This is the kind of news that makes me angry. The cover news of the local Friday paper features a picture of a young woman boxer, with the headline “7,000 shekel, baby.” It caught my attention, partly because of the all too common chauvinistic culture-made connection between the words and the image of the woman. If it were a man boxer, the word “baby” would never have been used. But this is just an aside comment.
The young woman is Yelena Shelkovin (ילנה שלקובין), three times Israel champion in boxing (in three different weights). She’s been qualified to participate in the 2012 Women’s World Boxing Championship in Qinhuangdao, China, to take place in May. However, Yelena will probably not make it. Why? She can’t afford to pay the 7,000 NIS (about $1,900 or 1,400 EUR) for the round-trip ticket and accommodation. In her interview, Yelena says that Sports Associations around the world usually fund participations of athletes in world championships. Of course, she received a letter from the Israeli Boxing Association that she will participate in the world championship, but that she has to fund her own ticket and accommodation. The interviewer quotes the response of William Shehada, chair and general director of the Israeli Boxing Association: “No need to make a big tragedy. This is a very expensive championship and the Association cannot fund it. She’s not someone who’s going to take the world championship, she’s not ready for it and she’s not worth the money, so she’s not going. She’s only Israel champion.”
I was quite surprised to read his response. She’s been Israel champion three years in a row. How can he say that she’s not ready? And what’s this “she’s not worth the money?”
I think there is exclusion and marginalization here on several layers: first, she’s a woman. So of course “she’s not worth the money.” Then, she’s a Russian immigrant, and she comes from a low socio-economic background. Yelena has made it on hew own. She immigrated to Israel all by herself at the age of 19, leaving her family behind. During the day, she cleans hotel rooms. She practices boxing after work.
I bet that if she were a man, there would be no funding issues. I bet that if she were born in Israel to Ashkenazi parents, there would be no funding issues. This is just another “small” example of the inequalities in Israel, and the rift between the different groups – women and men, ethnic groups, national groups, immigrants and those who were born here, different socio-economic backgrounds, etc.
No. There are no equal opportunities in Israel. Not if you don’t belong to the elite hegemony.