High to Low: Living in The Gaps

In Women's Empowerment on May 6, 2010 at 00:43

Gender On The Ground & in Academics: Gaps Between Theory & Practice

It has been a trying week for those of us concerned with violence in Israel. You can catch a glimpse of some of this past week’s stories below— if you don’t mind being appalled.

On the other hand, there was this conference at Bar Ilan University: The Second Annual Conference on Gender “On the Ground” and in Academia: Gaps Between Theory and Practice”, a well-attended event put on by the “Gender On The Ground” Track of Bar Ilan’s Gender Studies Department. We were thrilled to be invited. You see, we were turned down last year and we were concerned that our snub resulted from objections raised by some feminists, many of whom work in the Rape Crisis field, to seeing self-defense as a pro-woman, anti-violence activity.

For some odd reason, I decided that I was the obvious choice to speak at this conference.  I knew it was an important occasion for which we needed a seasoned instructor, I was flattered to be asked and, besides, I live closer to Bar Ilan University than any of our other instructors.

Needless to say, I was nervous. If stage fright and potential conflict wasn’t enough, we had no idea of what to expect re: the teaching conditions, the size or make-up of the group. All I knew was that I had 45 minutes to do my magic. As I packed up my bag of tricks, not knowing which, if any , I was going to use, I kept saying to myself: “Why do I keep putting myself through this?”

Miraculously, I found the building and parking in record time. The conference organizers did an incredible job. Things ran like clockwork. The room assigned to us was perfect and in walked more than 50 bright and well-educated women from all different sectors of our society, as open-minded and positive as I could hope. No hecklers.

I introduced myself, El HaLev and our concept of “feminist”(or what I prefer to call “women-centered”) self-defense as defined by Jocelyn A. Hollander an associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, in her paper “Resistance To Self-Defense” :

“By feminist self-defense training, I mean classes that focus on sexual violence against women, that teach skills appropriate for women’s bodies, for rapid learning, and for sexual assault situations, and that address gender socialization and other psychological issues that make self-defense challenging for many women. Feminist self-defense classes also teach options rather than prescriptions for responding to assault and focus on prevention and interruption of assault as well as physical self-defense (see Hollander,2004; Telsey, 2001).”

I asked for a show of hands: “How many of you are here because you really need to hit something or someone today?” I got several raised hands and plenty of laughs. “Well, I promise you that we will get to that, but hitting is only one part of learning self-defense— and it is neither the first, nor the most important.”

I explained the Five Stage Model of self-defense: Awareness. Intuition. Assertiveness. Attack and Recovery and said a few words about each. Then, I, fellow self-defense instructor Gali Sagi, and 50+ of our newest “close” female friends began to move. We breathed together and discussed conscious breathing is a self-defense skill. We showed how physical balance supports mental balance and demonstrated different uses for assertive body language. We did a brief Belief Inventory by reading statements and asking the women to move to the “I agree” side of the room or the “I disagree” side of the room. Then, I read them the relevant statistical evidence. That, of course, resulted in a few good shouting matches. Healthy self-expression.

We taught them the Palm Heel Strike, had volunteers come up to strike the X-Ray paper we held and had all the women in the room yell “NO!” along with them. One women come up in high heels, so I showed them how to do a good Foot Stomp and told them the story of the assailant in California who, after his unsuccessful attempt to assault a woman, was identified in the hospital by the stiletto heel still stuck in his instep.

The 45 minutes sped by. When I told the group that we had to stop because our time was up, there was a collective groan.

In closing, I asked them if they could feel the joy and power in the room “This is what a self-defense class is like,” I told them” Filled with the joy and the power of facing our fears and finding our strengths.” I invited them to take El HaLev business cards and to write down their contact information if they were interested in learning more. Many of the women came up and took cards, wrote down contact information, stayed to talk, or greeted me in the hall to say how much they enjoyed the workshop.

I called El HaLev to tell them how well things had gone. They were as excited as I was. That was hours ago and my feet have not yet touched the ground.

And now, at least for a few hours, I can remember why I put myself through things like this.


This past week’s headlines included everything from the Rishon L’Zion Oshrenko Family murder trial to another 12 year-old girl, this time from Bat Yam, gang raped (see below), from a child molester in Modiin sent to a Psychiatric Hospital to a 17 year-old beaten to death in Beer Sheva by the step-father of a teenage girl who broke curfew on the night of Lag B’Omer (see below). In the North, there was the Lag B’Omer reveler who allegedly sexually abused a 14 year-old boy during the course of the festivities and the father from the Galil who abused his 2 year-old son to the point of blindness. Tough week.

Police nab girlfriend of teen beaten to death in Beersheba

The 15-year-old girlfriend of a teen beaten to death by her stepfather in Beersheba this week was arrested on Wednesday for providing a false account to police.

Arik Rafaelov, 16, was laid to rest on Tuesday. He was killed after being struck repeatedly by the stepfather. Rafaelov’s brother said the murder victim had been struck with a hammer and kept in stepfather’s home for hours before medical attention was sought, when it was far too late. Police are investigating those claims.

According to some reports, Rafaelov’s girlfriend told police that her stepfather was unarmed during the incident, matching an account given by her stepfather and mother.

Police refused to confirm the reports. “We think her statement to us was false, and the court will have to look into this,” a Negev Police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. “We cannot discuss the content of her statement,” the spokesman added.

Teens suspected of raping 12-year-old outside school
Police arrest four teenage boys in Bat Yam suspected of raping girl who was involved with one of them over two-year period

Yoav Zitun
Published: 05.03.10, 11:31 / Israel News

Police arrested four teenage boys aged 13-17 from Bat Yam on Monday suspected of raping a 12-year-old girl who was involved with one of them. According to suspicions, the teens repeatedly raped the girl over a period of two years, in public locations including outside their school.

Four suspects were arrested in their homes and were accompanied to the police station by their parents. An additional boy was arrested shortly after. They are all slated to face a remand hearing after being interrogated.


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