(photo credit: REUTERS)
President Reuven Rivlin intends to take up the cause of the rights of battered foreign non-Jewish wives who lose their status and possibly sole or joint custody of their children once divorced or separated from their Israeli husbands.
By way of identifying with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, on Monday visited WIZO’s Jerusalem Shelter for Battered Women.
They heard from WIZO staff and representatives of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry about the statistics of domestic violence; that half-a-million Israeli children live in violent home environments, that more shelters for battered women are needed, and about the type of help the women receive.
The president was outraged by the personal story told by one of the victims, who is not Jewish, and who was brought from abroad by her Israeli husband who almost immediately began mistreating her, isolating her from her family and virtually keeping her a prisoner in their home.
During eight painful years of marriage, she had no one to turn to because she was sure that no one would believe her; she lived in a nice home, she didn’t have to work, she had beautiful children, and when she did go anywhere with her husband or guests came to their home she put on a brave face.
Finally, when it became totally unbearable, she was persuaded by a social worker to leave and go to a shelter.
The president said that he would look into the rights of women in similar positions.
Later, in response to a question from The Jerusalem Post, Rivlin said that he was very concerned about the status of these women, who are mothers of Israeli children.
If the women lose custody and their right to remain in Israel, the children will in all probability be placed in the custody of a violent father, and the president said he wants to find a more humane solution to such problems.
Although violent men are not permitted to know in which facility their wives are being sheltered, they are permitted to have contact with their children, and the children are encouraged to telephone their fathers soon after arrival at a shelter. There are also supervised places where they can meet with their fathers, and in some cases can spend the weekend with them.