Posts Tagged ‘sexual harassment’

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.

Violence Takes No Holidays

In Crime in Israel on October 1, 2010 at 15:02

The holiday season in Israel has come to a close. But violence never took a holiday. Here are a few poignant examples.

Jerusalem: A Young Man Stabbed and Critically Wounded in an Ultra-Orthodox Neighborhood

Updated 01:04 01/10/2010
Sagi Shir

A serious injury during the celebration of Simchat Torah: A man of about 20 was stabbed last night (Thursday) in the Ultra- Orthodox Makor Baruch neighborhood in Jerusalem. An MDA team called to the scene evacuated the young man in critical condition to Shaare Zedek Hospital in the city. The background of the event is probably criminal.

The man was stabbed once in the groin; then the attacker fled from the scene towards the Peqi’in Street neighborhood. A Mobile MDA Unit that tried to rescue him was attacked as it reached the neighborhood, delaying the evacuation. Police are searching for the suspect in the stabbing.

This is not the only assault case reported during the days of Succot.

Ashdod police yesterday arrested three minors aged 16 and 17 on suspicion of attacking two minors aged 13 and 14 the evening before for no apparent reason . The minors are patients at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot, one in moderate condition and one in good condition. They reported that they were sitting on a bench in the city when a group of teenagers approached them and began to attack them “for no reason.”

A similar criminal event took place last night in Holon in which  two minors, ages 16 and 17, are suspected of forcing a 12-year-old boy into a vehicle in front of a city garden and driving off. The police managed to seize the two men and rescue the boy, who was not severely injured in the incident.

Another unfortunate case took place on Wednesday, in which two people were killed and three others  injured near a cafe in Qalansawa cafe nearby, apparently after unknown persons opened fire towards a group of people sitting there.

In another incident an 18 year-old was killed by gunfire during a brawl in the Bedouin village Laqia in the Negev.

And here are a few more “holiday season ” headlines from Y-Net:

Suspected: A 16 year-old youth sexually assaulted a 6 year-old boy in Afula.
The youth, who works as a guard at a construction site, is suspected of committing indecent acts on the boy – who lives nearby. The child was taken to a hospital for medical examination.

Murder suspects arrested in Abu Gosh, “More blood will flow”
Four members of the Jaber Clan were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Hassan Othman last month. Police suspect that the murder was ‘blood revenge’ for the murder of a boy from the Jaber Family. The village fears more bloodshed.

Father Murders Mother and Says “I’ll Kill Myself”.
“We wanted to save Mom, explained the children of Munib Zhong and A. Ibrahim from Smi, a village in the Western Galilee, who witnessed the horror… The husband climbed up the ladder to the balcony – and stabbed his wife to death

Suspicion: A man stabbed after causing a child to drop his hot dog (Rishon L’Zion)

Suspected: Cop convicted of sexual harassment sexually assaulted female drivers
A Special Patrol officer (a resident of Kiryat Malachi) dismissed from his post following his conviction for harassing a female soldier, was arrested on suspicion of attacking women who were driving alone, signaling them to stop because of disrepair and attempting to sexually assault them.

Mother threw her two children from the 4th floor and jumped. They survived. (Tel-Aviv)

Four year-old injured from shots fired at a house in Tira

14 Year-Old Complains: My husband attacked me even though I was pregnant
Husband suspected of assaulting the young wife on numerous occasions, in addition to suspected statutory rape.

Indictment: Bnei Brak Resident Serving in the 8200 Elite Computer Unit held in sexual harassment of young girl

Caretakers sexually abused mentally-ill patients
Adi Revach and Orly Wanda from Pardes  Hannah are accused of causing inmates to commit a series of serious sex offenses,

Man suspected of raping an 11 year-old girl in the succah that stood at the Tomb of Rabbi Meir in Tiberias

16 year-old admitted that he murdered 14-year-old  over a cigarette (Beersheba)

Beersheba murder: A boy of 15 stabbed to death in a fight

Guess it’s time to get back to work…

Why The IDF Must Fight Sexual Harassment

In Sexual Harrassment on June 16, 2010 at 00:52

The Two-Front War----Sexual Harassment in the IDF

OK. We Israelis are used to being harrassed by pretty much every nation in the world.  We’re even used to our Army, one of the most upstanding and moral in the world, being trashed— even, or perhaps, especially, by leaders of nations with atrocious human rights records.

But IDF brothers-in-arms sexually harassing their sisters-in-arms? No, we must never, NEVER make peace with that.  Read the article below. Sexual harrassment complaints in the IDF are at an all-time high, but fewer than half of female soldiers who report being harrassed are willing to file formal complaints.

