Posts Tagged ‘gender inequality’

The Katzav Effect

In Sexual Assault on March 26, 2011 at 21:43

TIME Magazine
Friday, Mar. 25, 2011
Israel’s Katsav Rape Case: A Plus for Women’s Rights?
By Karl Vick / Jerusalem

In a parliamentary government like Israel’s, pretty much all executive power resides in the Prime Minister. The office of President carries certain responsibilities, such as signing treaties and appointing the head of the central bank, but it’s largely a ceremonial post. Israel’s head of state is basically there to make the country look good.

So when Moshe Katsav, who held the office from 2000 to 2007, was convicted of rape last December, it did not enhance the dignity of the office. Nor did the outburst Tuesday morning in the Tel Aviv courtroom where he had just been sentenced to seven years in prison. “You are mistaken, ma’am, you are mistaken!” Katsav cried to one of the three judges he faced. “You have committed an injustice! The judgment is wrong! You allowed lies to emerge victorious! The women know that they lied! They know that they lied, and they are laughing at the judgment!”

The jurists took turns trying to calm the defendant — “Sir, sit down quietly, with dignity,” one of them said — then returned to reading out the sentence. In addition to jail time, it calls for Katsav to pay 100,000 shekels (about $28,500) to the woman he was found guilty of raping when she worked for him at the Tourism Ministry, which the Likud Party loyalist ran in the late 1990s. Katsav also must pay the equivalent of $7,100 to one of two former employees of the President’s residence whom he was convicted of sexually harassing. His attorneys announced he would appeal.

In the spasm of agonized national self-reflection that immediately ensued, one positive note was sounded again and again: in a country that still regards itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, “nobody is above the law, not even a former President,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it.

In fact, Israelis have grown accustomed to the long arm of the law reaching into the highest levels of government. Netanyahu was elected to an office vacated by Ehud Olmert, whose trial for corruption is under way in Jerusalem. The nation’s political landscape is stippled with former officials widely expected to resume their careers after waiting out penalties.

The real import of the Katsav conviction is the offense. Israel once enjoyed a reputation as an early exemplar of women’s rights. Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister in the 1960s. Young women wait at bus stops wearing olive green fatigues and carrying M-16s, military service being compulsory for both genders.

But in the corridors of power, it’s been a man’s world for generations. “This is considered a feminist country? That’s something new to me,” laughs Irit Gazit, who runs the legal aid bureau for the Women’s International Zionist Organization. An expert on sexual harassment, Gazit has been conducting workshops for the Israel Defense Forces. With its heavily male officer corps and legions of young female conscripts, it has often had to deal with accustions of harassment, yet it remains a crucial role model for a society that reveres its military.

In the gradual change of public attitudes, women’s rights advocates say a pivot point was the 2001 conviction of Yitzhak Mordechai, a retired major general convicted of indecency after being accused of unwelcome advances by a string of female subordinates. “While we were having coffee, he forced himself on me,” one testified. “He lay on top of me and tried to put his hand inside my blouse. I said to him, ‘Itzik, what are you doing?’ ” The accusations came in what would be a familiar pattern: news of the first complaint was followed by a wave of others. “It was a common assumption that if you were in a powerful position, you could do whatever you want,” says Gazit. “It was common in the army.”

The assumption has grown a bit less common with the publicity surrounding each new case. And there have been a lot of them. In one week last November, the nominee for national police commissioner was undone by a complaint from a woman who said he had sexually assaulted her at a conference. After another women alleged he had raped and drugged her, the candidate claimed the incident was not only consensual but a threesome. Meanwhile the director of the public security ministry resigned, acknowledging a relationship with a subordinate “that went beyond the bounds of work.”

Meanwhile, Katsav’s yearlong trial proceeded largely out of view, the three-judge panel barring most press coverage after sensationalized coverage of the investigation. The verdict included the judges’ tart observation that the Iranian-born Katsav had attempted to frame his accusers, followed by the court’s release of audio tapes supporting the allegation. “Now is a time of change,” says Gazit. “We need to educate men and women both. I hope cases like Katsav’s really serve this purpose.”

There is evidence they do. In January, the civil service commission reported that sexual harassment complaints were up 40% over a year earlier, a surge attributed largely to increasing awareness of the issue. Rape crisis counselors referred to it as “the Katsav effect.”

