Women block the entrance to the city at the David's Harp Bridge in Jerusalem as they protest against violence against women, following the murders of two young women in the past week, in Jerusalem, on December 4, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Tens of thousands of demonstrators from around Israel gathered at Tel Aviv's iconic Rabin Square on Tuesday evening, the climax of an eventful day of protests and strike action demanding the implementation of an emergency program to combat domestic violence against women.
"Today we have made history," campaign organizers Stav Arnon, Ruty Klein and Dror Sadot told the vocal Rabin Square crowd.
"We woke up this morning to a day when women set the agenda. This is proof for us and for those in positions of authority, that 50.7% of the population can lift an entire country on its feet. It is impossible to ignore us anymore."
The three women, backed by dozens of women’s groups, issued the unprecedented call for women to strike last week following the murders of two teenage girls, 13-year-old Sylvana Tsegai and 16-year-old Yara Ayoub, raising the death toll of beaten women to 24 this year and 192 in the last decade.
An emergency program to combat domestic abuse worth NIS 250 million was approved by the government in June 2017 but is yet to receive the required funding. The initiative includes a public rehabilitation program for victims of domestic violence
; a rehabilitation program for attackers; education and public awareness efforts; and a comprehensive policy change in the Israel Police’s approach to domestic violence.
"This is not a women's struggle but rather a struggle for men and women who want a sane society," activist Vered Ovadia told the rally. "I call on every man to stand with us in this struggle. You all have daughters, mothers, sisters, friends and partners. Raise your voices clearly against those men who raise their hands against women."
More than 300 public bodies and private sector businesses backed the organizers' call to protest, with many enabling female members of staff to strike without affecting their pay.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of demonstrators, both men and women, blocked Tel Aviv's Azrieli Junction and the entrance to the city of Jerusalem, bringing traffic to a standstill.
Across the country, many opting to work wore black clothes and answered the call of protest organizers to exit their offices at 10 a.m. for 24 minutes of silence in memory of this year's victims. Flights from Ben-Gurion Airport were delayed as Israel Airports Authority staff marched in protest at midday.
In her role as chairwoman of the Knesset's Transparency Committee, Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir convened a special meeting to examine the failure to finance the emergency program to combat domestic violence.
A Finance Ministry representative told the meeting that it had not participated in the inter-ministry committee tasked with fighting domestic violence.
"We did not participate in the committee," said the representative. "The government's decision was not budgetary, rather only a matter of principles. Since the government's decision was not budgetary, there was no designated budget for its implementation."
"This is social terror," said Shaffir. "It is inconceivable that those standing at the forefront of this struggle are required to beg for a budget while members of the coalition receive budgets for political purposes and small interests. Aid centers are collapsing without budgets, and the government is ignoring the murder of women," she said.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>