We must prevent the murder of Israel's women from domestic violence

It is well known that the phenomenon of domestic violence cuts across the spectrum of society from rich to poor, religious to secular, Jew, Muslim and Christian.

A Magen David Adom ambulance [File] (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A Magen David Adom ambulance [File]
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A 37-year-old woman was fighting for her life yesterday, having been stabbed multiple times at her home in Modi’in Illit on Saturday. A preliminary police investigation indicated that her husband attacked her with the intent of killing her before jumping from the apartment’s balcony in an apparent suicide bid. He was in moderate condition.
It is easy to overlook the incident because the woman survived the first hours of the attack. But this should be seen as an attempted murder, and the police are continuing to investigate. We as a society cannot afford to shrug our shoulders and continue as if nothing happened.
There has been an increase in cases of domestic violence since the COVID-19 lockdown. Nine women reportedly have been murdered in Israel since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and 10 women and an infant have been murdered since the beginning of the year. The Labor and Social Services Ministry’s domestic-abuse hotline 118 reported a 122% increase in calls during May.
It’s true that families have been stuck at home; in many cases, tensions increase due to lost jobs. But this is not an excuse. There is no excuse.
By now it is well known that the phenomenon of domestic violence cuts across the spectrum of society from rich to poor, religious to secular, Jew, Muslim and Christian.
Now and again a particularly shocking case catapults the issue into the headlines and gains public attention. Then the topic recedes, leaving the bereaved family struggling to make sense of its loss. One example was the tragic case last October of Michal Sela, allegedly killed by her husband, who later took their baby to a neighbor, where he claimed his wife had killed herself.
The assault in Modi’in Illit took place just five days after more than 12,000 people rallied in Tel Aviv, calling on the government to fund programs that battle domestic violence.
But this needs more than awareness. It needs an action plan, funding and implementation. Above all, it needs to be recognized that violence is violence. This is not a “women’s issue.” This is an issue that should concern everyone.
“Who cares about the woman who may be the next victim?” Yesh Atid-Telem MK Orly Fruman said in response to the alleged attack. “Violence against women is not [fate], and we must not accept the situation.” She called on the government to immediately implement the domestic-violence prevention program that has been in the pipeline since 2016.
Calling for an emergency meeting of the social cabinet, Hagit Pe’er, chairperson of Na’amat, the Working and Volunteering Women’s Movement, declared: “We are at the height of a terror wave against women.”
Women’s Spirit CEO Tamar Schwartz and others noted that government funding had been allocated for a domestic-violence prevention program in 2017, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that NIS 50 million be transferred for such a program in December 2018. But the money has not been handed to the relevant parties.
The focus must be on educating people to recognize the danger signals of domestic violence, such as obsessive jealousy, cutting the victim’s ties to family and friends and other acts of emotional and financial abuse. There also needs to be greater enforcement and follow-up of restraining orders that keep an abuser away from his victim. Abusive men should be removed from the home and given therapy rather than putting the onus on abused women to seek shelter, often with their children in tow. Judges need to mete out stricter punishments for domestic violence.
The new government has ministers whose jobs are not clearly defined but who could devote time and ministry staff to the issue of preventing domestic violence and murder. For example, Communal Strengthening and Development Minister Orly Levy-Abecassis (Gesher) could use her position for this purpose.
We do not know the name of the next victim, but we do know that somewhere right now a woman is at risk from her partner. The red lights are already flashing. We owe it to her, her family and ourselves as a society to take action now to prevent another death.