Women's self-defense classes make 'IMPACT' at Knesset

More than 100 women shouted "no" to assualt in the Knesset on Tuesday as part of the celebrations for International Women's Day.

livnat 88 (photo credit: )
livnat 88
(photo credit: )
More than 100 women shouted "no" to assualt in the Knesset on Tuesday as part of the celebrations for International Women's Day. El Halev, the Israel Women's Martial Arts Federation, held a series of self-defense classes throughout the day for the Knesset's female population. The courses taught everything from basic fighting techniques to statements meant to empower women in threatening situations. Though Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and several female MKs came to watch the courses, only MK Nadia Hilou (Labor) took part in a demonstration. Hilou, the first female Christian Arab MK in the parliament, delivered several swift blows to the heavily padded head and groin of her "assailant" - a course instructor who regularly trains women in Jerusalem. "I grew up fighting for myself - it just wasn't this type of fighting, usually," laughed Hilou. Yudit Sidikman, cofounder of and instructor at El Halev, said the courses were meant to show women that they always had choices. "It is self-defense using voice and body, but also strength if it's necessary," she said of the self-defense system, which is called IMPACT, in association with the global IMPACT program. "Intuitively a lot of women know how to talk themselves out of situations. But it is hard for many women to stand up and protect our borders. We also teach women to go for the knockout. You can always choose to do less, but we train them to take the fight all the way to a knockout." Sidikman, who took part in many of the day's courses, also joked that there were many women in the Knesset whom she "wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley." Itzik, meanwhile, said she had brought the courses to the Knesset because learning how to defend oneself was a crucial element of every woman's education. The Knesset's entire female staff had been ordered to take part in the courses by Knesset Director-General Avi Balashnikov. However, only a fraction showed up at the event, prompting Balashnikov to ban all absent female employees from receiving a promotion or pay raise in 2008. Several female Knesset workers said they were "appalled" by Balashnikov's decision. "This is supposed to be a day honoring women, and he puts a pay freeze on a majority of the women in the parliament. He needs to learn some perspective. He can't order all women to attend an event. He has no right to impose his will and then throw temper tantrums if it is not followed," said a female committee worker. The Knesset has recently taken a number of steps to support its female staff, including the construction of a breastfeeding room on the first floor of the building. MK Gideon Sa'ar, who will step down from his position as chairman of the Knesset's Committee on the Status of Women next week, has also authored more than a dozen bills to promote women's issues in the past Knesset session.