Following a meeting last week with a coalition of Ethiopian women's organizations, a panel of Ethiopian immigrant spiritual leaders has agreed to create a prayer for shalom bayit (peace within the home) in an attempt to curb domestic violence. "We were looking for a way to reduce violence within the family that would work in the field," Shulamit Sahalo, coordinator of the coalition, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Monday. The group works to reduce violence within Ethiopian immigrant families.
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"Violence within the family and murdering women did not happen in Ethiopia. It is something that started here in Israel," said Sahalo, adding that the weakening of spiritual and social networks within the community after the transition to Israel was one of the causes for the phenomenon.
In 2006, seven out of 16 women murdered by their husbands in Israel were of Ethiopian origin, although the Ethiopian community makes up only one percent of the population, said Sahalo. And 15% of the women in battered women's shelters are from the community.
"In Ethiopia, the spiritual leaders, or kessim, were the ones who looked after the Jewish soul. We were looking for a way to return to some of the values we had in the Diaspora," she said. "Even though the authorities here do not see the kessim as a body that works, many Ethiopians still turn to them for guidance on a daily basis."
"We decided to support this project to reduce violence in our community and to return to some of our core values from Ethiopia," said Kes Wendi "Eli" Mentsanot, who will be involved in drafting the new prayer.
Mentsanot said the prayer, which will be the first of its kind for Ethiopian Jews, will not only focus on the rise in violence against women within the community, but help prevent violence against all family members.
"Reducing violence can not only be achieved through articles and projects. Creating more prayers and spiritual guidance will also help," he said.
Sahalo said the prayer would be written and printed in both Amharic and Hebrew and distributed to synagogues where members of the Ethiopian community are affiliated.