The Bitter Taste of Victory: a Self-Defense Success Story

In Sexual Harrassment on November 28, 2010 at 13:37
A short time ago, El HaLev received a letter from a graduate of one of our 10-hour self-defense program. One night, this young woman went to a bus stop. A young man began to stare at her, moved closer and sat down next to her on the bench. He began by making verbal overtures and then, sexual advances . She resisted verbally. He began touching himself, left and returned. Finally, she called a friend waiting at the next bus stop, who ran over to join her at her stop and the harassment stopped.

“What did I do wrong?” was the underlying question posed by the letter.

This was  my response:

Thank you for your letter. First of all, what a harrowing experience!  We are angered and saddened that you had to experience it at all. And we are very impressed  that you have decided to turn it into a learning experience. We applaud your strength and your wisdom.

First of all, here is a list of several things we can tell from your story that you did right:

  • You trusted your intuition when it told you that something was not right about the situation
  • You tried to put distance between yourself and the man who was worrying you.
  • You saw the situation as one that might require self-defense skills
  • You sat down next to someone else to create safety in numbers
  • You tried to set a verbal boundary
  • You kept reassessing the situation as things changed
  • You called your friend for support and help
  • And, most of all, you never gave up

So, as disturbing as your experience was, you succeeded in keeping an incident that started off as sexual harrassment into what your attcker clearly intended to turn into sexual assault. In short, you won!

Now, let’s take a look at some of the details of your story and discuss a few things that might be helpful to you now and in the future:

1) “The second man started staring at me. I looked away and tried to ignore him”: This is one of those situations that many of us have difficulty with. The question I would ask here is: Did you choose to look like you were ignoring him among other alternatives (like using strong body language, creating a physical barrier, using your voice, etc) because you thought it would work best, or did you choose it because you were worried about embarrassing yourself or hurting his feelings if you choose a more pro-active course of action? The fact is that pretending to ignore someone is a legitimate technique that works some of the time. As it happened here, each time he moved closer and, thereby, tested your boundaries, you were also in a position to test the effectiveness of the technique you were using and perhaps try something else.

2)  “I couldn’t move further over on the bench because another women wearing earphones was sitting there and I didn’t want to bother her“: Since we can now look back and see that having your friend join you was what finally deterred this persistent harasser, we now know something we could only guess back then: waking this Beauty from her slumber, i.e. getting her to remove her earphones and asking her to ally with you, might well have stopped the situation in its tracks. From experience, we can tell you that getting her attention would have been a favor to this young woman, though she might not have appreciated it at the time :-). Her disconnection from the environment sets her up as a prime target for a potential assailant like this one. Perhaps she would have learned the lesson that pretending that nothing is happening around you doesn’t make it so— without having to go through the kind of harassment that you endured here.

3) “I tried to speak to him in the most aggressive voice I could muster but all that came out was: ‘ Stop. Enough. Please, that’s enough.” : First of all, this tactic DID result in him taking his hands off of you and onto himself. So it obviously had some effect. In order increase its effectiveness, there are a couple of things you might consider:

a) If you want to be civilized and say “please”, then you can say “please”. Go right ahead— as long as your tone of voice and body language make it very clear that this is not really a request; it is an order!

b) When issuing an order like this, it helps you to focus and him to comply if you tell him, not just what you want him to STOP doing, but what you want him to do— in this case: “Go away”, “get lost”, “leave me alone”, or anything like that: clear, short and to the point. And be prepared to repeat yourself as many times as it takes for him to understand that he has been caught, his game is over and he might as well go home.

4) “In any case, I know not to wait alone at bus stops if possible— especially not at night.” : Be sure that you learn the right lessons from your experience. There is nothing wrong with your choosing to wait at a bus stop alone at night or at any other time of day. HE was the only one who did anything wrong here. You have the right to be where you wish when you wish. And, as you have demonstrated so well, along with that right goes taking responsibility for your own safety, i.e. paying attention to your environment, listening to your intuition, setting boundaries when you feel you need to, removing yourself from difficult situations when you can and fighting like a tigeress to get away when you can’t. If you do these things, there is no reason to restrict yourself, who you are,what you say, how you dress or where you choose to be. Self-defense training frees us to be who we are, to have our freedom and to stay safe all at the same time.

And one more thing. Be kind and compassionate with yourself. Your nervous system doesn’t care whether or not your struggle became physical; it only knows that it fought a  pitched battle for its survival. The fact that you “won” does not mean that it was not  traumatic.  Talk about what happened. Learn from it. Grow from it.

