This article is based on the life stories of 14 religious activist women in Israel. It aims to understand the extent to which these women’s stories and their childhood and maturation experiences shaped their activist identity. In this qualitative, critical-feminist study, the women activists’ life stories were examined using semi-structured interviews. The findings indicate that personal or social events perceived as significant in the women’s lives as children and adolescents acted as catalysts for activism. These events were central to their personal narratives and became embedded in the women’s activist identity, as they came to perceive activism as the most “natural” response to life challenges. Specifically, two types of events were identified: events in the individual-family-community sphere and events in the public-national sphere. They affected the interviewees and led them to act, whether out of antagonism and anger at a perceived injustice, or out of a sense of power and constructive thought. This study contributes to the literature by highlighting the new and unique phenomenon of religious women who, despite being educated to accept and comply with the conventions of a patriarchal society, choose to make their voice heard and lead sociocultural changes in public spaces. The findings emphasize the personal-political nexus and provide insight into the activists’ motives for fighting for their values and for committing to long-term activity in the public sphere—despite considerable personal costs.

Author Biography

Dr. Ayelet Makaros is a lecturer and the Head of the Field Work Unit at the Louis and Gabi Weisfeld School of Social Work at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Dr. Makaros is expert in the field of community social work and policy practice. Her recent studies deal with the activism of women and the coping of welfare organizations in Israel with the coronavirus crisis. She is also active in various committees in the Ministry of Welfare and Non-profit social organizations. ; Edith Blit-Cohen is a professor at the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University. She is the head of the Schwartz MA programs—Early Childhood Studies, Non-profit and Community organizations Management, and of the Community Social Work track in the BSW Program. She is a community social worker, a lecturer, and researcher. Her practical experience is in community work. Her research focuses on excluded communities, politics of identities, activism, and social change.