The fact that the number of complaints is way, way up,  is not all bad. This certainly indicates increased awareness,  but let’s not jump to the conclusion that increased incidence has nothing to do with it. With numbers like these, it almost certainly does.

Moreover, read between the lines and you will see that the way these incidents are being dealt with still leaves a lot to be desired. Female soldiers who report incidents  clearly feel they are putting themselves in harm’s way. On paper, the system encourages reporting and treats sexual harrassment as a criminal offense. But behind the scenes, the system and the female soldiers who serve it share a common agenda. Like the parents in the Bill Cosby comedy routine, they are not so much interested in justice as they are in quiet.

There is a way to get both “quiet” and “justice”. It is called PREVENTION.  And I’m not talking about scolding and lecturing male soldiers, as if scolding 18 year-old boys gets them to change their behavior. I have one at home; I know all about it. And I’m not talking about handing Tear Gas spray out to female soldiers as if it were hairspray. (Tell me, Generals, what other weapons do you have in your arsenal that you hand out to soldiers with no training and no hand-to-hand backup plan? )

Bottom Line: Why aren’t these women receiving empowerment-based self-defense training?

What makes the IDF so special is that it is us. It is a reflection of our society. Can you imagine what kind of society we could foster if we invested in the thousands of young men and women going through compulsary military service so, when they re-enter civilian life, they already know that women will not tolerate sexual harassment? That they will stand up for themselves and call the perpetrators to account for it?

Look at the statistics about working women in Israel. 50% report being sexually harassed in the workplace. 50%!!!! And do you know where most of those women were just before they entered the workforce? That’s right. They were in the military.

How many stories like those below might have turned out differently if these women learned Awareness, Avoidance, Assertiveness, Physical Defense and Recovery skills as part of their Military Service? Two-years of service and they can’t squeeze in 10-hour for a Basic Empowerment-based Self-Defense Course? Come on…

I wrote to Chairman of the Knesset Committee for the Promotion of Women’s Status  Tzipi Hotovely MK (Likud) some time ago asking for a chance to speak with her about this issue. Good thing I didn’t hold my breath waiting to hear back from her.

For her part in the proceedings, MK Hotovely said: “Unfortunately, harassment has not left the world and some men feel entitled. Maybe we should think about an alternative softer track, that will enable us to work around the psychological constraints involved in serving a complaint.”

MK Hotovely, you may be right. Perhaps a “decriminalized” procedure would help. On the other hand, how about removing some of those ‘psychological constaints’ by empowering these women BEFORE incidents occur so they can STOP them? Give them the tools they need to stand up for themselves and for each other! I would expect that you, of all of our nation’s legislators, would be on the frontlines fighting for just that.

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Major Increase in Complaints of Sexual Harassment in the IDF

A day of consciousness-raising came to the Knesset: Data presented by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, indicated that over the last two years the number of complaints rose by tens of percentage points . The Immigrant Absorption Committee heard sad stories of immigrant women: “The manager harassed me – and I was dependent on him”

Yael Bernovsky
June 8, 2010

Translated by Yours Truly

Today, the Knesset held a special day to increase awareness of sexual harassment, and all the committees held hearings on the subject. This came after yesterday’s report on Ynet revealing alarming data, according to which nearly half of working women experience sexual harassment in their workplaces. Additional data published today, indicated that the scope of the phenomenon in the IDF has risen sharply.

According to the data presented by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Israel Defense Forces in 2009 reported 445 complaints of sexual harassment, compared to 363 in 2008 and 318 in 2007. Most of the reported incidents occurred in the bases, and most involved physical harassment. About 28 percent involved verbal harassment and 13 percent voyeurism. Three-percent of the percentage involved rape or attempted rape. Another one percent of the complaints involved consensual sexual relations.

IDF officials explained that there are two options for dealing with complaints – either an officer checks out the allegations or the Military Police are called in for a criminal investigation. Only 47 percent of female soldiers who complained in 2009 chose to contact the Military Police. Another 12 percent of female soldiers sought help within their units.

According to Brigadier General Gila Kalifi, Women’s Affairs advisor to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, in 2009 only one false complaint of sexual harassment was discovered. However, she said that “we do not only see the need to commit ourselves to dealing with those who claim sexualharassment. We are also committed that, until proven guilty, the person against whom a complaint is made must be considered innocent.”

