And Now, a Day Off for Women

In every discussion of "growth" here everyone says Arab women must join the workforce. But nobody says who will do the work that they - like all women - are doing at home instead.

During the holiday I thought about Aviva Weinstein, the attorney general's wife, who will apparently be tried for employing a foreign worker without a permit. Like Nili Priel, wife of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Aviva Weinstein is the one who has exclusive responsibility for the housework in the home where she lives with her husband, who is not interested in and has no responsibility for whoever sees to his needs and tidies his clean, orderly and well-kept home where he lives, eats, sleeps and uses the bathroom.

It isn't hard to guess why I thought about Mrs. Weinstein. After all, on a holiday, as on the Sabbath, the commandment is to desist from all work. However, work does not include preparing and serving food, cleaning and hosting. Housework is not "work" from which one is commanded to rest; the latter includes only the kinds of work that men do and get paid for. Wives don't get paid for doing the housework. After all, that is why she is his wife; in the marriage contract the division is that he sees to "her food, her raiment and her duty of marriage" and she, in exchange, gives birth to babies, tends, cooks, cleans, tidies, launders and assumes all responsibility for the home and the family.

If it seems to you, my dear women and men, that you can chuckle dismissively about these irrelevant religious traditions, examine yourselves: Who cooked the food for your holiday meals? Who was responsible for the shopping, the cooking, the preparations, the arranging, the hospitality and the cleaning up afterwards? Women, you are not alone. In Canada, a far more egalitarian country than Israel, the women in dual-income homes invest 72 percent more time in childcare than the men - and that is even before we have talked about the rest of the housework. In India women invest ten (! ) times more than men in childcare and housework. In Israel, who's counting?

Of course, you helped, guys. Sure. Helped. You didn't do most of the work, certainly not the dirty work. I used to be a faithful reader of the late weekly MarkerWeek column in which the CEO of the week shared the recipe he cooked on weekends. And who tends and feeds the family on the six weekdays?

The vicious circle of housework and childcare remains the woman's problem (which ensures women unfair conditions in the work world, which in turn leaves in place the situation in which it is economically worthwhile for women to be responsible for the home ), - this circle will not be broken if we do not start including housework and childcare in national economic calculations.

For a brief moment there was discussion in Israel of recognizing childcare expenses for tax purposes. That came in the wake of Vardi Peri's petition to the High Court of Justice, which she won, only to have the Knesset immediately change the law to make it impossible - in accordance with the Finance Ministry's requirements and without any debate at all.

But even this is an archaic and incomplete discussion. New economic thinking is required. "The current models no longer work," wrote Guy Rolnik this past weekend, referring to the corruption, inequality and governments' inability to manage capitalism in a way that will provide what their citizens need. For quite some time now the current models have not been working for the female citizens of the world.

Up until a century ago women had no alternative. During the past 100 years women have been entering the work world but nevertheless no one is even thinking about relinquishing the convenient situation in which women are working for free.

In every discussion of "growth" here everyone says Arab women must join the workforce. But nobody says who will do the work that they - like all women - are doing at home instead. According to the International Labor Organization of the United Nations, if housework and childcare were included in national accountings, the worldwide gross domestic product would increase by 25 to 30 percent. This is a good place to start thinking about a new model. In the meantime, after every holiday, women should have a day off.