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Posts Tagged ‘self-protection’

Fighting Violence – The Way That Works

In self-defense, Sexual Assault, violence prevention, What we do, women, Women's Empowerment on September 26, 2011 at 20:09

A wonderful post from The Strength Within.

Check it out.

 

Fighting Violence – The Way That Works.

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.

A Little Bit Crazy

In self-defense on May 14, 2010 at 01:42

Thumbs up for those who are 'pro-force', if that's what it takes to stop violence

I had such a great time yesterday, it was worth every second. Well, maybe I would have skipped the particular second that I tried to stop a knife attack with my pinkie and ended up with a broken hand, but other than that…

Yesterday morning, my student and colleague, Naomi Yitzhak and I drove to Maaleh Adumim, a small city near Jerusalem, to join a group of  travelers from abroad who are here to train in IKI Krav Maga with Moshe Katz.

Moshe Katz was one of the first martial artists I met in Israel.  We have been friends and colleagues ever since. He is one of the most knowledgeable, dedicated and generous instructors I have ever met.

Like a true “artist”, Moshe starved in obscurity for many years. Then, a couple of years ago, Moshe was finally “discovered”  by members of the international martial arts community. He travels all over Europe and the United States teaching seminars. Now he has started hosting seminars here in Israel as well to give students of Krav Maga the opportunity to experience the Land and People that produced this in-your-face form of self-defense training.

The men with whom Naomi and I trained came to Israel expressly to train with Moshe—or more correctly, to Tour & Train with him: Craig Grey from Grand Rapids, MI, Tim Hillis from Cottonwood, Arizona, Fred Heins from Tilburg, Holland, Stephan Shutter from Germany, Robert Amos from Indiana and Justin and Gary, two of Robert’s students.

We worked on all kinds of knife and gun defenses including defenses inside a car based on the same simple, straight-forward and effective principles. There is something so rewarding about taking these nightmare scenarios, analyzing them and finding ways to deal with them, fusing the mind and the body to make the ‘impossible’ possible. And when you are lucky enough to do that together with people of this caliber, generous, humble and dedicated, it is a truly spiritual experience.

Those of you who read this and think, ‘this woman is crazy’ are in good company. I could intellectualize and argue that, in the world of self-defense, as the song says: “We’re never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy”.

But those of you who need no explanation, who identify with the high of this kind of body-mind-spirit learning and growth, painful though it may sometimes be, you probably identify, as i do, with these sentiments from the same song: “In a world full of people, only some want to fly. Isn’t that crazy?”

* * *

This  story is a keeper. It is not from Israel, but from the US . It is about five “crazy” women who prevented a murder and put the potential murderer in jail. May there be many more crazies like these both here in Israel and around the world!


Wed May 5, 2010 9:29 PM EDT

Comcast.net News

Five women stop man accused of Maine campus stabbing

BANGOR, Maine — Five female students, including one who’d recently completed a self-defense class, jumped to the aid of a fellow student, grabbing her knife-wielding attacker and holding him until police officers arrived at Husson University, officials said Wednesday.

Jesse Hladik put her new skills to work when she lunged for the hand holding a knife, while fellow students grabbed the man’s other limbs and wrestled him to the ground. Hladik, 21, of Buckfield, said she knew the pressure points to make him drop the knife, thanks to the class.

“It was really scary, but I’m glad we got involved,” said student Heather Mann, 18, of Rochester, N.H. “Because I really think he would have killed her.”

Officers responding to the report of a domestic fight at 7:40 a.m. arrived to find 45-year-old Horst Wolk of Bangor subdued on the pavement. A campus officer cuffed him, and city police hauled him away.

John Michaud, professor of legal studies, heard the commotion and saw a pile of people on the pavement, while more women stood by, ready to jump in, if necessary.

“I was very impressed by the students,” Michaud said. “How many times do you hear about people walking by incidents like this? These young ladies weren’t going to walk by this incident.” He said the young women disarmed the suspect and “had the situation well in hand.”

Wolk has been charged with attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault and violating a protection order, said Bangor Police Sgt. Paul Edwards. He remained jailed Wednesday afternoon on $25,000 bail. There was no indication whether he had an attorney.

The incident unfolded in a parking lot next to Husson’s O’Donnell Commons. Wolk, who isn’t a student, rammed the victim’s vehicle after she pulled into a parking space at 7:40 a.m., then jumped out of his vehicle with a knife in his hand, said Julie Green, Husson spokeswoman.

