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Court overturns ruling forcing Lod woman into shelter following ex-husband’s threats

Woman also refused to move into Welfare Ministry apartment with protection from security firm; ‘We are not interested in a hiding place or a shelter,’ her mother says

Illustrative: Israel Police investigate the scene of a crime on June 2, 2021. (Israel Police)
Illustrative: Israel Police investigate the scene of a crime on June 2, 2021. (Israel Police)

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Monday overturned a previous decision to force a woman into a protective shelter due to concerns for her safety.

The court accepted the woman’s position that she could not be forced into the shelter against her will. She has also refused an offer given Monday to house her in an apartment provided by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, with protection from a security firm, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The woman’s mother explained her daughter’s reasoning to Channel 13 news: “We are not interested in a hiding place or a shelter. We are interested in peace and a return to daily life, and for them to let my daughter live in her own home.”

The woman, who lives in Lod, faces threats to her life from her ex-husband. Gunshots were fired at her home on Friday. A man suspected of issuing the threats was arrested, interrogated, and released to house arrest by Saturday evening, Kan reported. The suspect has also set the woman’s car on fire in the past.

Despite spending Friday night at a police station, the woman has refused any protection, despite pleas from police and social workers.

Welfare and Social Service Ministry officials criticized the woman’s decision not to accept help after Monday’s court ruling.

The main entrance to the Magistrate’s Court in Rishon LeZzon October 28, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“We believe that [the court] can address [the threats], first and foremost to protect her life and the lives of her children, and let the police arrest those making the threats,” Sigal Moran, director general of the Welfare and Social Service Ministry, told Kan.

“I understand that the woman wishes not to harm her freedom, but before freedom there is life,” she added, emphasizing that housing in shelters is temporary and that there are available apartments for those in the woman’s situation.

Shadi Kabaha, the woman’s lawyer, defended her client’s decision. “In the end, her right to freedom prevails over all other rights,” she said.

Einat Fisher, director-general of the Israel Women’s Network, noted that it is “good and important” for government agencies to put issues of violence against women and protection orders “on the agenda.”

However, she added, “the proposed outline continues to increase the price of violence on the threatened woman.”

Illustrative: A woman looks out the window of her room in an abused women’s shelter in Beit Shemesh, July 15, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

It “does not constitute a long-term solution against those who seek to commit a serious crime of murdering her. We repeat and call on all law enforcement agencies to allocate all the resources and means to protect the threatened woman so that she can continue with her life, and to act quickly to thwart and completely remove threats from the potential killers,” she said, according to Kan.

Judge Menahem Mizrahi of the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, who made the original ruling ordering the woman into a protective shelter, stressed Saturday that the people threatening the woman’s life could also harm her four children “whose voices are not heard,” he said. “There is a fear that those who endanger her safety may endanger theirs as well.”

“It is not easy for the court to take such a paternalistic judicial move, but the sanctity of life rises above all else,” he added. “In cases like this, the court must take responsibility. This is not a legal decision, but a decision that comes from the heart.”

Mizrahi’s ruling came after a woman who was known to be under threat from her husband was shot dead in Lod with her two-year-old daughter on her lap last week. Rabab Abu Siyam had recently been divorced, with those close to her saying that her ex-husband had repeatedly threatened her, forcing her to flee the city.

His ruling had been heavily criticized by Kabaha, the woman’s lawyer, as well as by former Meretz party leader Zehava Galon, who is making a political comeback with the aim of retaking the leadership of the left-wing party.

Rabab Abu Siyam. (Courtesy)

Activists have long complained that not enough is done to prevent violence against women in Israel, particularly in cases known to authorities.

According to researchers at the Hebrew University-based Israel Observatory on Femicide, June was the deadliest month this year so far for the murder of women — four deaths within 10 days.

A study by the center examining the first half of 2022 found a 71 percent increase in femicide relative to the same period last year — 12 as compared to seven.

The center said in a January report that there were 16 cases of women murdered in Israel by a relative or a partner throughout 2021, and 21 cases in 2020.

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