Cash-strapped Women’s Shelters in Israel Turn Down 'Disgraceful' State Loan

Ruth Rasnic, the founder of No to Violence nonprofit, calls Social Affairs Ministry offer 'a mockery – they think we’re dumb women'

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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No to Violence founder Ruth Rasnic, center.
No to Violence founder Ruth Rasnic, center.Credit: Moti Kimche
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

The heads of Israel’s women’s shelters last week rejected an offer by the Social Affairs Ministry of a loan equal to 10 percent of each shelter’s budget for 2016. Although the loans would have been worth tens or hundreds of thousands of shekels, they would have to be paid back in four stages, starting in September. Some of the shelter directors termed the offer “disgraceful.”

In a letter to the ministry, the forum of nonprofit associations that run the shelters said loans or advances would not resolve the shelters’ financial problems.

“The shelters are suffering from under budgeting, and the appropriate response to this problem is budget increases that will enable us to continue serving these women and their children in a proper, professional manner,” the letter said.

Before making the offer, ministry officials declared that the ministry would be raising the operating budgets allocated to women’s shelters, acknowledging that the per-woman payment the ministry makes per month hadn’t been updated in years.

“We’re talking about a significant budget increase that will go into effect in the coming month and will even be applied retroactively,” the ministry said Thursday.

But ministry officials are refusing to make a commitment to the nonprofits as to when the tariff will go up, and by how much. Meanwhile, the shelters must continue to operate under a cloud of uncertainty. Each shelter is operating with an average deficit of $500,000 shekels ($141,000).

No to Violence, which operates three shelters for battered women, has already announced plans to close two of them and scheduled a meeting for Sunday night, at which the decision was expected to be finalized.

Ruth Rasnic, the founder of No to Violence and an Israel Prize laureate, was infuriated by the ministry’s offer of a loan. “This is a mockery, an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes,” she said. “They think we’re dumb women who don’t understand anything. Enough!”

There is a serious gap between the shelters’ outlays and what they receive from the ministry. According to data obtained by Haaretz, every shelter needs between 300,000 and 800,000 shekels more annually to continue operating.

The ministry said, “All the nonprofits, including No to Violence, were given an advance after media reports pointed out the operating deficit. The ministry director general invited the nonprofit operators to a meeting to continue to discuss a move that after 15 years would update the tariffs and even pay them retroactively. Changing the tariffs also depends on the treasury and local authorities, but the aim is to erase the shelters’ deficits so they can continue their important work.”