Shulamit Aloni (1928-2014 )

Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Founder of Ratz Political Organization

 

Shulamit Aloni (nee Adler), the woman who identified most with the fight for human rights, was born in Tel Aviv in 1928 to a mother who was a seamstress and a father who was a carpenter, descendants of a Polish rabbinical family.

Her Socialistic Zionist awareness she drew from her parents. When the Second World War broke out her parent enlisted in the British Army and she was sent to a boarding school and completed her studies at the Beit Kerem High School. During these years Aloni was a member of the Hashomer Hatza'ir ("The Young Guard") youth movement and the Hagana. With the establishment of the state she enlisted into the IDF and was among those who fought to free the Old City during the War of Independence.

Immediately after the war she began to work with war refugee children in Jaffa and she helped to establish a school for immigrant children in Ramla. Later she taught in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv, and in parallel studied at the Law and Economics College attached to the "Shevach" School where she qualified as a lawyer. In 1952 she married Reuven Aloni and moved to Kfar Shmaryahu where she lives to this day.

In 1959 Aloni joined the Labor Party. During the same period she worked as a lawyer and presented a radio show called "Outside Working Hours", where she dealt with issues connected to human rights in general and women's rights specifically. In 1965 she was first elected to the Knesset as part of the Labor Party (Mapai and Labor Unity) and in 1966 she established the Consumer Council and served as the council's chairperson.

In 1973 she left the Labor Party due to differences of opinion with the leadership of the party and within 48 hours established the Ratz Party, the party for citizens rights. In the next election for the Knesset the party won three mandates. Aloni was appointed as Minister Without Portfolio but resigned immediately when it became known to her that Yitzchak Raphael, who was suspected of accepting bribes, had also been appointed as a cabinet minister.

In 1977, as a result of the split in Ratz, the movement was reduced in size and became a party with only a single seat in parliament. Throughout this period Aloni was involved in attempts at creating dialogue with the Palestinians in order to pave the way to peace. This involvement increased after the outbreak of the Lebanon War, when the "International Center for Peace in the Middle East" was established. In 1984 Ratz's parliamentary representation increased to five mandates with the inclusion of the members of "Peace Now", Ran Cohen from Sheli and later Yossi Sarid and Mordechai Virshubsky.

In 1991, Ratz, Shinui and Mapam united to form Meretz, which won 12 mandates in the 1992 election. Aloni was appointed Minster of Education in the government of the late Yitzchak Rabin. After a year, due to her outspokenness against the ultra-orthodox partners in the Rabin government, Aloni was forced to resign her position and was moved over to serve as Mister of Communications, Science and Culture.

During these years the rift between her and certain of the members of the movement under the leadership of Yossi Sarid, began to widen and in 1996 she retired from politics. Today she is involved in lecturing on topics related to human rights.

Over the years she published a number of books: "The Citizen and His State", "The Hesder - From a State of Law to a State of Halacha", "Women as People" and "I Cannot Do Otherwise" (political autobiography). For 22 years Aloni authored a weekly column in "Yediot Acharonot" and "La'isha" and published articles in Israel and international newspapers and journals.

Shulamit Aloni has been awarded prizes and honorary degree from academic institutions in Israel and worldwide. In 5760 she was awarded the Israel Prize for her life's work - her special contribution to society and the state, a move which was accompanied by unpleasant undertones of opposition, mainly from within religious circles.

 
 

 

 

 

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12 Apr 2005 / 3 Nisan 5765 0