The injured woman, who was not identified, was treated at a local hospital and released.

Edwards said officers generally don’t want bystanders to put themselves in harm’s way.

“We would never recommend getting involved to the point where you might get hurt yourself and become a second victim. But am I proud of what they did? Of course I am. Am I glad they did it? Yeah. I’m happy because the outcome was good,” Edwards said.

Hladik said she realized the importance of self defense.

“Not that the situation is going to happen again here, but it is so much better to know what I was doing, to make a little plan in a couple of seconds before doing something because I can’t imagine being one of the girls without training and not knowing what to do,” she said.

“I think that is bravery because they had never fought … they had no idea what to do and they still stepped in.”


A Swift Kick & A Stiff Sentence: A Lesson In Justice

In self-defense on April 4, 2010 at 01:44

I can’t believe I somehow missed this news story in September but I can’t think of a better time to share it with you than at this Spring Holiday season, filled with renewal and hope for a brighter future.

Please feel free to share it with the people in your life who could use a little reminder: sometimes women and older adults know their worth and their strength. Sometimes bad guys get hit where it hurts. Sometimes judges ignore stupid excuses and throw the book at criminals.

And sometimes, as I have told many an older student, walking sticks (and knees) sure come in handy…

Older Woman Kicks Robber in Testicles, He Will ‘Sit’ For Seven Years

Seven years at hard labor and two years probation. That was the sentence handed down this morning (Sunday) at the Haifa District Court for 30 year-old Haifa-resident Wissam Ahmadat. Ahmadat was convicted of assaulting an elderly man and the robbery of 74-year-old woman in her apartment. During the robbery, he put a pillow over the elderly woman’s face to prevent her from resisting.

YNet: Sept. 13, 2009

Achya Raavad (and translated by Yours Truly)

The defendant admitted carrying out the acts at the end of 2008 and early 2009. The first case for which Ahmadat was convicted involved pushing a senior adult and knocking him off of the bench on which he sat at a pizzeria in the Hadar neighborhood in Haifa.

The second crime occurred early in the morning at a Nordau Street apartment, where a 74-year-old woman lived.  The defendant and a partner entered the apartment through a window and began looking for money and jewelry.

“During the search, the defendant entered the complainant’s bedroom and purposefully put a pillow over her face in order to rob the complainant or facilitate the execution of the robbery, or to facilitate his escape from the apartment after the robbery,” the charge read.
It went on to describe that the woman succeeded in struggling with her attacker, hit him over the head with her walking stick and even kicked him in the testicles. The two robbers eventually left the apartment with a total of NIS 1,000.

“It Was the Good Fortune of This Older Woman To Be Endowed With Resourcefulness and Courage”

During the trial, it became clear that the defendant had dozens of past convictions, and that he had already served five sentences in prisons around the country. He committed the robbery at the pizzeria less than a month after his last release from prison. These activities, as determined by the testing service, were carried out as a result his addiction to drugs.

Judge Oded Gershon ruled that addiction does not constitute a justification for the defendant’s many crimes. “The defendant’s behavior, over the years, shows that he has no regard for the property of others and he also used serious and dangerous methods such as placing a pillow over the face of an elderly woman to facilitate the completion of the robbery … His action could have caused the death of the complainant… She is fortunate to have been endowed with resourcefulness and courage and thus girded with strength, she fought back against the defendant, “said the judge in pronouncing the sentence.

The judge added that we must give harsh sentences that will deter those who attack the elderly.
“The safety and security of those elderly who are helpless and defenseless, especially those who live alone and are considered by criminals like the defendant to be ‘easy prey’, must not be abandoned. It is proper that every criminal should know that potentially, if he raises his hand against an older adult and injures him or his property, he is liable to be punished very severely via imprisonment at hard labor and being behind bars and locked up for a long time. “

Previously, Judge Gershon gave a six-year sentence to the attackers of elderly victim Malka Yariv, who stole her purse and seriously injured her.

Whatever Happened To Freedom AND Responsibility?

In Sexual Assault on March 31, 2010 at 15:28


Here we are smack in the middle of the one-week Passover holiday- Pesach- The Festival of Freedom. In a celebratory mood, I wanted to bring you a self-defense success story and I found one, not only from Israel, mind you, but right from the holy city of Jerusalem (see below).

As I translated the story  from the Hebrew, I was struck by the awesome courage of the intended victim who fought off an armed attacker with her little children sleeping in the next room. I was inspired by the intervention of her neighbors, who identified the assailant and by the police who rushed to the scene.

