Thousands rally in Tel Aviv against violence toward women

Protesters demand government release budgeted NIS 250 million for preventative programs; demonstration comes as Welfare Ministry reports spike in complaints of domestic violence

Israelis protest against violence towards women, in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israelis protest against violence towards women, in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Thousands of people gathered at a rally in Tel Aviv on Monday calling for government action to end violence against women.

The protest at the beachfront Charles Clore Park began with the reading of the names of 11 women who were killed since the start of the year, including in a rash of murders over the past two months.

Organizers said most of the NIS 250 million ($71 million) approved in 2017 for national programs to prevent domestic violence have not yet been transferred to relevant authorities.

Hagit Pe’er, head of the Na’amat women’s advocacy group, told the demonstration: “We are witness to a dramatic increase in the number of calls to emergency hotlines and in cases of violence. It is not a matter of fate, the next murder can definitely be prevented.”

She called on the government to immediately implement the program against domestic violence.

Screen capture from video of Hagit Pe’er, head of the Na’amat women’s advocacy group. (YouTube)

“The murder of women is the only aspect of the country that involves violence and is really life-threatening, but that has no [method of] prevention and no real-time solutions,” Lili Ben-Ami, whose sister Michal Sela was murdered last year, allegedly by her husband, told Channel 12 news from the demonstration. “Everything else that is life-threatening the state proposes prevention in advance and realtime solutions.”

She called on the prime minister, cabinet members and judges to “stop being silent and make this the top priority.

“We are here to march and to support those women who are trapped in their homes and I want them to know, you are not alone,” Ben-Ami said.

Shira Vishnyak, whose sister Maya Vishnyak, 22, was choked to death in the neighboring city of Ramat Gan last month, allegedly by her partner, addressed the rally saying: “I don’t want any other sister to have to bury her sister at the age of 21. I don’t want this phenomenon to continue.

“I appeal to you, members of the Knesset, with a demand to put the prevention of the next murder at top of your priorities. There are solutions, they are in your hands, we have no more time to waste.”

The rally came as the Welfare and Social Services Ministry published figures that showed a 112 percent increase in the number of complaints about domestic violence it received to its hotline in May compared to April.

In February, the hotline received 316 calls; in March, that went up to 344; and in April, the figure jumped to 849. During May, the hotline received 1,885 calls.

“Last week, we managed to get an NIS 20 million ($5.7 million) emergency budget for the war against domestic violence,” Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli said in a statement. “But to win [the war] we will need to draft the entire government to obtain the necessary resources.”

Minister of Ministry of Labor, Social Welfare and Social Services Itzik Shmuli during a ceremony at the ministry in Jerusalem on May 18, 2020. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)

Na’amat also reported an increase of over 100% in calls to its hotline during April and May compared to the same period last year.

Since March, when lockdown measures to prevent the coronavirus spread were introduced, eight women have been murdered in Israel. Police and social service organizations have reported a major rise in domestic violence complaints since the start of the coronavirus crisis, which has been blamed for exacerbating tensions as people were confined together by lockdown measures.

“An increase in terror against women is one of the extreme phenomena of the coronavirus plague,” Pe’er said. “The economic and psychological pressures lead to a dramatic increase in the number of reports of violence, most of them from women who suffered violence in the past and some from women experiencing violence for the first time.”

Women’s rights activists have predicted that violence could grow even as restrictions are eased.

On Sunday, some 40 local authorities wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to transfer to them the budget allocated for preventing domestic violence.

Among those who signed onto the letter were the municipalities of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Herzlyia and Nahariya, the Walla news website reported.

“This is the moment for a new policy that makes violence against women a top priority,” the letter urged, declaring support for the Tel Aviv rally.

A similar rally was held in Tel Aviv in May following the killing of Vishnyak.

Israelis protest against violence toward women, in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

There were several other acts of serious violence against women by their partners in late April and early May.

In May, a Holon man was indicted for murdering his wife in their apartment in late April, in front of their children. According to the indictment, Alaza Mandparo stabbed Mastwell Mandparo to death after she refused to make him a cup of coffee.

On May 3, a man was arrested after calling police to tell them he had murdered his wife in their Bat Yam apartment. The man was believed to be intoxicated during the call. He had previously served time in prison for assaulting his wife. The couple has two young children.

Earlier in April, a man stabbed his girlfriend at an Afula supermarket. He was arrested and confessed to the attack, which left his girlfriend hospitalized with moderate wounds. He explained to police that she had planned to leave him.

Thirteen Israeli women were murdered in 2019 by someone known to them. In 2018, 25 women 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 had filed police complaints prior to their deaths out of concern for their safety

Although the government approved the NIS 250 million in 2017, the cash was subsequently held up. In 2018, women across the country held a one-day strike in protest to domestic violence, prompting Netanyahu to gather a ministerial meeting that approved the transfer of NIS 50 million and added another NIS 20 million to the total funds available for national programs against the violence.

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