It’s been just over two years since Sheikh Amin Kanaan’s daughter, Manar, was
murdered by her husband, but the Druse spiritual leader from Kfar Yarka says not
a single day, not even a single minute has passed without suffering the pain of
her loss and wondering whether he could have done more to save her.
never did anything bad to anyone, especially not to her husband or her children,
and there is not a night or a day where I can find happiness,” Kanaan said in an
interview with The Jerusalem Post this week.
“This is the worst pain that
anyone can go through.”
The sheikh, who now cares for his daughter’s two
young sons while their father serves a 20-year sentence for murder, was among
the speakers Thursday at a rally in Tel Aviv organized by the Women’s
International Zionist Organization (WIZO) to mark the International Day for the
Elimination of Violence Against Women, which takes place worldwide on
As part of the event, the women’s rights group, which runs the
national helpline for battered women, carried 24 coffins in memory of the women
they say were murdered in Israel this year by their partners or family
(Official figures put the number at a much lower 15 based on
slightly different parameters.) “Israel has gone through many wars and suffered
through hard times but nothing is as harsh as the war taking place in our
society,” commented Kanaan, who now regularly speaks out against domestic abuse
in his community and beyond.
He continued: “As a society, we are all
responsible for what is happening and we all have to say that this is enough! We
must do all we can to stop this violent phenomenon. There is no difference
between the women who have been killed, whether they are from Kafr Yarka,
Nazareth, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Beersheba or Kiryat Gat, we have enough resources
to fight this.”
While Kanaan’s story is powerful and the 24 empty coffins
used in Thursday’s protest are eerily symbolic, this year’s 16-percent increase
in the number of women murdered by their partners is only the tip of the
Professionals from WIZO and the Ministry of Welfare and Social
Services, who work daily to combat domestic violence, say that behind the
murders – the latest of which happened late Monday night – are tens of thousands
of women who suffer daily from violent physical, sexual, emotional and verbal
abuse by their partners.
“We estimate that hundreds of thousands of women
live in fear and terror in their own houses every day,” commented Ronit
Erenfroind-Cohen, director of the Division for the Advancement of the Status of
the Women at WIZO. “If you add to that the children and other relatives who
witness or suffer from some of that abuse, then we could be talking about
millions of people.”
“We are not only talking about the murders, we are
also dealing with emotional abuse, which is much harder to recognize but can be
very harmful to a person,” she continued, adding that a television and online
campaign launched this winter by WIZO addresses emotional violence.
husband is asking his wife where she is going all the time, it’s usually not
because he loves her but more about trying to control her,” said
Erenfroind-Cohen, adding, “Sadly we have become a very violent society where
women have been pushed to the sidelines and are treated like
The organization, which is one of several women’s rights
groups that work constantly to raise awarenessof domestic violence, believes
that it is time for the government to put more emphasis on this issue and even
to create a national authority to tackle violence within the family.
many developed countries such an authority already exists,” pointed out
Erenfroind-Cohen. “Yet here we see the government doing very little and every
year the number of women killed is increasing.”
Said Tali, the Ministry
of Welfare and Social Affairs’ National Coordinator for Combating Domestic
Violence, is also painfully aware that the number of extreme domestic abuse
cases are increasing but, he said, the ministry is focusing more on this problem
than ever before.
“I think just the fact that I was chosen for this job
shows that the ministry has decided to put more emphasis on tackling domestic
violence and especially on involving men,” said Tali, who took over the position
a year ago after spending ten years in family services mediating divorcing
couples. He is the only Arab-Israeli male holding such a highlevel post in the
Although official figures relating to the number of
women murdered by their partners contrasts with those put out by WIZO, Tali said
that the discrepancy stems primarily from definition, with women murdered in
so-called “honor killings” not being counted among final tally.
believe that we should just be looking at these numbers,” he said. “We should be
looking at the phenomenon in general because there are thousands of women who
suffer every day in silence from all types of abuse.”
While the increase
in both extreme cases and in those that do not make national newspaper headlines
clearly disturbs Tali, he is also quick to point out that over the past year
there has also been a sharp rise in the number of people visiting government-run
centers that provide individual and family treatment.
Monday by the ministry shows that last year some 9,749 families turned out to
Welfare Ministry-run centers – a rise of 14% over 2009 – to receive treatment
from specially trained social workers.
Specifically, the figures show
that 2,888 men, a rise of 25% over the previous year, visited these family
centers for treatment.
There are 86 centers dealing with all the various
population groups country-wide.
“We know that we have to raise awareness
even more and get people to open up and talk about what is happening,” said
Tali, adding “We also need to increase our work with other offices, such as the
prison services and the health ministry and improve the information sharing
system, so that vital information is passed between the police, the health
professionals and the education system to social workers.”
works with all sectors in Israeli society and points out forcefully that such
violence “takes place in all communities,” he is also painfully aware of a sharp
rise in domestic abuse cases in the country’s Arabspeaking community. Of the
women murdered this past year, the official figures show four and by WIZO’s
count (they also include women murdered by other family members in so-called
honor killings), the number reaches nine.
“We are now trying to focus on
the increase in domestic violence within the Arab population,” said Tali,
adding, “The ministry has been very encouraging and I know there is still a lot
to be done on this issue because it is very complex but I hope to develop a
special program to tackle it very soon.” Although Tali points to the strides
made by the ministry in tackling domestic abuse here, he also highlights that
not every case is solvable.
“Many times when a woman is murdered, she has
not even received treatment or advice from social services,” he
“Every case needs to be looked at individually; They are all very
complicated and, just like when someone enters a hospital he is not always
cured, it is the same with this. The treatment certainly reduces the chances of
a murder happening but does not always prevent it.”