It may not feel like it right now but yours was a story of self-defense success. We can’t prevent people from acting like idiots. Sometimes we can stop them. In your case, you did more than that; you prevented a physical assault.

We are very, very grateful for whatever part we were able to play in that victory and in your many victories to come.

Life in “da Hood”

In women on May 24, 2010 at 01:51

We in Israel live in a tough neighborhood. While it is important that we look our society’s challenges straight in the eye, it is also important that we see them in context. The fact that we hear about the problems in our Western-style democracy does not mean that we have more problems than the more closed societies around us. It only means that, for better and worse, we are willing to discuss them in public.

Here are two stories from the Jerusalem Post about neighboring societies dealing with issues we rarely see discussed aloud. We can all applaud the courage and chutzpah of the ‘not-going-to-take-it-anymore’ woman in Saudi Arabia who struck back at the Virtue Police. We can all feel the horror and pain of the girls and young women in Gaza who are being sexually assaulted by family members. But only if we can avoid politicization of these events.

A word to the author and the interviewee in the second article: The fight against those raise their hands against their own flesh and blood is eveyyone’s fight. However, when reporting becomes blaming and sloganeering, Mr. GHRAIEB and Dr. Qara, the forces of Good are divided against themselves. Stop blaming “The Siege” for making perpetrators act on their vilest impulses, so all of us can work together to empower people with the tools they need—psychological, emotional and physical— to fight back against violence directed against them.

Saudi woman beats up virtue cop

Incident follows a wave of challenges to religious authorities.

It was a scene Saudi women’s rights activists have dreamt of for years.

When a Saudi religious policeman sauntered about an amusement park in the eastern Saudi Arabian city of Al-Mubarraz looking for unmarried couples illegally socializing, he probably wasn’t expecting much opposition.

But when he approached a young, 20-something couple meandering through the park together, he received an unprecedented whooping.

A member of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Saudi religious police known locally as the Hai’a, asked the couple to confirm their identities and relationship to one another, as it is a crime in Saudi Arabia for unmarried men and women to mix.

For unknown reasons, the young man collapsed upon being questioned by the cop.

According to the Saudi daily Okaz, the woman then allegedly laid into the religious policeman, punching him repeatedly, and leaving him to be taken to the hospital with bruises across his body and face.

“To see resistance from a woman means a lot,” Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, a Saudi women’s rights activist, told The Media Line news agency. “People are fed up with these religious police, and now they have to pay the price for the humiliation they put people through for years and years. This is just the beginning and there will be more resistance.”

“The media and the Internet have given people a lot of power and the freedom to express their anger,” she said. “The Hai’a are like a militia, but now whenever they do something it’s all over the Internet. This gives them a horrible reputation and gives people power to react.”

Neither the religious police nor the Eastern Province police has made a statement on the incident, and both the names of the couple and the date of the incident have not been made public, but on Monday the incident was all over the Saudi media.

Should the woman be charged, she could face a lengthy prison term and lashings for assaulting a representative of a government institution.

Saudi law does not permit women to be in public spaces without a male guardian. Women are not allowed to drive, inherit, divorce or gain custody of children, and cannot socialize with unrelated men.

Officers of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice are tasked with enforcing such laws, but it hasn’t been an easy year for Saudi Arabia’s religious police.

The decision last year by Saudi King Abdullah to open the kingdom’s first co-educational institution, with no religious police on campus, led to a national crises for Saudi Arabia’s conservative religious authorities, with the new university becoming a cultural proxy war for whether or not women and men should be allowed to mix publicly.

A senior Saudi cleric publicly criticized the gender mixing at the university and was summarily fired by the king.

That was followed in December by a surprise announcement from Sheikh Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, head of the Saudi religious police commission in Mecca, who published an article against gender segregation, leading to threats on his life and rumors that he had been or would be fired.

Meanwhile, the Saudi government has gone to great efforts recently to improve the image of the religious police, most notably by firing the national director of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice earlier this year. The new director Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Humain then announced a series of training programs and a special unit to handle complaints against the religious police.

Last month, however, members of the religious police in the northern province of Tabuk were charged with assaulting a young woman as she attempted to visit her son, in a move that marked an unprecedented challenge to the religious police’s authority.

