32-year-old-woman murdered in Mughar village in the Galilee

A 32-year-old woman was murdered on the day that people across Israel participated in a slew of events marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Demonstrators in Tel Aviv protest against violence against women at a rally marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, 2021 . (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Demonstrators in Tel Aviv protest against violence against women at a rally marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, 2021 .
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Rasha Sitawi, a 32-year-old woman from Mughar in the Galilee area, was killed on Thursday in front of her 12-year-old daughter. Sitawi was found unconscious in her parents’ home with a number of penetrative wounds and died shortly after, despite efforts by medics and paramedics, MDA said.

Sitawi left behind three children age five, eight and 12. Her death was the 114th homicide in the Israeli Arab sector this year, 15 of whom were women, according to the NGO Abraham Initiatives that monitors the issue.

In a terrible irony, Israel on Thursday also marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in a slew of events across the country raising public awareness for the victims of domestic violence, 20 of whom are murdered on average each year.

A march was held in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening in protest of recent events, including an IDF officer photographing female soldiers without their knowledge and female prison guards being pimped out to prisoners.

Thousands of demonstrators marched from Rabin Square to Habima Square.

 KKL-JNF lights up the Ben Shemen Forest with the color red, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (credit: KKL-JNF) KKL-JNF lights up the Ben Shemen Forest with the color red, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (credit: KKL-JNF)

The protesting women and men carried signs reading: “Silence is not consent” and “You are not alone.” Some signs in Arabic showed hijabs or Palestinian flags.

In addition, dozens gathered in Jerusalem’s Zion Square with drums and signs reading: “You are not alone” and “It isn’t your fault.”

Nearly one in three women worldwide have been abused in their lifetime. In times of crises, the numbers rise, as seen during the corona pandemic and recent humanitarian crises, conflicts and climate disasters, the UN said.

Additionally, a new report from UN Women, based on data from 13 countries gathered since the pandemic began, shows that two in three women reported that they or a woman they know experienced some form of violence, and only one in 10 women said that victims would go to the police for help.

The Ben Shemen Forest lit up with the color red as part of the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund’s “Planted in the Heart” ceremony. At the end, the red beams of light shot up into the air in memory of all the women lost to domestic violence in the last year.

The ceremony was held near Modi’in in cooperation with the women organizations Na’amat, Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), Emunah and the Histadrut.

LIRON DROR, who spoke at the ceremony, is a survivor of domestic abuse at the hands of her former husband, Barak Ben Ami. Although Dror and her daughter survived the attack, her 10-month-old baby did not.

 President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog visit the Bat Melech shelter for women in distress   (credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO) President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog visit the Bat Melech shelter for women in distress (credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
“The doctors were able to save me and my daughter, but my baby did not make it,” she said. “She was murdered when she was only 10 months old by someone she called dad. I call him a monster.”

KKL-JNF chairman Avraham Duvdevani said “we chose to give these brave women a tree, marking each and every one of them. They left our world in a tragic way, during the process of planting roots and growing their branches. This type of violence is the most horrible, unfair, criminal and heinous violence there. It must end.”

President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal, visited the Bat Melech shelter for Women in Distress on Wednesday, in honor of the day. Joining them were Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen, MK Keren Barak and MK Merav Ben-Ari, chairwoman of the Knesset’s Lobby for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Bat Melech is an NGO founded to provide physical shelter, protection, mental health support and legal assistance for religious and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) women suffering from physical and emotional abuse by their husbands, who find themselves in life-threatening situations. The president and his wife spoke to several women and children in the shelter to hear about their lives and their stories.

 President Isaac Herzog with the three recipients of awards recognizing their activism against violence towards women, Amal Alnasara, Manal Shalabi and Ola Najami Yusuf, November 25, 2021.  (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO) President Isaac Herzog with the three recipients of awards recognizing their activism against violence towards women, Amal Alnasara, Manal Shalabi and Ola Najami Yusuf, November 25, 2021. (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)

“It’s the violent men who need to go to a shelter, not us,” said a woman identified only as L., from northern Israel, sharing her experiences. “But thanks to the shelter, last month I received my get (Jewish divorce document).”

S., a young woman and mother of two, described her experiences at a court hearing in which she tried to get a restraining order against her violent ex-husband. “The judge said he didn’t believe me and belittled me,” she said. “My ex laughed in the hall and I was too scared to speak. I didn’t come to the shelter of my own accord, social services and the police directed me here because my life’s in danger. How can people say they don’t believe me?”

MICHAL HERZOG thanked the women for their time and for sharing their stories – calling them true heroines – and wishing them success in their future journeys.

“I congratulate you, the women who are fighting against violence in Arab society and everywhere else in the State of Israel,” President Isaac Herzog told the three female recipients of awards given in recognition of activism in the fight against violence against women.

The three are Amal Alnasara, a social activist for women’s rights in Bedouin society in southern Israel, Manal Shalabi, the founder and CEO of A’dar–The Forum of Professionals to Oppose the Murder of Women and Ola Najami-Yusuf, the director of Safe Communities at the Abraham Initiatives.

Herzog made remarks in Arabic. “I want to make a vocal call for all women who feel under any threat, not to hesitate and to ask for help. There has to [be] change.”

“Over the past year, painful stories of violence against women have come out, and this certificate of recognition is a reminder that we must act with all our strength against the violence used by men,” said Eve Madjiboj, the director-general of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women. “These women are a font of strength and power. They inspire us all to act against violence against them.”

“For thousands of women in Israel in general, and in Arab society in particular, every day is a struggle against violence. The road to changing our violent reality is long, complicated and exhausting, but we are strong and determined to fight this terrorism, this ‘terror at home,’ exactly as we in the State of Israel know to fight other forms of terror,” said Social Equality and Pensioners Minister Meirav Cohen (Yesh Atid).

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi also addressed the issue in a letter. Kohavi declared that the IDF would not accept any violence against either men or women, whether direct or indirect.

He also denounced a lieutenant-colonel who had recently been accused of secretly taping female soldiers, promising that the officer will be discharged in addition to criminal charges. He concluded by reiterating that it was the IDF’s responsibility to create a respectful environment for all of its soldiers and that there would be zero tolerance for any transgression.

Israel’s largest magazine for women, La’Isha, replaced their cover with a black background, with nothing printed on it besides the number for a domestic help hotline. The State of Israel’s official Twitter account shared the image and reported that there has been a 500% increase in calls from women since the issue was published.

“To all the women who continue to suffer at the hands of violent partners or family members, just know that we see you & believe you,” they tweeted.