President Reuven Rivlin publicly apologized on Thursday to Yesh Atid MK Pnina Tamano-Shata for the offensive and hurtful remarks made to her last week by Likud loud-mouth Oren Hazan.
The apology was made at an awards event for outstanding contributors to the elimination of violence against women that Rivlin was hosting at the President’s Residence. All the speeches had already been made when Rivlin again mounted the stage for a group photograph, but turned away momentarily to take the microphone again to say how ashamed he felt that she had been subjected to such insult and humiliation. Rivlin said that Tamano-Shata was an exemplary parliamentarian.
During a Knesset House Committee meeting on Wednesday of last week, Hazan told the Ethiopian-born Tamano-Shata that she was only a “token immigrant.”
The incident developed into a shouting match which resulted in the removal by ushers of Tamano-Shata from the meeting, rather than Hazan, who had provoked her.
Appalled by the verbal assault for which Hazan is notorious, Rivlin, a former Knesset Speaker, and a former Likud MK, in apologizing to Tamano-Shata repeated that she was an exemplary parliamentarian and called her to come on stage for the group photograph even though she had been neither an award recipient nor a speaker.
Prior to Rivlin’s opening address, the names of the 26 Jewish, Arab and African migrant women who had been murdered during 2018 were individually shown on a large video screen. Each name in heavy back type was framed in a heavy black border.
Rivlin stated that it was not easy for him to speak after that. He said that it was difficult to see the names of the 26 women, each a world unto herself, with dreams, plans and desires, whose lives were violently cut short.
Rivlin noted that their deaths irreversibly affected their parents, their children and their siblings for whom there would be an eternal void.
“We must do everything possible to ensure that no other women are murdered,” Rivlin declared, saying that it was the moral responsibility of society.
Murder is not a spur of the moment act, he said. It is the culmination of sustained violence.
Quoting a statistic of 200,000 battered women and half a million children subjected to violence in Israel, Rivlin said, “We know about them because they had the courage to lodge complaints.”
Explaining that violence is not only physical, Rivlin cited verbal, psychological and economic pressures as other forms of violence.
He stressed the importance of women feeling safe when they walked in the street alone.
“It’s not just a woman’s problem,” he insisted. “It’s a national problem which must be uprooted. It occurs in all sectors of society, and therefore all political leaders must give priority to eliminating domestic violence.”
Dissatisfied with what has been done to date, Rivlin said that it was not enough to talk about elimination. Something has to be done to implement it.
IN MANY FAMILIES, paternalistic cultural traditions dominate to the extent that violence becomes a multi-generational curse. A woman came on screen to talk about growing up in an environment of violence. Her mother had been subjected to it time and again and she was fearful of the sound of her father’s footsteps on the stairs. He sometimes beat her mother to a pulp and even tore out her hair. At some stage, the daughter, who was in perpetual trauma, was sent to live with a foster family. They didn’t understand her long silences, and to get her to respond, they beat her. It took her a long time to summon the courage to talk about her mother and herself.
Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel recalled that when she was a child, there was a friendly neighbor who was well-liked by everyone. Suddenly one day, she was no longer there.
Gamliel heard that she had been killed and couldn’t understand why. No one bothered to explain to her that what goes on outside a house is not necessarily the same as what goes on inside.
“Violence against women can erupt anywhere at any time and without warning,” she said. No one is immune. “We are a violent society. This violence has to be condemned everywhere and a stop must be put to it.”
Gamliel also referred to classroom violence, not only by students and parents against teachers, but also by teachers against students, especially those teachers who take sexual advantage of their students who are minors and are legally below the age of consent.
The classroom is supposed to be a safe place, she said. “It is our duty to change society and save lives,” Gamliel said.
Awards in recognition of outstanding contributions toward the elimination of violence were presented by Gamliel to Yudit Zicklin-Sidikman, founder and CEO of El HaLev, an organization that advocates women’s empowerment and teaches martial arts to Israeli and Palestinian women and girls as a means of self-defense; Ronit Solomon Avera, a social worker at the Center for the Prevention of Domestic Violence; and to attorneys Uri Kedar and Rabbi Levi Lauer representing the Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution.
Both Zicklin-Sidikman and Avera have been victims of violence themselves and therefore feel genuine empathy with all the women and girls whom they help. Some were in the audience and gave them standing ovations.
Sometimes women’s empowerment also leads to women’s aggression. In Israel, there is a growing disrespect for protocol, rules and other people’s domains.
In Buckingham Palace or the White House, no visitor would dare do anything against the rules, but at the President’s Residence, women moved chairs to get a better seat, and it didn’t bother them that they were violating safety regulations by blocking the aisle. They also left a mess in the toilets, which before any event are spotlessly clean, and they also ignored the regulations about not photographing during an event so as to leave the coast clear for professional photographers. To eliminate violence, one has to start with respect and basic consideration for the other.
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