Domestic violence protests across Israel
AS SOLDIERS, MOTHERS, wives and sisters of those who have fallen in wars, Israeli women are all too familiar with sudden and tragic loss, coping and and accepting when such sacrifices are necessary to defend their country and protect their families.
But their government’s impotence and seeming indifference over an unprecedented number of women killed by men close to them brought tens of thousands of outraged women into the streets this week.
Their message: the state that female citizens have risked their lives to protect is not protecting them against violence in their homes and communities.
“Wake up, Netanyahu! Our blood is not cheap!” read protest signs attacking the Israeli Prime Minister’s inaction.
For dramatic effect, many women painted themselves with fake blood and bruises, and wrote “State of Emergency” on their palms, which they photographed and circulated on social media. In Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, a display of hundreds of red women’s shoes was meant to represent the lives that have been lost. The demonstrations and disruptions were billed as a “Women’s Strike” on Tuesday. Women stepped away from their jobs to participate in a day of protest, culminating in a rally of tens of thousands in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
The demonstrators called for an emergency allocation of 250 million shekels (£53 million) for law enforcement and social projects that could prevent the next murder of an Israeli woman by a husband, partner, or other family member.
The figure is the cost of a programme — approved by the government in June 2017 but never implemented — which would have funded new police strategies to deal with domestic violence, rehabilitation schemes for both victims and attackers, and a boost to public awareness and education.
Tuesday’s calls for urgent action were sparked by the gruesome murders of two teenage girls whose bodies were both found on November 26. Their killings paradoxically took place just as as Israel was marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The
deaths of Yara Ayoub, 16, and Silvana Tsegai, 13, were seen as symbolising the utter failure of the authorities
The statistics are infuriating. Ayoub and Tsegai’s deaths brought the toll of “femicide” — murders of women by husbands, partners, or other family members in Israel — to 24 deaths in 2018.
On Tuesday, 24 minutes of silence were observed across the country at 10am on their behalf.
The number is a rise of more than 30 per cent on the previous year. A total of 194 Israeli women have been killed over the past decade, according to a report by the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO).
The WIZO domestic violence report said half of the murder victims had previously reported threats or violence by their future murderers to police. It also said that 70 criminal files
on domestic violence were opened every day on average.
Welfare groups estimate that there are 200,000 battered women in Israel with half a million children experiencing violence in their homes.
Accusing fingers were pointed at
Mr Netanyahu, who — a week before the girls’ murders — had directed his government coalition to vote against a proposal that would have established a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the murder of women by their spouses, former spouses and other family members. His motive was political: the proposal had been brought forward by the opposition as an indictment of his coalition’s failure to follow through with the recommendations of a government body on domestic violence that reported two years ago.
The initial signs, however, were that the theatrical tactics of Tuesday’s Women’s Strike had an effect.
On Wednesday, a special ministerial committee meeting to address violence against women took place.
At the meeting, Mr Netanyahu said domestic violence was “terror in every way”.
He declared — in rather violent language — that it was “necessary to give support to battered women on one hand and, on the other, to punch the men or husbands responsible for beating women in the face”
Mr Netanyahu’s words were promising, but they were small steps in a long journey.
His political success is built on his ability to make Israelis believe he is committed to keeping them safe from threats coming from hostile external forces. Now he will have to make Israeli women believe he is doing all he can to keep them safe in their own homes.
Israeli women used fake coffins and (below) face paint to symbolise the acts of domestic violence against them in nationwide demonstrations
Hundreds of red shoes were laid out across Habima Square, Tel Aviv, while women wrote “emergency situation” on the palm of their hands