However, with all due respect to the defense lawyer, what kind of a legal system declares someone “not responsible for their actions” due to being drunk??? How drunk could he have been? He had the foresight to ensure that his intended victim was alone, to put on a stocking mask— not something most men keep in their pockets “just in case”— and bring along a box cutter— what “box” was he planning to open  in his neighbor’s apartment?

The Passover story and freedom. There in the presence of the powerful Pharoah, King of Egypt, stands the shepherd Moses (sounding remarkably like Charlton Heston) quoting God: “Shlach et ami…” Let my people go!”… And that’s where they choose to close the book and have another cup of wine– To Freedom!

But that is only half of the quotation. The quotation is not ” Shlach et ami…”; it is “Shlach et ami v’yavduni.” “Let my people go SO THEY MAY SERVE ME.” Freedom, yes, but for a purpose.  Freedom and responsibility go hand-in- hand. In our society, we allow people to drink. We allow them to drink to excess- even though we all know that the disinhibiting effects of alcohol make us more likely to do stupid, risky and harmful things. It makes sense that we not hold people responsible for what they might do, but rather for what they do.  “I was drunk” might excuse someone for slipping on the stairs and breaking a favorite vase but since when can: “I was drunk” be used to excuse someone for committing a violent crime? You were drunk? And who was responsible for THAT??? And, if someone was in control enough to time his attack,  disguise himself and brings along a weapon, how drunk could he have been???

A deep bow to the 23 year-old Jerusalem mother of two for her heroism, to her neighbors for being what true neighbors should be and to the police for apprehending the suspect and bringing in the evidence to convict him. Let’s hope that our justice system doesn’t let this one get away.

Suspected: He made sure the husband had left, and attempted to rape his neighbor

A Jerusalem Court extended the detention of a resident of the city, who is suspected of entering his neighbor’s apartment at night with a stocking mask and a box cutter, attacking her and trying to rape her.  She shouted, struggled – and fought him off. The suspect’s lawyer argues: “He was drunk”.

YNet

Dec. 8. 2009

Efrat Weiss

The suspected attacker waited for the husband to leave, then went into his neighbor’s apartment with a stocking mask – and tried to rape her at knife point with her two children in the next room. This afternoon (Tuesday) the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended the arrest of the city resident arrested last night on suspicion of trying to rape his neighbor. The investigation continues.

A 36-year-old man was arrested as a result of a night time attack on his neighbor, age 23. According to the woman filing the complaint, the suspect entered her apartment at about 10 o’clock at night wearing a stocking mask and carrying a box cutter, attacked her and tried to rape her. She struggled with him and was lightly injured by the knife, for which she required medical treatment. At the end of the struggle, she managed to fight him off, and he fled the apartment without carrying out his plans. During the course of the entire incident, the victim’s two young children – ages nine months and a year and eight months – were in the next room.

Neighbors who heard the screams of the young woman called the police. The police arrived at the scene and began to search for the attacker. The woman could not identify the attacker due to his stocking mask , but neighbors that saw him remove the mask reported him to the police, and he was arrested. During a search conducted in his apartment the knife was also found.

According to Sergeant Major Maya Yosipov, investigator of violent sexual offenses, the suspect confessed this morning and admitted that he planned the attack after the husband left fifteen minutes before, when he realized that his wife was alone at home. In response,  the suspect’s lawyer, Ariel Atari, said: “According to the evidence, my client was drunk that night. Therefore, it is doubtful that he can be held responsible for his actions, even if they occurred.” Said Sergeant Major Yosipov  “The drunkenness argument contradicts the confession, according to which he planned the event, went up to the apartment, found the door open, and entered the apartment wearing a stocking mask and equipped with a knife.”

Stepping Up To The Plate

In Sexual Assault on February 10, 2010 at 14:19

Last night, I had the honor and pleasure of instructing in Tel Aviv as part of one of our IMPACT Self-Defense teams. Nothing strange about that. What IS unusual is that IMPACT-Israel is currently running THREE IMPACT courses simultaneously: a women’s course on Sunday mornings in Jerusalem, a Teen course for at-risk teens in Rishon L’Zion and, now, this new evening women’s course  in Tel Aviv.

