Day for elimination of violence against women marked with 13-minute strike

Israel commemorates 13 women killed by family members since start of 2019; iconic buildings lit up in red as Knesset hearings focus on violence in the home

Women shout slogans and holding signs at Safra Square in Jerusalem as they protest against violence against women, December 4, 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Women shout slogans and holding signs at Safra Square in Jerusalem as they protest against violence against women, December 4, 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israelis marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Monday with a 13-minute nationwide strike in memory of 13 Israeli women killed by family members since the start of 2019, including three in the last month.

The strike was held at 10 a.m. local time. Many buildings and famous structures around the country were lit in red on Sunday night in honor of the day, including Jerusalem’s Chords Bridge.

The Knesset was also holding hearings Monday with government agencies and organizations that deal with domestic violence. The hearings were being led by female lawmakers from factions across the political spectrum, including Blue and White’s Miki Haimovitch, Pnina Tamano Shata and Orna Barbivai; Likud’s Michal Shir and Keren Barak; the Joint List’s Aida Touma Souleiman; Labor-Gesher’s Revital Swed; and Yisrael Beytenu’s Yulia Melinovsky, according to Channel 12.

The hearings on Monday will feature testimony from victims of domestic violence.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz called for practical solutions to reduce domestic violence in Israel.

“We have all seen the shocking numbers, but we must keep in mind that statistics are only a tool and that behind those statistics are people, are women. Protection by the state is a basic and deep-rooted need of every individual,” he said at an anti-domestic violence conference in Jerusalem.

“We will be a better country once we introduce practical solutions to the issue of violence against women,” he said.

Scene from the movie Refuge by Israeli filmmaker Ayelet Dekel about battered women’s shelters. (YouTube screen capture)

The Knesset on Monday was also set to host a screening of the film “Refuge,” by director Ayelet Dekel, which follows women from diverse backgrounds — Arab, Haredi and secular Jewish — as they navigated life in a battered women’s shelters.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 to raise awareness of the violence faced by women, especially from family and those close to them.

Violence against women occurs throughout Israeli society, according to Prof. Mally Shechory Bitton. But in traditionalist societies like Israel’s ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities there are often taboos in place against discussing it, experts say.

Earlier this month, Jerusalem prosecutors charged 34-year-old Eliran Malul with the October murder of his wife, 32-year-old Michal Sela, in a case that shocked Israelis.

A WhatsApp photo of Michal Sela, who was found stabbed to death at her home outside Jerusalem on October 3, 2019

Last year, 25 women in Israel were murdered in such incidents, the highest number in years, prompting a string of protests and urgent calls for authorities to take action against the increasing incidence of violence against women in Israel. Many of those women filed police complaints prior to their deaths out of concern for their safety.

In October, the Welfare Ministry issued a report on intimate partner violence in 2018 that found a surge in the number of reported cases of domestic abuse.

According to the ministry, the number of women calling its abuse hotline rose 160 percent between 2014 and 2018, and more than 6,000 victims of domestic violence received treatment last year. In 2018, 1,219 women called the hotline to report spousal abuse.

According to the ministry report, 163 women have been murdered by their husbands since 2004 — seven in 2018, nine in 2017, 11 in 2016, 12 in 2015 and 10 in both 2013 and 2014. That figure only counts women murdered by their husbands, not women killed by other family members.

A quarter of those killed during that period were new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, 20% were immigrants from Ethiopia, 20% were Arabs and 34% were Jewish women born in Israel.

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