28-year-old Mother of Four Shot Dead in Front of Her Children in Northern Israel

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Police at the scene of Maysar Othman's murder in Haifa, on Wednesday.
Police at the scene of Maysar Othman's murder in Haifa, on Wednesday.Credit: Rami Shllush

A 28-year-old mother of four from Haifa was shot dead on Wednesday morning. Maysar Othman was shot in the head in front of two of her children in an apartment in the Khalisa neighborhood of the city.

Police haven't made any arrests yet. Both Othman's partner and her ex-husband have criminal records, police officials told Haaretz. Othman had an ongoing dispute with her former husband regarding visitation rights, and had complained to the police two weeks ago that her ex-husband did not bring the children back home in time.

The killing came against a backdrop of a surge in domestic violence that started in the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in 2020, as well as an uptick in gun violence in the Arab community. Of the 50 people killed in the Arab community this year alone, eight were women and 25 were under the age of 30, according to Arab-Jewish NGO Abraham Initiatives. The vast majority of them – 41 victims – died by gunfire. 

Maysar Othman.

Meanwhile, the State Comptroller criticized the government's handling of domestic violence, noting in particular in a report released Wedensday that the state failed to disburse the funds allocated for the issue, does not collect data that would assist police efforts, and has not opened enough programs to rehabilitate violent men.

Less than half of the budget earmarked through 2020 for the interministerial program to tackle violence against women was actually transferred, according to State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman's report. Out of 300 million shekels ($92 million) allocated from 2017 through 2020, only 128 million shekels were actually transferred. Some 750 million shekels were originally allocated to the program for a five years period through 2022. 

The comptroller also pointed to a dearth of data that negatively impacts the government’s ability to tackle domestic violence. For one, the government does not have an up-to-date database on domestic partner violence. In addition, the Social Affairs Ministry does not have data on expected waiting times for women looking for a spot at a shelter. 

Additionally, programs for the rehabilitation and treatment of violent men are too few, and even those do not operate year-round, the comptroller found. As a result, in 2019 only about 4,000 of the 20,000 men investigated for domestic violence were treated in Social Services Ministry centers, by the Probation Service or the Prison Service.

The comptroller also found that the Social Affairs Ministry violates its own guidelines by not requiring social workers who treat domestic violence to participate in training and seminars on the subject. From 2015 through 2019, 20 percent of social-services centers did not send the social workers they employ for any training or continuing education. 

The report also found that 62 out of the 110 centers for the treatment and prevention of domestic violence operate in Jewish municipalities of medium to high socioeconomic status, even though the number of people in need of these services is higher in communities with a lower socioeconomic level and in the Arab population.

The chairwoman of the Women's International Zionist Organization, which runs daycares and women's shelters in Israel, said the report's findings demonstrate the need for a national authority to lead the state's efforts on domestic violence. "For generations, beyond their unfulfilled declarations, Israeli governments have never made the eradication of violence a national priority," Anita Friedman said.

"We are facing a social emergency that requires the establishment of a national authority to deal with violence, which will be independent, strong and authorized to spearhead system-wide policy and legislation, while allocating the requisite resources to treat the problem in-depth,” she added. 

According to Labor and Social Affairs Ministry data published in early 2021, monthly domestic violence complaints ballooned by 250 percent in 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic being a major contributing factor. 

In 2019, before the virus, an average of 270 domestic violence complaints were received each month. But in 2020, the average skyrocketed to 699. And it has continued rising in the first months of 2021, to an average of 756.

Police statistics also show there was a substantial increase in domestic violence complaints following the first lockdown in March 2020. The police believe the increased levels of domestic violence will persist, primarily due to the economic distress that the pandemic has caused.

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