TWO YEARS AFTER ARRIVING in the Knesset as a member of the right-of-center Jewish Home party, Ayelet Shaked was appointed justice minister, despite, critics said, her lack of legal credentials. (She studied computer engineering in university.) But Shaked learned quickly. Reserved and self-controlled--and nicknamed "ice maiden" by some of her critics--42-year-old Shaked is widely considered to be Israel's most successful female politician since Golda Meir.
In media interviews, Shaked has repeatedly stated that while she believes in the rule of law, Israel as a Jewish and democratic state must be first and foremost Jewish. She supports Israel's right to annex the West Bank without giving full civil rights to the Palestinians living there. As justice minister, she is a vocal and harsh critic of judicial activism, which, she says, is overly liberal and distorts the wishes of a majority of the people. As a member of Knesset, she sponsored a bill requiring nongovernmental agencies that receive the bulk of their funding from foreign governments--most of which are identified with the left--to be labeled accordingly.
Although she is an avowedly secular woman in a right-wing, national-religious party, her views have made her tremendously popular with nonreligious and Orthodoxjews alike. "There are chauvinistic men in every society, and in Israel, too, and sometimes they make things very difficult for me as a woman, as if I were less capable," she has said. "In fact, in many ways, women are more capable--we are able to cross party lines to support each other and to promote issues of importance to everyone. Men are less willing to do this."
ELECTED TO OFFICE in 2013 at the age of 27 on the center-left Zionist Union's slate, Stav Shaffir is the youngest female Knesset member in Israel's history. Shaffir brings a young, brash (her critics say arrogant) attitude to politics. Focusing on government corruption and social issues, especially the widening gap between the rich and the poor, she created and heads the Knesset Transparency Committee, which oversees governmental budgets and spending. Shaffir supports progressive legislation, although feminist and social issues are not her primary focus. "My generation and I view it as our main mission to return to a politics that is honest, transparent and truly dedicated to the people of Israel, and to encourage my generation to believe in politics as our way of taking responsibility for our communities and our lives," she says.