Funding crunch hurts war against domestic violence

Program proven to effectively tackle high levels of domestic violence among Ethiopian olim is only reaching a handful of people.

Ethiopian women grieve after domestic murder 390 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ethiopian women grieve after domestic murder 390
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Lack of funding and continued friction between the Jewish Agency and the Immigrant Absorption Ministry means that a program proven to effectively tackle high levels of domestic violence among Ethiopian olim is only reaching a handful of people.
Mira Kiedar, director of social work for the Jewish Agency, devised the program together with social workers, psychologists and anthropologists.
The 20-week workshop for both men and women has, over the past few years, seen extremely positive results in reducing domestic violence and improving conflict resolution among couples living in absorption centers, she said on Monday.
However, funding for the program has dwindled over recent years, resulting in only 40 couples in two absorption centers being offered the chance to take the course. It is unclear how many troubled families will get the chance in 2012.
“I know that beyond a doubt this program can prevent domestic violence and murders of women by their husbands,” Kiedar, a trained social worker, told The Jerusalem Post. “We have the tools to help them and the model that we have built has proved itself.”
The program focuses on the relationship between husbands and wives, as well as on their interaction with children after moving from a patriarchal society in Africa to a modern Western country, such as Israel, she said.
“We help them to decide what parts of their culture they will keep and what they have to change now that they are living in Israel in 2012,” explained Kiedar, who has also devised a technique to identify those couples most at risk for domestic violence as they move forward in their new lives here.
According to figures released last week by the Knesset Research and Information Department, out of 102 women murdered by their partners between 2004 and 2011, 21 were from the Ethiopian community. Experts believe this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Kedar said her program should become a mandatory part of the absorption process for all Ethiopian immigrant couples and single-mothers, and she has been appealing to the government to fund it.
While in principle the Immigrant Absorption Ministry has agreed to adopt a version of Kiedar’s program, as well as a guidebook for how to work culturally with the new immigrants, the workshops will be incorporated into the government’s five-year program for Ethiopian immigrants.
That means that, in its current format, the program will only be offered in six towns, where mostly veteran Ethiopian immigrants live.
A spokesman for the ministry said that programs in immigrant absorption centers were the responsibility of the Jewish Agency.
In response, a agency spokesman said: “The successful absorption of entire populations into Israeli society is clearly the responsibility of the ministry that was created to take care of immigrants.
We support and develop these programs, but this country cannot depend only on donors, any more than the future of Israeli society can rest on anyone else’s shoulders other than the government.”
“The focus for this kind of program should be on the Falash Mura and not on veteran immigrants,” said Dr. Shalva Weil, a senior researcher at the Research Institution for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and president for the Society of Study of Ethiopian Jews, referring to the most recent group of Ethiopians to arrive in Israel.
Weil, who has spent more than 30 years studying Ethiopian immigrant culture here, is the author of in-depth research carried out on behalf of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry examining why a disproportionally large number of murder-suicides have taken place within the community.
Her findings, which include extensive interviews with victims and their families, paint a clear profile of those most at risk from extreme domestic violence. In most of the cases Weil examined, the family had immigrated recently, the couple was married and they had more than three children.
“We are not just talking about the women who are hurt in these cases,” Weil said. “It is a horrific situation for the children who are mostly present when the women are murdered and they end up being traumatized for life.”
She added, “These immigrants go through such enormous changes when they arrive here. Life is so different for them and it is such a lot for them to take in.”