Eighteen Israeli women have died before their time this year, all of them victims of spousal murder. Today I took the bus across town to Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda open-air market to see replicas of the murder weapons on display amid the ripe tomatoes, juicy grapefruit, and salty olives that are the usual wares.
Knives, a cleaver, a hammer, an axe, a gun, and a baseball bat were posted on a three-panel stand alongside the photos and details of the murdered women. Paulina Lutski, 74, of Haifa was one of the victims; another was Hala Faisal-Salam, 33, of Nazareth.
The macabre exhibition was part of a protest marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. On this Thursday afternoon, when the market was filled with people shopping for the Sabbath, the display drew a steady stream of curious passersby, including young couples, ultra-Orthodox men, and other men and women of all ages. A few elderly women, obviously unaware of the protest, asked if the knives were for sale. One middle-aged man kept repeating, “But a woman can do in a man with just one word; she doesn’t even need a weapon.”
Domestic violence causes more deaths than terrorism in Israel today. The number of women killed by their spouses so far this year is twice the number of Israelis—both men and women—killed in terror attacks. But everyone loves to talk about terrorism and almost no one wants to talk about domestic violence. You can’t use it to raise money or garner support for Israel, and there’s no outside enemy to blame.
So the protest organizers had a hard time finding a venue, until Shimon Darwish, head of the Mahane Yehuda Merchants Center, came to the rescue.
“He welcomed us with open arms,” said Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center (www.irac.org), of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, which organized the protest together with Rabbis for Human Rights (www.rhr.org.il).
The protesters distributed fliers with a hotline number, read out the names of the victims, recited a prayer for an end to domestic violence, and said kaddish, the mourners’ benediction, for the dead women.
And in a clear call to all Israeli women who live in fear, they offered the following advice: “It won’t go away by itself.” “Do not be silent.” “Set aside money for yourself.” “Learn self-defense.” And “Call the police.”
Text and photos copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text or photos may be used without written permission of the author.