Israel's Tourism, Justice Ministries Announce Plans to Tackle Gender-based Violence

A pilot program would train hotel staff to spot evidence of sexual assault and prevent it, while proposed legislation would expand victims' rights

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Protesters march through Tel Aviv, calling for action on violence against women, August 2020.
Protesters march through Tel Aviv, calling for action on violence against women, August 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's tourism and justice ministers presented on Tuesday several initiatives to curb incidents of gender-based and sexual violence, ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The Tourism Ministry has developed a program to train hotel staff to help prevent rape and sexual harassment at their hotels, following the alleged gang rape of a teenage girl at the Red Sea Hotel in Eilat over the summer.

The program was initiated by Tourism Asaf Zamir of Kahol Lavan , who has since stepped down from the position. Zamir was prompted to start the program in response to the rape case, and it will begin as a pilot at hotels in Eilat that cater to a younger clientele.

The program will train hotel personnel to be sensitive to signs that a guest may be in distress and will teach the staff how to intervene when there is suspicion that sexual violence is being committed. The ministry expects that the staff will be able to play a significant role in addressing the issue.

The program was developed over the past several months by the Israel Women’s Network and the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in cooperation with the Israel Hotel Association, the Social Equality Ministry and academic experts. The entire cost of the project is estimated at 150,000 sheels ($45,000). A workshop for 100 hotel employees costs just 1,500 shekels. The workshops are expected to begin in another four months, after the training arrangements are completed.

The Red Sea Hotel in Eilat, where a teenage girl was allegedly gang raped in August 2020.Credit: Liav Peled

The current tourism minister, Orit Farkash-Hacohen (Kahol Lavan), who presented the program at the Knesset on Tuesday, said it would provide an immediate response in cases in which intervention is necessary. “The program will increase awareness not only at hotels but in society as a whole, and I very much hope that it helps create a safer environment for us and our children,” she said.

The trial of the 11 defendants in the summer gang rape in Eilat opened on Tuesday in Be’er Sheva District Court. Four of the defendants are charged with aggravated rape while the others face charges as accessories to the crime or for indecent acts or failure to prevent a crime. Eight of those charged are juveniles. The trial is being held behind closed doors.

Also on Tuesday, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn called to push through legislation drafted by the ministry to expand the rights of victims of sexual violence as part of its effort to combat violence against women.

It would, for example, give alleged victims the right to be heard prior to any final decision to withdraw indictments in their cases and would spare them to need to provide evidence in their complaints that would require that the suspects in their cases to be present.

The legislation would also provide training for judges on how to effectively deal with cases of domestic violence, sexual offenses and the needs of victims of sexual offenses as part of the mandatory training that the judges receive.

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