“We have already learned that it is important to ask the IDF, not only about military intelligence but, there are more questions to ask, about sexual assault, about suicide… Social issues,” concluded Committee Chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi. “are part of the experience of life of this organization that must undergo parliamentary supervision. Everyone goes away with the feeling that, on the one hand, there is much to praise in the system, but there is a problem. I hope it is being kept in mind by the IDF, our country’s largest organization, that there must be a greater sense of confidence and understanding that the system will protect those submitting complaints. ”

Former Defense Minister Knesset Member Amir Peretz (Labor) added that “our expectation from the IDF is they will become one of the most important models for other workplaces to emulate . Israeli society makes judgments about women who file these kind of complaints. When the this same soldier must return to the same community where she lives, there are serious concerns about this. They must proceed with caution, but they also must develop more tools that allow these matters to be dealt with without placing the woman on the frontlines of the war. Even if the soldier has chosen treatment futher down in the hierarchy, the matter must go higher up in the hierarchy in order to maximize the punishment. The Army must provide security for female soldiers, that no one in the hierarchy, no matter what his rank, has too much authority. ”

“Didn’t they teach you in Ethiopia not say “no” to a man?”

The Absorption Committee headed by MK Lia Shemtov held a discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace that included presentations by women victimized by the phenomenon.

One of them, an economist that came from Ukraine a few years ago and still learning the language, said that she managed to get work in a clothing warehouse as a folder. “I had to leave work even though it suited me. The reason: my manager’s behavior. For a period of two months, he harassed me, took advantage of his authority, because I was financially dependent on the work. He also attempted to rape me and commit indecent acts. I went to the Rape Crisis Center. I did not want people to know – and this is one of the reasons that I did not go to the police. I’m really depressed because of what happened. ”

Another woman, a 24 year-old Amharic-speaker, went to  the Rape Crisis Center to accompany a friend. She talked about things she was accustomed to living with: “I was out of work and my neighbors were looking for a babysitter. It started with words: “I’m used to white Israelis.”, ” Didn’t you learn in Ethiopia not say ‘no’ to a man?’,’Your chest is the color of mocha’.

The neighbor started to harass me, push himself against me while talking to me. After a month, I left my job. ”

Michal Rosen, the CEO of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers, mentioned that the bill for providing compensation for victims of sexual assault drafted by a interdepartmental committee last year and presented to the Welfare Department (details published in Ynet) “still lies in the hands of the Minister. Nothing has been done about it. ”

MK Marina Solodkin concluded: “the former President (Translator’s note: Former President Moshe Katsav whose trial for rape and sexual harassment is being held in extreme secrecy) was a master of sexual harassment. This procedure is very important and it will set a precedent if the judge convicts him. I am optimistic”.

Another Self-Defense Success

In Crime in Israel on February 2, 2010 at 01:59

Don't Touch Billboard

You know me. I can’t resist a good old-fashioned self-defense success story. No glitter. No high-kicking, face mauling kung-fu moves. Just a woman who refused to be manhandled, a couple of kick-ass bystanders and the Boys (& Girls)-in-Blue hauling the perp off to jail.Here’s one I picked up this evening from the Tel-Aviv police blotter. Share it with someone you love.

Chase On Foot Nabs Sex Offender
01/02/2010 10:16:00

At about 17:00 yesterday,  a resident of Bnei Brak, born in 1986, filed a complaint. She reported that, as she crossed the road at the junction of Ben Gurion and Jabotinsky in Ramat Gan, a man touched her on the intimate places on the front of her body and began to flee.  The complainant, assisted by bystanders, chased him down and held him until the police arrived. The suspect,  born in 1980 and a resident of northern Israel, was arrested and was taken this morning to the Municipal Court in Tel Aviv. The investigation will be continued by Merchav Dan* (* The Tev-Aviv police district responsible for Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak and Givataim).

I love a fairytale ending. Don’t you?

A Tough Job:Who’s Going To Do It?

In Crime in Israel on December 4, 2009 at 04:17

Site of police officer shooting

Are Municipal Police in Israel's Future? And where are WE in this picture?

On Tuesday morning, I attended the day-long First International Safe Cities Conference, at Tel-Aviv’s David International Hotel.  I was officially there on behalf of the Guardian Angels: all decked out in my red beret and jacket and black multi-pocketed pants filled with information pamphlets. One of the burning questions of the day was whether Israel should reform the current system of policing to allow municipalities to have their own police departments.

