- Captivity and Gender: The Experience of Female Prisoners of War during Israel's War of Independence
- Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues
- Indiana University Press
- Number 33, Spring 5779/2018
- pp. 64-89
- View Citation
- Additional Information
This article presents the almost unknown stories of the 96 women POWs in Israel's 1948 War of Independence and endeavors to analyze their experience of captivity and the perceptions that accompanied it, from the moment of their surrender, through the period of their captivity and up to their return home. It explores the manner in which normative perceptions of gender shaped the experience of women in captivity, despite their being in a situation that was seemingly identical to that of the 900 male captives. Thus, apart from adding a new chapter to the history of women in Israel, the story of the Israeli women captives serves as a test case for discussing issues relating to captivity and gender.
There are similarities in the ways in which women experience captivity, and in how female captivity is perceived, at the time and afterward, both by the captives and by the society to which they belong. Although captivity is experienced by both men and women, often together and in similar circumstances, this does not blur gender differences but rather preserves and even accentuates them. The frequent and mythological association of sexual violence and rape with female captives was evident in the preconceptions shared by both women and men and was a prime source of fear even before they fell captive. However, the women's experience in captivity in Israel's 1948 war does not support this myth.
Although both men and women fell into captivity during Israel's War of Independence, seemingly offering evidence of the gender equality said to have prevailed in that period, a gendered analysis suggests otherwise.