Anat Hoffman grew up in Jerusalem knowing about the freedoms in the United States.
But it wasn't until she attended college in California and studied the U.S. Constitution that she realized what civil rights were missing in her home country of Israel.
Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, will speak next week at Omaha's Temple Israel on civil rights and religious issues facing her country.
In a phone interview this week, she said equal rights for women has been one of her organization's major pushes.
She is a founding member of the Women of the Wall group. The group has worked for religious freedoms for Jewish women at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for more than two decades.
The Associated Press reported last spring that Israeli police held back thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters who tried to prevent the women's group from praying at the holy site. The police protection followed a court order backing the right of women to pray at the Western Wall using religious rituals Orthodox Jews insist should be practiced only by men.
Hoffman said Israeli women also face job discrimination, particularly pay disparities with men.
Those pay disparities are especially evident in municipal jobs and in older private businesses such as banking and insurance. Women have generally received fairer salaries in high-tech fields.
That's because fierce competition among high-tech businesses makes them more willing to pay skilled women the pay they deserve, she said.
Israel gets a lot of attention for its religious and political conflicts, but it's wrong to think it's a country only of turmoil, she said.
The country has a highly educated workforce and a booming technology industry. The country is also strong in agricultural innovations and medicine.
“We have something great to contribute to the world,'' she said.