Protesters call on gov't to fund domestic violence prevention program

Domestic abuse hotlines see over 100% increase in calls amid coronavirus pandemic

Protesters gather in Tel Aviv to protest the rising domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Protesters gather in Tel Aviv to protest the rising domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of protesters gathered on Monday evening at Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv, crying, "Women, end the violence together," calling on the government to fund programs battling domestic violence as eight women have been murdered in acts of domestic abuse since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Attendees of the protest included Lily Ben-Ami, expert on gender and social entrepreneurship, chairperson of the Michal Sela Forum and sister of Michal Sela, the woman who was murdered by her husband, Eliran Malul, in an act of domestic violence in October 2019.
Numerous siblings of those murdered in domestic violence cases attended and spoke, including Shira Vishniyak, sister of Maya Vishniyak, who was recently murdered in an apparent strangulation attack by her boyfriend.
"Thousands of citizens are crying tonight the cry of hundreds of thousands of women in Israel who live beneath terror and fear, with lives devoid of independence and respect," said Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO) global chairperson Anita Friedman and WIZO Israel chairperson Ora Korazim. "We call on the prime minister to take responsibility for the treatment of violence, to immediately implement the government plan to deal with violence and to designate a government ministry that will deal with eradicating violence alone; only such a ministry, in which the subject of violence will be its only field of practice, which will address the murder of women not as another marginal event in society but rather as a social terrorist event, will be able to take control of eradicating the phenomenon and treating the subject on all levels necessary: policy, legislation, punishment, treatment and funding."
Cases of domestic violence have risen dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic, as victims of such abuse are often locked at home with those that harm them. The Labor and Social Services Ministry's domestic abuse hotline 118 has seen a 122% increase in calls throughout May alone.
"In order to defeat [domestic violence], we need to mobilize the entire government in order to provide the necessary resources," said Labor and Social Services Minister Itzik Shmuli. "The Labor and Social Services Ministry will do everything to protect the personal safety of women and children.
"I decided to put this subject at the center of the Labor and Social Services Ministry's agenda," Shmuli said in a statement directed at the organizers of the event: Dror Sadot, Stav Arnon and Ruti Klein. "The people who need to be persecuted, shaken and perhaps feeling a sense of fear is the violent men."
Ahead of the protest, leaders from local authorities across the country signed a letter on Sunday to the government demanding that funds which have been allocated for a domestic violence prevention program be transferred, as 11 women have been murdered since the beginning of the year, nearing towards the number of women murdered in 2019, but in less than half the time. The cities include Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba and more.
The program was approved in 2017, but the funds have not been transferred to this day. Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that NIS 50 million be transferred for such a program in December 2018, the funds were only partially transferred as the government dispersed.
One week before the protest, the Labor and Social Services Ministry managed to receive an emergency fund of NIS 20 million to battle domestic violence.
Dozens of women's rights organizations participated in the protest which was held one day after police reported to the Tel Aviv Magistrate Court that Amit Almog, boyfriend and alleged murderer of Vishniyak, is suspected of photographing her corpse after strangling her to death and sending it to his friends.
"Especially now, when we are speaking of another 'lockdown,' we must remember that there are women that are not safe in their homes," the organizers said ahead of the event. "The plague called 'violence against women' has solutions, and they are in the government. For a year and a half, decision-makers smeared us while women were murdered. There are over 30 ministers and not a single one is caring for us."
The Jerusalem Municipality, led by the initiative of councilwoman Laura Worton (Meretz), issued a shuttle from Mount Herzl to the march at the expense of the municipality, local newspaper Kol Hair reported.
WIZO has seen a 300% increase in referrals to the centers for prevention and treatment of domestic violence which the organization operates, as well as a 250% increase in patients, in contrast to this same time period of three months during the previous year. Na'amat – The Working and Volunteering Women's Movement – as well, has seen a 100% increase in calls to their domestic violence hotline throughout April and May in contrast to the same time last year.
There was also a 400% increase in calls to the WIZO hotline for counseling and assistance to men in a cycle of violence by men and their family members throughout April and May. The women's hotline for domestic abuse has seen a 60% increase.
Women's shelters run by WIZO are filled to capacity, the organization revealed on Monday, with a long waiting list, as well.
As Israel is preparing to face a second wave of the novel COVID-19, Na'amat chairwoman Hagit Pe'er expressed concern that with the second wave and possible closures and lockdowns, abuse victims may once more be trapped and further harmed.
"Increasing terrorism against women is one of the extreme results of the coronavirus pandemic," Pe'er said. "Economic and mental pressures are leading to a dramatic worsening in the amount of reports of violence, the majority of which are women who have suffered violence before and some of which are women experiencing violence for the first time."
At the same time, the Israeli Women's Lobby has proposed a plan to the government in an effort to close the gaps of gender equality by advancing the battle against domestic violence while also proposing changes in the fields of women's employment, work-life balance, education and sport.
In the past decade, approximately 200 women were murdered by their spouses or other close family members in Israel.