The good news is, word is getting out about IMPACT. IMPACT is such a powerful  experience for participants and staff alike, and word-of-mouth is the mainstay of our success. Happily, a growing number of our students seem to be coming to us through referrals from therapists who see IMPACT as part of the sexual assault survivor’s process of recovery and reintegration. It is very gratifying to speak with mental health professionals who see us as part of the “treatment team”.

The bad news, of course, is in the headlines. Just take a look at the article below: “Sharp rise in sexual assault; 15% of the victims are younger than 13”. The women who are coming to us are the brave ones, the ones who read the articles, see the news and say to themselves: “I’d better do something about this.” Just by picking up the phone, these women are demonstrating the essence of personal empowerment: Stepping up to the plate.

Perhaps that is the reality of our situation. As martial arts instructors and self-instructors of every stripe, perhaps we can only to reach those who are already strong enough to reach out and grasp the tools we offer. Or perhaps there are ways for us to reach out that could enable us to reach those not quite ready to make the call. To prevent a potential trip to a hospital Sexual Assault Unit. To change the identity of the patient in the ambulance from that of the potential victim to that of the attempted assailant.

In essence, like our students, we too must begin from a place of believing that we can succeed only if we are willing to embody the change we seek.  So please feel free to share your “why-don’t-you-try?”s or “this-has-worked-for us”s. We are listening and, I hope,  courageous enough to step up to the plate.

Sharp rise in sexual assault: 15% of the victims are younger than 13

The Rape Crisis Center at Wolfson Hospital in Holon publicized that, within the last decade, the number of women referring themselves for treatment has risen 600%. “Every year Israel is becoming more dangerous for women”, said the Director of the Women’s Health & Maternity Unit at the hospital and, according to its Director of Social Work Services , “we long ago lost our morality as a society”.

Translation by Jill Shames from the Hebrew article on NRG

Tomer Valmar | 9/2/2010 10:14

The Center for Victims of Sexual Assault at Wolfson Hospital in Holon has publicized that, in 2009, 360 women came to the Center for treatment, an increase of 600% over the year 2000. Data published by the Center shows that almost a third of the victims are under 18, and that, in most cases, the sexual assault is accompanied by physical violence.

The Center for Victims of Sexual Assault at Wolfson Hospital in Holon was founded in 2000. For eight years, it was the only place in Israel designed for this purpose. In its first year of operation, sixty women came for treatment, which is now handled by six sexual assault survivors.

Data from the Center given to Maariv (an Israeli newspaper), indicated an increase in the number of cases of sexual assault using physical force that required medical intervention and, sometimes, prolonged hospitalization. According to the Director of the Women’s Health & Maternity Unit at the hospital, Prof. Abraham Golan, since the Wolfson Center was the only place offering specialized therapy for victims of sexual assault until two years ago, the data is indicative of a national trend.

“We are talking about a very disturbing picture signifying that, every year, Israeli society is becoming more violent and more dangerous for women,” said Prof Golan. According to the Center’s data, 40% of the attacks, 37% of which were assaults of girls 18-14, occurred on weekends. It also showed that older women are usually attacked at night while girls are attacked mainly in the afternoon hours.

Reaching the hospital within 24 hours

Even the places where the attacks occur vary by age: While girls aged 14-17 are most often attacked in public places like gardens or playgrounds, women aged 18-25 are most likely to be attacked at the home of the attacker. Attacks against older women usually occur in the woman’s own home.

In addition, according to Prof. Golan, there has been a sharp increase in recent years of women being attacked while they are under the influence of alcohol. Women aged 18-25 are the most likely group to be under the influence of alcohol when they are victimized. Doctors at the Center said that, many times, these women arrive at the hospital unconscious, unclothed and with no memory of what happened to them or who attacked them.

Dr. Giulia Barda, the gynecologist in charge of the therapeutic center explains: “In the wake of a sexual assault, it is advisable to get to the hospital within 24 hours, in order to enable us to find evidence of injury and the presence of alcohol and drugs during examination. Similarly, rapid treatment is very effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. ‘

The hospital’s Social Work Service Director Sima Oren added: “The feeling is that, as a society, we long ago lost our morality, and that, in most cases, these women are subjected to psychological damage that is very difficult to cure.”

Violence A Stone’s Throw Away

In Violence in Israeli Society on October 4, 2009 at 16:10
Jewish Women in Burqas & Haredi Gangstas: Whats Next For Beit Shemesh

Jewish Women in Burqas & Haredi Gangstas: What's Next For Beit Shemesh?