Hagai Peled from Israel’s Internal Security Ministry represented the point of view of the National Police. In short, no one is as qualified as they to do the jobs of both crime prevention and dealing with anti-social behavior, that public concerns about crime are not consistent with the rate of crime reflected in police statistics and that municipalities have to deal with too many “local groups” whose pressure could influence the conduct and use of the police. He recommended improved cooperation between police and municipalities, laws that would allow increase police effectiveness, changes in the courts to make them tougher on crime, increased use of anti-crime technologies and increased use of local patrols but without police powers.

Shlomo Buchbut, Mayor of Maalot Tarshiha and chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, pointed out that when more that 62% of the population ranks fear of violence and crime as their number one concern, it’s time for the police to take a second look at their statistics. I would have loved to have offered him the example I saw on The Day of Struggle Against Violence Against Women last week, when, despite the fact that the police report that there have been only seven domestic violence-related murders in Israel this year, we read a Memorial List consisting of 15 names. That is apparently because the police only consider it a “domestic violence-related murder” if the relationship between the two is that of a couple. If a son kills his mother or sister or a grandparent kills a grandchild, for example, that isn’t part of the count.

Avi Naim, Chairman of the Security Committee and mayor of Beit Aryeh, pooh-poohed such examples of the effectiveness of the National Police as the reduction in car thefts (which he attributed to the building of the separation wall) and said that the National Police have failed in their mission when it comes to all kinds of crimes that hurt citizens’ quality of life.

He criticized current law enforcement, i.e. the “culture of laziness” among police officers and the light sentences given to criminals and, even more so, the lack of effective prevention.

In response to Mr. Peled’s concerns about “local influences”, he said that, unlike the national parliamentary system in which representative are selected indirectly, mayors have to pass a test of public confidence every five year called an election, which decreases the chance of politicization of the police. He said local governments must be the nerve center for both day-to-day life (personal security) and large-scale emergencies (public safety) but that they must also understand the level of responsibility involved and provide the training and integration with the National Police to make the system effective and efficient.

There were several other fine presenters. I especially enjoyed hearing Joyce Kaufman of WFTL in South Florida and her refreshingly Right Wing, outspoken First Amendment, pro-Israel and anti-crime rhetoric.

For me, the contrast between Joyce’s emphasis on personal responsibility and the Israelis’ relative paternalism was really striking. Do we, as citizens, play no part in the fight for personal security? What about our  spirit of activism, of volunteerism, of making a difference in their own communities? In order to effect change, efforts like the Hebrew University Students “Take Back The Night” March (see article below) rely on getting people up, out and angry enough to DO something . The police, whether national or local, may be essential in the fight against crime and violence, but they cannot be everywhere and do everything— and they should not be expected to. It’s time we “armed ourselves”, not with guns, but with knowledge, skills and a “can do” spirit, to refuse to allow our communities or ourselves to fall victim to intimidation, crime and violence.

The police can assist us, but they cannot empower us. That is something we must do for ourselves.

Students want to stop fear in Jerusalem

Students at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus protested against the growing phenomenon of sexual harassment and attacks in the area. To increase awareness of the problem of “paralysis”, they organized a march along the path associated with incidents of harassment.

Eli Mandelbaum and Shlomit Sharvit
YNet  02.12.09, 17:05

“Leaving the dormitories on Mt. Scopus and French Hill in the evening is a very difficult decision for any woman”, explains Hamutal Cohen from the organization ALEH (College Without Harassment). ” When walking back to the dorms from the university, women generally have to prepare themselves to absorb degrading and humiliating catcalls. Many students prefer to take the bus just to avoid the expected encounters with the men that show up in the area every night.”

The procession, that took place under the slogan “Women Want The Night Back “, was held out of a desire to restore the security of thousands of individual students living in dorms in the area adjacent to the university and to place the issue of sexual harassment on the agenda in order to find a solution to the situation.

Women Want The Night Back
“The current preventive actions by the municipality and the civil guard are important, but not sufficient to prevent incidents. The feeling is that the university is not doing enough to tackle the problem. There is a wall of silence around the issue,” says Cohen. “We hope that raising awareness will encourage women to join the Civil Guard and to defend themselves as a way of empowerment and coping with the fears that accompany us as women.

She said that violence against women is a broad social problem that is not restricted to a particular sector and does not remain only within the house, as most people mistakenly think.

