Grapevine: Building character

In 1977, in response to a rash of cases of domestic violence, Ruth Rasnic founded the Organization to Combat Violence against Women and served as its paid executive director for 34 years.

A historic home in Beit Hakerem (photo credit: SHOMRONI/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
A historic home in Beit Hakerem
THIS WEEK, Israel Prize laureate Ruth Rasnic, who almost 40 years ago pioneered the concept of shelters for battered women, announced the closure of two such shelters for lack of funds. Financing provided by the Social Affairs Ministry was inadequate to keep the shelters going, Rasnic told Yediot Aharonot.
In 1977, in response to a rash of cases of domestic violence, Rasnic founded the Organization to Combat Violence against Women and served as its paid executive director for 34 years. In 2011, she stepped back from being a paid employee of the organization and became a volunteer. As one of the founders – together with the late Shulamit Aloni of the Citizen’s Rights Movement, which was dedicated to civil rights, women’s rights and peace, and which as a result of a merger became part of Meretz – Rasnic served as the movement’s representative at Na’amat for 15 years.
In 1986, she was among the people who joined Alice Shalvi in founding the Israel Women’s Network, which also works for women’s rights and combats domestic violence. She has been recognized by the IWN for her work for women and children. In 2000, she was one of the beacon lighters at the opening of the Israel Independence Day ceremonies on Mount Herzl. In 2008, Ehud Olmert appointed her as his adviser on the status of women and in 2009 she was honored with the Israel Prize. She also received the Knesset’s Quality of Life Prize, which was presented to her by then-speaker Dalia Itzik.
All in all, Rasnic opened three shelters for battered women and their children, and for one of them, former Herzliya Mayor Yosef Nevo paid the rent for the first two years. Altogether in Israel, up until the time of Rasnic’s announcement, there were 14 shelters for battered women run by various organizations, but given the escalation of domestic violence, 14 is an inadequate number. Currently these shelters give protection and hope to 1,500 women and children. It is impossible to estimate how many lives have been saved by the very fact that such shelters exist.
As of this writing, 20 women have been murdered in Israel this year. No one can tell when continued domestic violence can lead to death. Many women come to the shelters not only physically bruised and bleeding but also broken in spirit. Those who need it are helped in developing skills that will enable them to find work and become financially independent. They receive psychological therapy; they are encouraged to contribute to the running of the shelters by looking after children, taking on kitchen and laundry duties and generally befriending each other, because all these activities help to strengthen their characters and their resolve.
AFTER YEARS of standing empty, the former Tirat Batsheva Hotel in downtown Jerusalem is back in business and began receiving guests this month.
Around the time of the large wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union, there were not enough apartments available in Jerusalem to house the population influx. However, there were hotels in receivership and others that were not operating as such that were leased to the Jewish Agency, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry and other entities for the purpose of temporarily housing new immigrants.
After several years of housing immigrants, the hotel on King George Avenue was sold in 2005 to US investors for $11.2 million. The hotel had previously belonged to Rehavia Land. After several years of total inactivity, renovations on the hotel were started and then stopped. More than a year went by before they were resumed. The hotel had originally been an eight-story building with 80 guest rooms. It is now an 11-story building with 79 guest rooms. In its previous incarnation, the rooms were very small; they are now considerably larger. The facility, which is currently owned by local hotelier Reuven Ela, who owns hotels in Israel and Germany, is part of the Trip Division of the Wyndham Hotel Group and is being managed by Leshem Hotels, a Wyndham franchisee.
Meanwhile, the Solel Boneh building across the road from the Tirat Batsheva has a construction fence around it. Part of the building will be preserved, but the land around it has been designated for a hotel. The building stood vacant for much longer than the Tirat Bat Sheva.