One of my favorite things to do during the Succot Holiday is to visit my friends living in Beit Shemesh.  Every year, we have a luscious BBQ in their Succah and mosey over to the Beit Shemesh Jewish Rock & Soul Festival, where residents and visitors alike chill out on brotherhood, love and Jewish-oriented Rock & Roll.

This year, for me at least, it will be difficult to sprawl out on the grass and relax without flashing back to some of the disturbing headlines this Biblical city has recently produced.

One such story is that of the so-called Taliban Mother. Insisting on being “more modest-than-thou” by dressing in a full Muslim burqa, this woman, together with her husband, severely abused her 12 children. The social service system suspected.  Key people in her ultra-religious community knew. And those children continued to suffer.

And then there is the story below. It is the story of how a few dozen hoodlums in religious garb are using verbal and physical violence  to terrorize people and hold opposing members of their community hostage to fear of retaliation. They have been known to hurl insults, spit, eggs, stones and bricks at unsuspecting visitors and to kick and beat them to the ground simply because they don’t approve of the way they are dressed or whom they are with. I was told by one Beit Shemesh resident that police, seeing that a group of these thugs approaching, insisted that a woman they were apparently targeting leave immediately. What if anything was done to or about the looming assailants, no one seems to know.

Thanks to the efforts of many segments of the Beit Shemesh community, there are long stretches of relative quiet. Not surprisingly,  however, those stretches tend to lull people back to complacency. Violence remains only a stone’s throw away.

A few weeks from now, I am going to sit down with members of the Beit Shemesh community, all of whom are likely to be Modern Religious and Native English-Speakers, to hear their concerns about crime and violence in their community. I will explain to them, as best as I can, how creating a local chapter of the International Alliance of Guardian Angels could be the grassroots solution they are looking for to help them pull their community together and stop the violence. I will tell them how such a chapter is organized and offer to train them in verbal and physical self-defense and in patrol tactics.

I expect that they will find it relatively easy to talk about the problems of youth crimes and drugs among many of their less-religious and poorer neighbors.  Like many cities in Israel, Beit Shemesh has its share of disillusioned, disenfranchised teens and vagrants. However, I don’t know whether they will be ready to discuss the  issue of dealing with the problematic elements of their Ultra-Religious neighbors. The fact that religious people behave in such shockingly immoral ways casts a shadow over religious people of every stripe, even those who deplore the actions of these Fundamentalist Gangstas.

Part of the advantage I have as  both a social worker and an El HaLev self-defense instructor is that I long ago learned the importance of starting from where your “client” is. Even if the ‘elephant in the room’ wears earlocks and a streimal (fur hat) or a wig and a burqa, I can manage to overlook it for a while.  Empowerment, like life, is a journey, not a destination.

I hope that among this handful of  Beit Shemesh residents, I will find one who is ready to lead. If one has the courage to take up the challenge, others will follow. And we’ll begin the process with the enemy they least fear to face, the one who is the least like them. It will take time, commitment and a few small successes before  they will be ready to face that elephant—the one that most elicits their own doubts and fears.

In the meanwhile, let the music play.

In Beit Shemesh, residents struggle to counter violent religious coercion

By Dina Kraft · July 12, 2009

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel (JTA) — The 15-year-old girl remembers a roar of male voices, a blur of bearded faces and being kicked from behind as she was pelted with raw eggs.

She was with two other girlfriends who, like her, are Modern Orthodox, and they had been walking on a Friday night through a fervently Orthodox neighborhood of Beit Shemesh known for being hostile to outsiders — including fellow observant Jews like themselves.

But things had been quiet for months and the girls shrugged off any concerns. Then a mob approached.

“They were screaming at us, ‘Shame on yourselves! Get out of here!’ ” said the girl, who did not want to give her name. “There were about 50 men screaming on the top of their lungs.”

The incident was among the more recent examples of violence by a pocket of fervently Orthodox Jews in Beit Shemesh who employ sporadic violence, threaten business owners and post street signs warning women not to walk on certain sidewalks to impose an uncompromising brand of religious fundamentalism on their community.

In Beit Shemesh, a city of some 70,000 approximately 30 minutes from Jerusalem, it is the neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet (Beit Shemesh Heights B) that has become a flashpoint. Though the thuggish elements are relatively small in number — as few as several dozen, some say — their use of gangster tactics has sown fear among Beit Shemesh residents, who range from haredi, or fervently Orthodox, Jews to Modern Orthodox.