“There is some sort of change taking place,” Nadya Khalife, the Middle East women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, told The Media Line. “There is clearly a shifting mentality regarding to the male guardianship law and similar issues. More women are speaking out, there are changes within the government, there is a mixed university, the king was photographed with women, they want to allow women to work in the courts and there are changes within the justice ministry. So you can witness some kind of change unfolding but it’s not quite clear what’s happening and it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.”

The Nakba ("Catastrophe") many Gazan girls & women are facing is sexual abuse at the hands of male relatives

May 20, 110 Thursday 15 Sivan 3870 23:48 IST

Photo by: AP
Cases of sexual assault by relatives surfacing in Gaza
Psychologist suggests unemployment, boredom, oppression and life under siege contribute to drug use and depravity in Strip.

Eighteen-year-old E.S. hides in the corner of her dark room, fearing the approach of a family member coming to prey on her flesh again. The nervous girl with deep green eyes and golden locks makes several grueling attempts at speech, eventually letting out in screams that she was being raped by her relatives, finally leading her to isolation.

S.G. is another such case. She is 25 years old, with blue eyes and short black hair. Even the manner in which she sits reflects her suffering. She, too, fell prey to her father when he attacked her, trying to steal her virginity.

The stories of E.S. and S.G. indicate a growing phenomenon in the Gaza Strip, in which many girls find themselves trapped by their parents, brothers and relatives.

Staring around her in a state of panic, E.S. whispers that she has been sexually assaulted by her father since age four, right in front of her mother.

“I was not aware of what he was doing,” she told The Media Line. “When I reached to the stage of perception, only then I realized that what he is doing is totally forbidden,” she continued.

Her voice then drifted and tears started flowing down her cheeks.

“I went to my mother to complain about it, but she did nothing,” E.S. continued. “She was afraid of being fired by my father or divorced, so she threatened me not to say a word to anyone.”

E.S. then turned to her only uncle, hoping that perhaps he would be able to help.

“When I recounted [to] my uncle what happened to me his eyes shone, and I was hit by a state of shock when I was asked to commit outrageous sexual acts with him,” E.S. explained after insisting that she be allowed to finish telling her story.

Her uncle said he would prevent her from leaving the house until she complied, E.S. said.

She has attempted to commit suicide several times throughout her young life, but found herself unable to go through with it at the last moment.

“I was aware of the punishment that awaits me in the hereafter, so I was reluctant, and wished for ‘Prince Charming’ to come on his white horse and save me from this mire of wolves [and enable me] to live my life somewhat in a normal way,” she explained.

One of the most horrific cases of family rape is that of S.G., who strongly objected to speaking at first, but later agreed on condition of anonymity.

“In the beginning, my father was stalking me and watching my movements, taking advantage of the absence of all my family members from the house,” she explained.

During her father’s first attempt, only foreplay was involved, making S.G. think that it was a show of love and tenderness, just like any other parents would do with their daughters.

“When he went too far, crossing every red line, I tried to stop him, but he refused. I started screaming, [thinking] perhaps someone will hear my voice and answer me, but he quickly put his hand on my mouth and said: ‘I have the right to use you more than any stranger,'” S.G. continued, disgust taking over her face.

“After finishing his unforgivable crime, he threatened to kill me if I disclosed the secret. I had to agree, believing that he would not repeat it again,” she continued.

But some days later he tried again to assault her, so she told her mother and brother. Her mother was shocked and lost consciousness, while her brother confronted his father. The father justified his crime by saying it was his right to use his own daughter. So the young son told the police, leading to his father’s imprisonment.

One of the S.G.’s relatives heard her story by accident, and decided to marry S.G. to preserve her dignity. When her father came out of prison, the husband wanted to open a new page by asking his wife to go visit her father because after all, he would always be her father. According to S.G., at the end of the visit her father prevented her from leaving and threw her husband out of the house.

“She is my daughter and I deserve to use her more than you, so I will rape her!” the father screamed.

This made her husband go mad, but in the end he managed to save her from her father’s brutality and bring her home safe – albeit traumatized.

The sad story continued with S.G.’s younger sister, who was also tormented by their father. In a particularly harsh move, the girls’ brother finally murdered their father to save his younger sisters from the teeth of this beast, causing a crisis in the family.

Meeting with psychologist Zahia Qara at Gaza’s mental health center, S.G. confirmed that although it may shift sands to talk about them, cases of incest, adultery and rape do occur in the Gazan community. She added that the number of victims coming to the center for this reason was, in fact, increasing.