“It accompanies women on their way to university and on their way home, in their workplaces and in their classrooms, “she explained.” Its manifestations are not only physical but also verbal, mental and emotional. Violence will not go away unless we fight it, men and women together, and women’s safety and security cannot be assured unless we stop all elements and aspect of these hate crimes. “

Hebrew University sent the following response: “The university administration is aware of the problem and has taken steps to drastically reduce the number of complaints. The University’s Security Department has added security patrol vehicles that move along the axis of movement of students at night. In addition, the Security Department has asked the Israel Police to increase the number of patrols in areas under their supervision in the area in question. The Jerusalem Municipality has also increased the lighting in the area. The University requests that any female student that is harassed issue an official complaint with the Security Department to help them eradicate these incidents.

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?


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.

Catch Them While They’re Young

In empowerment, teens on August 9, 2009 at 13:27

We do a lot of work with at-risk teens.  We work with them, body, mind and soul, to put them in touch with their unique value as individuals and with the  reserve of power waiting for them to tap like an oil field just below the surface.  Bright, intelligent Ethiopian teens. Young women with suspicious eyes, lips tightly pressed into mocking smiles. Innocent wild-eyed 12 year-olds standing on the threshold between girlhood and womanhood.

Empowerment Through Self-Defense

Smoke-stained 18 and 19 year-olds,  skin yellowed by too many cigarettes and too many wasted opportunities.  I have worked with them them all. Every one precious, every one on the edge of… what?

Yes, these teens are “at-risk” but so are we as a society. We are at-risk of losing the energy, enthusiasm, freshness and love that these young women could learn to infuse into our society. Every “at-risk” girl, is a dysfunctional family waiting to happen… or an empowered woman waiting to blossom.

The choice is ours.

Witness this harrowing story of young teens in Haifa trying to get out of the snare of drugs and indecency into which they have fallen.

12 Year-Old Girls Sell Their Bodies For Drugs

Dozens of young teens in Haifa allow older men to touch them in exchange for money, cigarettes, alcohol, hashish, even for a serving of falafel…

In Haifa’s Hadar neighborhood there are dozens like them: They wander around the streets day and night, passing the time smoking cigarettes and hashish, sniffing gas from air conditioners and drinking alcohol that older men give them in exchange for sexual contact and “mutual enjoyment”. They are children, only 12, 13 or 14 years old

The cold calculation with which they describe how they spend the long days of their summer vacation is hair-raising…

“It’s very easy to get drugs in our neighborhood,” T, age 13, says. How can we keep busy during summer vacation when their are no summer activities and no entertainment”. From boredom they start with hashish. The girls here are willing to do anything for drugs, including sleeping with men…

The Girls Are Easy Prey

A few days ago, several of these girls came to the offices of the non-profit organization, Yad Ezer L’Chaver, located in the heart of the neighborhood. “Please put us in your summer program. None of us have anything to do but “get wasted” they said to the head of the organization, Shimon Sabag. “Yesterday, also there were girls sitting with us. They are waiting for our organization to open another session of activities in mid-August. …

“These girls sat in my office telling me things I couldn’t digest, “explained Sabag. “These men are criminals. They see these girls as easy prey. The first hashish cigarette is free. After that, for touching their bodies and from there, to the most awful things.”

Excerpts from NRG/Maariv On-Line: Eli Levi & Yonatan Hilleli
July 31,2009

6 Year-Old Crimefighter

In Children, Crime in Israel, empowerment on July 24, 2009 at 01:15
A few days ago, the news carried this inspiring little nugget:
Ramat Gan: Six year-old girl drives off robber with blows from a broom

A 51 year-old resident of Ramat Gan was arrested yesterday by the Merchav Dan police after two apartment-dwellers in the city complained that he had come to their homes to attempt to rob them.

The suspect came to one apartment wielding a knife and asking for money. Once his request was granted, he left.

He arrived at another apartment and knocked on the door. A six year-old girl answered the door and told him to leave or she would call the police. He drew his knife but the girl stayed cool and hit him with the handle of a broom, driving him off . When local police arrived, they were able to track him to his home via a description provided to them. He was placed under arrest.

Now, would I advise a six year-old girl to take a broomstick to a knife-welding robber? No way! As a professional self-defense instructor, I advise people that nothing they own is as valuable, nor as unique and irreplaceable as they are.
Girl With A Broom- 1651

Girl With A Broom- 1651

But, Man, was I psyched to read about this little girl in Ramat Gan  beating an armed robber to his senses! Talk about empowerment!
And while she’s at it, there are more than a few folks  that I’d like to sic this broom-wielding young lady on.
Right on the top of my hit-with-a-stick parade are public figures dismissed under a cloud of allegations of sexual harassment and assault who rise again as if nothing ever happened.
But let’s not go there… just yet…