WASHINGTON (Jun. 24)
Mrs. Leah Rabin, wife of Israel’s Prime Minister and Mrs Jihan Sadat, wife of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt discussed the role of women in their respective countries during the International Women’s Conference in Mexico City and on an American network television program over the week end. Their viewpoints on feminism and related matters were remarkably similar. But the two “first ladies” had no contact on either occasion–largely because Mrs. Sadat refused. Both were delegates to the international parley but were interviewed separately on the ABC-TV program “Issues and Answers” Sunday. A transcript of the interviews was made available to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
HOPED FOR A ‘HAND-SHAKE’
Noting that “the hope was expressed that you and Mrs. Sadat might get together, that you might get a chance to meet each other, a reporter asked Mrs. Rabin, “Would you still like to meet Mrs. Sadat?” “Yes, very much so,” the Premier’s wife replied. “She is a beautiful lady and seems like a very nice, bright person.” She thought Mrs. Sadat’s speech was “very interesting and very constructive,” although “of course, there were a few remarks” with which she could not agree. Mrs, Rabin added that “I truly believe that it would have been vastly important for something that would serve as a beginning. I mean a handshake, any exchange of even a few words because I am an optimist and I hope to see settlement in the future, so if we are here together in the same convention, I don’t see the reason why not.”
MME, SADAT WOULD NOT SIT NEXT TO MRS. RABIN
Mrs. Rabin said she had made no effort to arrange such a meeting because Mrs, Sadat “has stated from the very beginning that she would not meet with the Israeli representative, and why force her. If she doesn’t want to, we honor her wishes.”
Mrs. Sadat, who had asked the conference officers not to seat her near Mrs. Rabin and refused to meet her, was spared any question on the ABC program about her attitude towards the Premier’s wife and she did not volunteer any comment about her.
MRS. RABIN NOT A WOMEN’S LIB’ER
On other subjects, Mrs. Rabin said that she is “absolutely not an extreme women’s lib supporter” and that she is “very much for femininity,” but declared “we want to have equal sharing.” She pointed out that an Israeli woman “whether she is a soldier carrying a gun or a farmer, she still is the same woman,” emphasizing that “a woman is a woman is a woman” and “under any circumstances she truly retains her femininity.”
Mrs. Rabin noted that in “most fields of life,” Israeli women have equal rights, adding that “not so much in the marital chapter because this belongs to our religious laws in which the Jewish woman is not totally emancipated.”
Mrs. Rabin volunteered that Israeli women have the right to vote and there is equal pay but she would not say “there is equal opportunity” which, she added, “is the situation in most of the modern countries.” She noted that Israel has “definitely set programs of helping the Arab woman in her progress” adding that “we have-helped her get new, modern ideas about education, health and child care” and thus preparing the way for the future.
Mrs. Sadat said, “We can’t compare the cultures in America or in the West with the cultures in the Arab countries,” and noted: “Our main calling in Egypt is not to upset the balance between men and women, man and wife, because I think even in America it is making such a big problem, maybe.” In Egypt, she added, “we are very concerned to make the balance between the wife and husband, to make strong ties, because the family is the nucleus of the society.” In her country, Mrs. Sadat said, “the man must be the head of the family but out of home because if the wife goes home and tells her husband ‘You must work today or cook today and I will cook tomorrow, I am working and you are working,’ it will break the ties between them,” She also said that “in the meantime, I believe in more participation for women and full equality for them.” In another passage, Mrs. Sadat said, “Every wife has influence.”