In memory of Michal

What made Sela’s death stand out was the fact that she and her husband weren’t immigrants or minorities, but seemingly a normal couple without any indication of domestic strife.

Jpost editorial logo  (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Jpost editorial logo
(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
The death of 32-year-old Michal Sela, allegedly at the hands of her husband, Eliran Malol, has shocked the country.
Not because it was the first case of a husband killing a wife or a male family member killing another member – hardly. Sela’s death, if it was a murder, will bring the number to 12 of women killed in Israel this year by a person known to them. Last year, 25 women in Israel were murdered in domestic violence-related incidents, the highest number in years.
What made Sela’s death stand out was the fact that she and her husband weren’t immigrants, minorities or from a lower socio-economic level, but seemingly a normative couple without any indication of domestic strife.
Malol and Sela both had social work backgrounds and met each other helping at-risk teens. Police said there were no records of prior incidents of domestic violence involving the couple.
Unfortunately, the public and the media tend to turn the other way when there’s a domestic murder in the Arab sector, among the Ethiopian or Russian immigrant community, or in a low-income neighborhood. Something like that would never happen in “middle class” Israel.
But it has. Police found Sela’s body in the couple’s home in upscale Motza, outside of Jerusalem, with multiple stab wounds. Malol was discovered badly injured on the steps of a neighbor’s porch, where he brought the couple’s eight-month-old daughter, claiming that he and his wife had tried to commit suicide. However, police surmise that Malol killed his wife and then injured himself.
 “If this happens to us, it could happen to any family,” Sela’s sister Lili Ben-Ami told Maariv. “It happened to her in her own living room in such a cruel way.”
Ben-Ami laid blame at the hands of the government for failing to fund a 2016 National Program to Combat Violence Against Women.
“This could have been prevented if the National Program to Combat Violence Against Women – unfunded by the state since 2016 – would actually be carried out. What are they waiting for?” she asked.
There is certainly a need for it. According to statistics on domestic violence released Sunday by the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry, there has been a 160% increase since 2014 in calls to a domestic violence hotline established by the ministry.
6,488 women were aided in 113 centers operated by the ministry across the country during 2018, resulting in 95 abusive males being placed in programs to help them relearn how to function as partners and husbands.
The ministry operates 13 shelters for women who suffer from domestic violence across the country. According to the report, some 80% of the women who seek help in the public centers turn to them after a period of abuse lasting from a year to a decade.
Last December, following a spate of domestic murders by husbands of their wives, thousands of women rallied across the country against violence against women. The next month, the government increased the budget earmarked for fighting domestic violence to NIS 50 million for 2019.
“Until now, there has been no treatment of attackers – now we are focusing on them, not just the victims, as we do when dealing with terror,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at time.
The Israel Women’s Network welcomed the move, but added that the focus of preventing domestic violence must also include further tools given to law enforcement agencies and Education Ministry programs to teach the importance of gender equality.
Could any of this have prevented Michal Sela’s death? Nobody knows. But there is something rotten in a society where men think they can treat women like punching bags, terrorize spouses and murder family members.
If it takes the death of Michal Sela to awaken the masses, then maybe there can be some solace for her family.
Sela’s death gained the media’s attention because it showed that violence does not just happen on the fringes of society, but can rear its head anywhere and at any time.
The time has come to allocate the necessary resources to show that this doesn’t need to be the case. Domestic violence needs to be stopped.