20,000 Rally in Tel Aviv Protesting Violence Against Women

The women who organized the nationwide strike on Tuesday demand that 250 million shekels, which were approved last year to fund a program to combat violence against women, be transferred and put to use

Some twenty thousand demonstrators protest violence against women, Tel Aviv, December 4, 2018

The organizers of Tuesday’s protests against domestic violence declared that “we made history today” and said tens of thousands of people took part in an effort that made clear that Israeli women have power.

Twenty-thousand demonstrators gathered in central Tel Aviv to protest violence against women. A nationwide strike was held independently, with many government offices and companies permitting their employee's absence.

“We’ve made clear that we won’t remain at the bottom of the government’s priorities, that we have power. The ground is burning from the grassroots,” the organizers said at the rally in Rabin Square. The “tens of thousands of women and men” who took part in the day’s events showed that neither men nor women “are willing to accept mere words any longer,” the organizers said. “We demand to see action.”

>> Read more: Israeli army operation couldn't hold back outrage over violence against women ■ How anti-femicide protest is uniting women in Israel's Arab and Jewish communities

Demonstrators protest violence against women at Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, December 4, 2018
Meged Gozani

The main event began at 7:30 PM and included speeches by the organizers of the strike, Dror Sadot, Stav Amnon and Ruti Klein, as well as the families of women murdered in recent years, feminist movements' leaders and elected officials.

Einat Nir, who also organized the protest, said in her speech that "this struggle is beyond sectors - it crosses classes, ethnicities and nationalities. We come from all ends of the land. All the edges of the political map. From all parts of our society. In this struggle we stand together."

Nir added that "we will continue to make this voice heard, it will be heard across the countries in the halls of the government and the Knesset."

Demonstrators march in Tel Aviv to protest violence against women on December 4, 2018
\ Moti Milrod

The women who organized the strike are demanding 250 million shekels ($67 million) , which were approved last year to fund a program to combat violence against women, be transferred and put to use. 

Ortal Shefek, the daughter of Eliza Shefek, who was murdered in Netanya two months ago, said: "Tomorrow it could be any one of us. Over twenty women were murdered this year by someone they know, and I see the cry of the women around me who are struggling for a better educational system, for our future."

The sister of Shayma Abu Sharkh, Duaa, who was murdered in Lod, said "the use of the term 'family honor killing' in regards to the murder of every Arabic woman does not match the reality in a lot of the cases, especially in the story of my sister Duaa, and causes damage and wrongs Arabic women and their families."

Demonstrators march in Tel Aviv to protest violence against women on December 4, 2018
\ Moti Milrod

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene the ministerial committee on violence against women on Wednesday morning to advance solutions to the issues raised. Netanyahu himself will chair the committee. This is the second committee formed for the matter.

Earlier on Tuesday, some 200 pairs of shoes painted in a bold shade of red were placed on display on Habima Square in central Tel Aviv as part of the nationwide protest on Tuesday against violence toward women.

Demonstrators march in Tel Aviv to protest violence against women on December 4, 2018
\ Moti Milrod

The installation was organized by Layla Tov, an organization involved in preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault in Israeli nightlife, and by the group Hagadah Hasmalit (the Left Bank), in cooperation with Israeli fashion retailer Comme Il Faut, which solicited donations of used shoes from its customers. (Among Layla Tov's founders are three Haaretz employees).

The installation was inspired by the work of Mexican artist Elina Chauvet, who in 2009 began exhibiting similar displays of shoes around the world in a kind of silent protest at public apathy over female murder victims. The organizers of the Tel Aviv installation contacted Chauvet recently on social media. Early Tuesday, she responded with a message of support for their activities and gave her blessing for the shoe display.

The national day of protest was prompted by allegations that authorities have failed to adequately address violence against women, and was sparked in particular by the deaths last week of Yara Ayoub, 16, in the north and Silvana Tzegai, a 13-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker, in Tel Aviv. A total of 24 women and girls have been killed in Israel this year alone. 

"We are seeking to protest the faulty manner in which violence against women is being dealt with, the disregard for complaints and the absence of tools to assist women who are threatened by the risk of death on a daily basis," said Yasmin Wachs, one of those involved in the project.

"The shoes represent women who existed and who are no longer alive, who were murdered because they were women and who, as a society, we have not managed to protect." She added: "We are demanding a budget, which had been promised but got stalled, of 250 million shekels ($67 million) for the emergency program to prevent violence against women."

Domestic violence installation at Habima Square.
Meged Gozani