“In order to help him or her feel strong and be able to overcome the problem,” said Qara, the center provides psychological treatment through allowing the victim to talk about the tragedy.

The center also teaches victims how to defend themselves by confronting and threatening the aggressor and utilizing the sources of power available to them.

“Psychotherapy reduces the psychosocial risks of the situation, but it does not eliminate it or get rid of it 100 percent, because the aggressor does not stop after one time, but repeats his repulsive actions several times, leaving a bad effect on the psychological status of the victim,” explained Qara.

Qara indicated that victims who fall prey to their family usually have vulnerable and immature personalities; they are fearful, shy and introverted; and they are unable to confront the situation and set borders between themselves and others.

She added that most victims who have turned to the center have complained to their mothers but nevertheless they were left defenseless.

Qara pointed out that many reports are showing that drug consumption has increased drastically among Gazans, and that drugs like “tramal” (medically known as tramadol) have become very accessible and cheap. Not all pharmacies ask for a prescription before handing over such drugs, some of which are known to be sexual stimulants.

Qara believes that the siege, bad living conditions in Gaza, unemployment, oppression and lack of activities to fill youths’ free time are all motivations behind Gazans’ reckless recourse to drugs and sex.

To fight this, said Qara, people must spread awareness, give youth activities to keep them busy, decrease unemployment rates, put pharmacies and drug use under surveillance and lift the siege on Gaza for a better life.

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.

Violence We Prevent Makes No Headlines

In violence prevention on October 26, 2009 at 16:12
Young Arab Jerusalemites Learning How To Stop Violence Against Them

Young Arab Women in Jerusalem Learning How To Stop Violence Directed Against Them

While rocks and words fly in response to the  Imams’ outlandish fantasy of some Jewish conspirency to retake the Temple Mount, there is a real battle going on right here in the halls of El HaLev, a battle to prevent violence.

For the last two Sundays, 16 young Arabic-speaking women served by the Arab section of the Youth Advancement Department of the Jerusalem Municipality  have made their way from their homes in East Jerusalem, Shuafat, Beit Zafafa and Sheikh Jarrah to our headquarters in the Talpiot section of Jerusalem for an IMPACT for Teens Self-Defense Course. In IMPACT, they learn how to feel and trust their intuition,   identify dangerous situations,  use words and body language to discourage potential attackers and, when necessary, to employ full-power self-defense techniques that can enable them to disable their attackers and survive.

According to one of our IMPACT staff members: “It’s really hard to tell who is more excited about this course: the girls, their community workers or the staff of El HaLev.”

For these students, who tend to  come from families on the less-educated, less-affluent side of Arab society, these skills are a virtual revolution.

Violence Against Women in The Arab Sector

In order to confront the fear of violence, these girls are dealing with enormous issues concerning who their society views violence against women. According to a poll conducted last year by Naamat Women, some 70% of Arab women in Israel believe that women who are pushed, slapped or struck by their male partners are not victims of domestic violence.  Some 73% believe that women whose partners curse or humiliate them are not victims of violence.

Similarly, these girls are growing up female under the cloud of  “honor killing”, the murder of women and girls by  family members as the result of  such things as  dressing in an “immodest” or “too-Western” manner, opting out of  arranged marriages or engaging in certain sexual acts, including being the victims of rape.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the annual worldwide total of honor-killing victims may be as high as 5,000. UNICEF reports, based on 1999 estimates, that more than two-thirds of all murders in the Gaza strip and the West Bank were most likely ‘honor’ killings.

Against this background and these odds, and despite the difficulty getting out of their neighborhoods under the current conditions, these brave girls have completed eight of the 16 hours of this  four-session course. I am certain that they will be back next week, and the week after to finish their course. Despiteit all, they seem bound and determined to ensure that they acquire the skills to keep at bay the violence that lives and breathes all around them.

Untold thanks to our staff, the staff of the Arab section of Jerusalem’s Youth Advancement Department and the Kathryn Ames Foundation, whose generous contribution made this course possible.

The rioters in the Old City and their sympathizers may be making headlines. But WE are making a difference!

Jerusalem: Temple Mount riots resume

Efrat Weiss
Latest Update:     10.25.09, 15:27 / Israel News

Nine police officers were lightly injured Sunday stones and Molotov cocktails hurled at forces stationed at the Temple Mount as part of the high state of alert in the area. A female Australian reporter was lightly injured by stones in the Old City.