The neighborhood has a mall that stands only half built after some haredim threatened a boycott if separate shopping times for men and women were not designated. Stone-throwing riots erupted when the owner of a pizza parlor, who had received threats warning against allowing boys and girls to congregate together, took down a sign calling for “modesty.”

Two years ago, a woman and a male soldier who tried to protect her were beaten when the woman refused to move to the back of a public bus. The police who arrived at the scene reportedly were attacked by the crowd.

One haredi rabbi who lives in the neighborhood and spoke to JTA on condition of anonymity said that most of his neighbors, like him, oppose the behavior of the violent haredim, but they are too intimidated to act against them.

“Most rabbis definitely do not accept what is going on,” he said. “But as for coming out in public, I believe they are afraid to because if they do so, they, too, would be attacked.”

Although it has been relatively quiet in Beit Shemesh for the past year — a calm some credit to local mediation efforts — the attack on the three schoolgirls reignited tensions.

“An abomination has happened in Israel,” read a flier that was posted throughout the neighborhood after the attack. “We will not let this pass quietly.”

Written with the help of haredim who were outraged by the attack, the fliers — known in the haredi world as pashkivilim and used to disseminate information in religious communities where members rarely watch TV, listen to the radio or read newspapers or the Internet — were the result of an outreach and mediation effort launched by a group of local Modern Orthodox Jews.

Community members said the response was welcome — and surprising.

Residents were “shocked that for the first time anyone stood up to the” fundamentalists, said Rabbi Dov Lipman, a Modern Orthodox immigrant from Maryland who has been at the forefront of both confronting and mediating with the more extreme haredi sects in Beit Shemesh. “As much as we are protecting ourselves, we are also freeing those who live in the community who are under siege.”

The haredim causing trouble are mostly transplants from Neturei Karta and Satmar haredi communities in Jerusalem who migrated to Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, like many suburbanites, in search of more affordable housing.

For years Beit Shemesh had been known as a sleepy working-class town populated mainly by Moroccan immigrants and their descendants. But in the past decade or two the demographics of the city have shifted dramatically as Orthodox Ashkenazim, ranging from haredi Jerusalemites to Modern Orthodox new immigrants from North America and England, have moved in.

Menachem Friedman, an Israeli sociologist and expert on haredim, said the haredi violence in Beit Shemesh is far more extreme than the haredi protests in places such as Jerusalem because Beit Shemesh lacks an established rabbinic authority. In larger cities, he says, rabbis generally rein in the rogues.

The extremists “think they live in an area with weak local government and a weak local population, and that lets them feel that they can maneuver and spread power and dare to act violently,” Friedman said.

A haredi who identified himself as Yisrael and hails from the more extreme haredi faction, is among those who has been meeting with Lipman. Yisrael attributes the violence to “provocations,” saying he and his cohorts will not be silent when their religious way of life is threatened.

Lipman, who teaches at a local yeshiva for American students, admits that some view as naive his efforts to broker an understanding with the extremist elements in the city. He says it’s about taking communal responsibility for his town.

“This problem is something we could not have ever imagined as we sacrificed so much to make aliyah, and we are enraged,” Lipman said. “But the problem won’t simply go away by itself. We feel that we have a responsibility to do something about it both for ourselves and on behalf of our native Israeli neighbors who understandably don’t want to take up this battle.”

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?

PUMA

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
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST

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.

Nu? And Not So New…

In What we do on June 9, 2009 at 21:02

JillRehovot

Sure, this blog is new. Yaddada-yaddada. But, the neat stuff we do at and through  El HaLev to empower women, kids, older adults and people from vulnerable populations through the Martial Arts and Self-Defense, well, that’s not ‘new’. We’ve been doing that since 2003.

Haven’t heard about us? Well, here we are.  And I’m going to be posting about all kinds of things connected to the special brand mind-body-spirit self-protection and self-defense life skills  that we at El HaLev share everyday with people of all ages and from all walks of life.

As you may know, Israel is a pretty political place. Politics seems to be the Israeli national pastime — next to eating falafel and driving obnoxiously.

But what we do is not about politics. And it’s not about violence— so put away those protest signs.  It’s about right of all people to feel safe and secure in their homes and on their streets. And it’s about the responsibility each of us has to take action to improve communities, our families and ourselves.

Nu? As we tell visitors to our El HaLev Training Center in Jerusalem, ‘take the chips off your shoulders and stay awhile’.

Welcome to our world…