Former Israeli Parliament member speaks on health and social issues

Dr. Rachel Adato addresses body image and women’s health

Maddie Haight

Israeli doctor, lawyer, and politician Dr. Rachel Adato addressed the importance of representing women’s health and body image in the media during a lecture at Hillel House last week.

Washington and Lee Hillel, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Shepherd Poverty Program and Hillel International all sponsored the talk on Thursday, March 31.

Adato was a former member of the Israeli parliament, Knesset, for the Kadima and Hatnuah parties between 2009 and 2013. She was the first female gynecologist in Jerusalem and practiced medicine for 12 years before moving to administrative hospital positions in Jerusalem. During her tenure in the Knesset, Adato became the chairperson of the Welfare and Health Committee, where she focused on public healthcare and women’s health.

Adato is an advocate for women’s health, but focuses on issues specifically related to eating disorders and maintaining a healthy body image.

Adato played an integral role in establishing the “Photoshop Law” in Israel, with provisions that ban advertisements featuring underweight models and require clear labeling on ads with digitally altered images of models.

During her talk, Adato emphasized the experiences that she had as a female doctor in Jerusalem, where she says only 10 percent of the students in her medical school were female. When she decided to pursue gynecology, Adato said her male superiors belittled her, and told her that as a woman, what she was attempting to pursue was impossible.

Adato said this experience inspired her to never take no for an answer.

“Don’t accept no as a no, no is not finite, Adato said.  “And don’t be afraid of making a change in your life. My changing experiences as a physician, running a hospital, and being a member of parliament has been incredibly life enriching.”

In addition, Adato stressed the importance of education, and said it is essential for change. Her background in education helped her establish the fundamentals for the Photoshop Law she was able to champion as a politician.

Adato said she is excited for the future of healthy body images in media, and hopes similar actions will be taken.

Emily Arnim, ‘16, said she was  impressed by Adato’s political actions and sees potential for expanding them outside Israel.

“I was really interested in the correlation between media and eating disorders, and I think it could be pivotal if the United States enacted a law similar to the Israel photoshop law,” Arnim said.

Adato has also played an instrumental role in the administration of other health-related issues, including benefits for disabled veterans, healthcare for the elderly and emergency hospital services.