Abuse (Illustrative Photo).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Police Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheikh met with victims of domestic violence to light Hanukka candles and discuss challenges facing religious victims of domestic abuse.
Alsheikh’s visit Tuesday night was hosted by the Bat Melech shelter in Jerusalem for abused Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox women.
“Dealing with domestic violence is one of the most sensitive issues for the Israeli police,” he said during his visit. “It requires a professional understanding of different cultures, complex training of police officers in different positions and close control of the officers and professionals in cooperation with the authorities to give a proper response.”
There there are 14 shelters in Israel, of which only two (both operated by Bat Melech) work with women from Orthodox backgrounds. According to Bat Melech, more than 5,000 women have been housed in its shelters, and 20,000 have received legal counseling since 1996.
In 2015, 755 women nationwide were provided shelter from domestic violence, an increase of 20% from the year prior, according to a report in Haaretz.
Victims of domestic violence in the ultra-Orthodox communities face the unique obstacles of being from isolated communities that tend to be suspicious and lack relations with government services. Some religious women can also be trapped in abusive relationships if their husbands refuse to issue a “get” (Jewish divorce document).
“We are honored to host the chief of police in our shelter to visit and have direct contact with female victims of violence, which allows for a broader understanding of the fact that domestic violence is a phenomenon outside sectors and social standing,” Bat Melech chairwoman Zilit Jakobsohn said.
In 2015, more than 14,000 appeals were made by citizens to centers for prevention of domestic violence that are operated by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry. At least 15 women in Israel have been killed by a boyfriend, husband or family member since the beginning of 2016.
Alsheikh said the police are working to combat domestic violence, especially when it comes to the women in ultra-Orthodox communities.
“As discussed, this is a complex issue,” he said. “I am pleased that the religious and ultra-Orthodox community has demonstrated in recent years more maturity to address this issue without denial. Dialogue with rabbis and community leaders is widening the understanding that no society is immune to domestic crises, and with this the community’s cooperation with the police and social services deepens.”
“Hanukka symbolizes the peak season of darkness,” Alsheikh said, adding that volunteers of Bat Melech have “injected a lot of light into the darkness."