaction, happiness, love and comfort. There are many challenges in the day to day life between women and men, for instance, how to demand safe sex and to avoid a violent and harmful relationship or queries relating to the communication between the sexes and self protection. In Israeli society, where partnership and family are the accepted norm, single, divorced or widowed women or sometimes women in unsanctioned partnerships, are confronted by constant pressure to find the accepted partnership. Many researches look at the tendency of the Jewish society to see the family and its continuation as a form of contribution towards the Zionist project.
The chapter encourages women to find the inner strength to cope. It tackles the array of relationship systems between women and men outside the external constructs, and the challenges posed by the media. It also surveys the legal situation regarding partnership and singlehood.