Forces patrolling the area also noticed oil poured on the floor, apparently in order to cause the officers to slip and make their activity in the area more difficult.

A police force entered the Temple Mount compound in order to catch the stone throwers, using shock grenades. More than 18 people were arrested on the Mount and in its surroundings, including senior Fatah member Khatem Abdel Kader, who is charge of the Jerusalem portfolio in the Palestinian organization.

Palestinians and members of the Waqf reported that at least eight worshippers were injured, but the police said they were unaware of any injuries.

Abdel Kader was arrested at the Temple Mount plaza after allegedly rioting, assaulting policemen and calling on worshippers to launch a parade. He was taken in for questioning by the Jerusalem Police’s minority unit.

Three masked Arab men were arrested in the afternoon hours after hurling stones at the security forces in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. Police also detained Ali Abu Sheikha, No. 3 in the Islamic Movement’s northern branch.

Abu Sheikha was arrested on suspicion of rioting and calling on residents to go out and demonstrate. In mid October he was detained on suspicion of inciting Arabs near the Temple Mount during the riots which began on Yom Kippur Eve.

Another incident was recorded when Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) tried to enter the Temple Mount but was stopped by the police. “This is extremely severe,” Tibi said in response. “The police are violating the law. It’s not in their authority. The al-Aqsa Mosque is not a closed military zone.”

Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen told reporters while visiting the Mount, “I identify many large groups of east Jerusalem Arabs and Israeli Arabs who have arrived here following calls made by the Islamic Movement, whose leaders are here. I call on them to practice restraint and calm and not to incite.

“The Jerusalem Police will act firmly against any rioters on the Temple Mount. The inciters are the same people you know. It’s impossible that the Israel Police will have to deal with the Islamic Movement every Sunday, and so we will handle this on the investigative level.”

He clarified that the police did not enter the al-Aqsa Mosque and had no plans to do so.

The Jerusalem Police accused elements in the Islamic Movement and Hamas of inflaming the situation after calling on youngsters to riot on the Temple Mount on Saturday.

Police officials clarified that the forces were prepared for the disturbances and exerted efforts to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount, allowing worshippers and tourists to enter the site. Several minutes after the Mount opened for prayers, however, rioters began hurling stones, objects, Molotov cocktails, acid and oil at police officers patrolling the area, forcing the police to enter the site.

Mount closed to visitors

Following the violent incidents, the police closed the mount to Muslim worshippers and visitors. The Jewish worshippers’ prayers in the Western Wall are continuing as planned, while the reinforced police forces remain in the area to prevent another outbreak of riots.

The area was cleared of worshippers, apart from several dozen young men who remained inside the mosque. The police are trying to hold a dialogue with different representatives, including the Waqf, in order to calm things down.

Tensions high on Temple Mount

The violence spread to other places in the Old City, and in one alley Arabs hurled stones at passersby and policemen. There were no reports of injuries or damage, and the police began searching for the stone throwers.

The police fear the recurrence of violent incidents on the Mount after Arabs in east Jerusalem and northern Israel were urged Saturday to come protect the al-Aqsa Mosque, while right-wing activists called on Jews to come visit the Temple Mount in masses.

The police decided Saturday evening not to close the Mount to visitors and not to limit the age of Muslim worshippers, but vowed to act firmly against any attempt to cause disturbances or change the status quo on the Mount and in its surroundings.

The Islamic Movement announced that it would make buses available for worshipers who wish to arrive at the mosque Sunday. The movement’s spokesman Zahy Nujeidat said the flyer calling Arabs to protect the area was issued “in response to those who try and desecrate al-Aqsa.”

According to police, there was a call for the capital’s Arab residents to “protect Temple Mount from Jewish conquest,” as well as a call on Jews by extreme-right elements to arrive at the compound.

Stopping Sexual Assault in The Israel Defense Forces

In violence prevention on September 17, 2009 at 15:42
As unlikely as it may seem, 1 of 7 of  female IDF soldiers will be sexually harassed or worse during their service

As unlikely as it may seem, 1 of 7 of female IDF soldiers will be sexually harassed or worse during their service

This morning, I read a report issued this summer by the Knesset committee on The Status of  Women, chaired by Knesset Member Zipi Hotovely (Likud).

According to the 2008 military survey, one of seven female soldiers report that they have been victims of sexual harassment or assault. Of the 363 reports of sexual harassment or worse , 62%  were physical; 5% of the complainants were men. When it came time to pursue the charges, only 63% of the women complainants chose to pursue the matter further.

I was impressed enough to write Knesset Member Hotovely the following letter:

I am one of the founders and the Executive Director of El HaLev, a non-profit woman-powered organization dedicated to empowering women of all ages, body, mind and spirit, through training in the Martial Arts and Self-Defense. Since our founding in 2003, we have worked with thousands of women and collaborated with dozens of government and non-profit agencies in pursuit of a kinder, gentler and safer Israel…

…You wisely added that the fact that only 63% of the women complainants chose to pursue the matter further, indicates problems in the system. It also highlights the society-wide problem of being re-victimized after an assault.

I am a great believer in “Crisis=Opportunity”. Your implications of this survey are disturbing. However, they also present an unprecedented opportunity to empower an ever-greater proportion of Israeli women.

We at El HaLev (www.elhalev.org) are recognized throughout the country as The Experts in training women to find their physical and emotional strengths and use them in their own defense. We met this week with an Wingate army training representative to discuss the possibility of introducing our truly women-oriented self-defense, assertiveness and life-skills training into the army training regimen toward the goal of producing better, safer and more confident female soldiers. We were well-received and, I am certain, more meetings will follow…

…If we are going to succeed in our mission of reducing verbal and physical violence against women in our society in general, and the army in particular, we will need the help and support of people like you, leaders on the frontlines of changing the status of women in Israel.

Please do me the honor of meeting with me to explore how we can work together with your network of empowered women toward our common goal.

Now you all know MY resolution for wording toward my life’s dream the New Year.

What’s yours?


In case you thought that the IDF is too “macho” to consider making women’s self-defense part of the training of female soldiers, don’t take MY word for it…

IDF mulling self-defense course for all female recruits

Aug. 9, 2009

Citing fears of kidnappings and sexual assault, the IDF is considering establishing a special self-defense course for all female soldiers who enlist in the military.

The plan is the brainchild of Col. Dr. Avi Moyal, head of the IDF’s Combat Fitness Division. Moyal has discussed the idea with Brig.-Gen. Gila Klifi-Amir, the General Staff’s Adviser on Women’s Affairs and the two are hoping to secure a budget for the program.

Under the plan, all female recruits will participate in a week-long self-defense course to provide them with skills how to fend off potential attackers, rapists and kidnappers.

“This course will be aimed at providing the female soldiers with self-confidence to travel around the country in the framework of their military service as many of them need to” explained a senior officer in the IDF’s Ground Forces Command.

Most female soldiers in the IDF serve in non-combat positions and undergo a very low-level basic training without receiving any real self defense skills.

“Very few female soldiers are given an introductory class in hand-to-hand combat but not enough to know how to fight off an attacker,” the officer said.

Self-Defense Training: Does It Prevent Violence?

In violence prevention on August 26, 2009 at 01:30

Israeli Teen Performing Hands-On Violence Prevention

An interview with researcher Jocelyn Hollander

Special Thanks to the IMPACT-Boston Blog for publishing and sharing this article

Jocelyn Hollander has been an advocate for women’s self-defense for more than 20 years. As a researcher she conducted one of the only systematic studies of why those who advocate women’s empowerment and sexual violence prevention struggle embrace the work of IMPACT and other similar organizations.

IMPACT: How did you initially become interested in self-defense as a response to violence against women and sexual violence in particular?

JOCELYN HOLLANDER: I took my first self-defense class more or less by accident. My college roommate became interested in women’s self-defense and talked me into taking a class with her. I was actually quite reluctant to take that class – little did I know that it would transform my life and direct my career path for the next two decades. I probably wouldn’t be a sociologist, and I certainly wouldn’t be studying violence against women, if it weren’t for that class. My college roommate has a lot to answer for!

Once I overcame my initial resistance to taking that class, I fell in love with self-defense. I suddenly understood the world around me in a new way. For example, I realized how much my life had been governed by fear, and I stopped taking that fear for granted. Why should I feel afraid? Why should I have to rely on others for protection? I realized that I had the ability to protect myself, and that realization was life-changing.

IMPACT: What are some of the positive outcomes you’ve observed in women as they participate in self-defense training programs?

JH: I’ve studied women who have taken a class much like the first one I took – an intensive, feminist class offered on a college campus. Not surprisingly, I’ve found that learning self-defense increases women’s confidence in their ability to defend themselves. They feel stronger, they know a range of verbal and physical strategies they could use if confronted with an assault, and they feel confident that they’d be able to actually use these strategies.

Even more importantly, my research has found that learning self-defense also empowers women in many other areas of their lives. They feel better about themselves and their bodies. For example, they say things like, “I feel more comfortable in my own skin,” or “I see my own power and strength.” They report feeling more comfortable interacting with everyone from family to friends to partners to strangers. They develop more self-confidence, and they no longer see women as weak and men as inevitably more powerful. Perhaps most importantly, they have an increased sense of self-worth – they believe that they are worth defending. These are huge changes; they affect virtually every aspect of women’s lives.

IMPACT:  You’ve done and excellent systematic analysis of why people struggle with or object to self-defense training as a strategy for preventing sexual violence.  More specifically you’ve addressed the struggles of feminists and sexual violence prevention advocates. What are the most common reasons for resistance?

JH: I’ve encountered three types of resistance. First, some people believe that women are fundamentally incapable of defending themselves. I’ve called this the “it’s impossible” reaction: why encourage (or teach or study or fund) women’s self-defense if women are simply too weak to be effective?

Second, some people argue that teaching women self-defense is too dangerous. The argument here is that if women learn self-defense, they’ll become over-confident – or foolhardy or even aggressive – and go out looking for fights, which of course (buying into the “it’s impossible” theme) they’ll inevitably lose.

Finally, some people argue that teaching and advocating women’s self-defense is victim-blaming, because it can imply that women are responsible for controlling men’s violence.  Perhaps, they argue, learning about the effectiveness of self-defense will encourage survivors to blame themselves – if they’d only fought back, or fought back more effectively, then the assault would not have happened.

There’s also been another argument recently that says that self-defense training should not be a priority because our main focus should be on “primary prevention” – that is, on the root causes of violence. Self-defense training, these folks says, is nothing more than a band-aid that doesn’t do anything to reduce the incidence of violence.

IMPACT: How have you responded to these objections?

JH: The “it’s impossible” response just isn’t supported by the evidence. There’s quite a bit of research now that shows that women often do resist when they are attacked, and that when they do resist, they are often successful in preventing sexual assault – even when they are not trained in self-defense. We don’t yet have any research on whether self-defense training makes them more successful; I’m in the middle of some research now which I hope will help us answer that question. But the research we have so far is pretty unequivocal: women can defend themselves, and can do so successfully. (Of course, it’s also important to say that this conclusion is based on the examination of large numbers of incidents, and that in any particular situation self-defense may be more or less possible.)

As far as the “it’s too dangerous” response, I’ve asked the women I’ve studied whether they feel learning self-defense has made them overconfident. So far, not a single person has said that it has. They still have a healthy fear of violence; the difference now is that they feel like they have some strategies to prevent it and cope with it if it happens.

The “it’s victim-blaming” response is in some ways the most difficult. I have a lot of sympathy for this position – women are blamed for their own victimization in a variety of ways, and I don’t want my research to contribute to that. But I think it’s possible to say that women can defend themselves without implying that they are responsible for the violence against them. Just because women can fight back doesn’t mean that it is their responsibility to fight back, or that they should do so in every situation. Responsibility for violence always lies with the perpetrator. Sometimes compliance is the safest choice, and women shouldn’t be blamed if they choose not to resist – or if they do resist and are unsuccessful.

The main point I make in my research, however, is that the real root of all these different types of resistance is our societal beliefs about gender – our beliefs about what women and men are and should be like. These ideas keep us from being able to see women as strong and capable and men as potentially vulnerable (the “it’s impossible” reaction). They encourage us to think that women will become overconfident or foolhardy (the “it’s too dangerous” reaction), by suggesting that women aren’t capable and/or that they somehow aren’t rational enough to use self-defense tools wisely. Finally, the “it’s victim-blaming” response sees women as incapable of understanding complex ideas, such as the fact that perpetrators are responsible for violence whether or not women employ self-defense strategies. As I say in a recent article, “Would anyone seriously suggest that men be shielded from information about how to deter muggers because it
might make them blame themselves for past muggings?” Of course not, but somehow we think that women are so emotionally vulnerable that they will be devastated by the knowledge of self-defense.

Women’s self-defense training is dangerous because it challenges these deeply-held beliefs – and because in doing so, it challenges gender inequality. In the end, I think that’s why many people are resistant to the idea of women defending themselves.