Jul 15, 2020

Update with Shirli and Gali - July 6, 2020

Shirli Shavit and Gali Etzion: Israel international call, July 6, 2020

Shirli Shavit is Director of Na’amat Israel International Department

Gali Etzion is an attorney who heads the Na’amat Israel Legal Department

The increase in Domestic Violence is a worldwide problem exacerbated by the Covid-19 Pandemic.   

Gali discussed some ongoing issues in Israel:

  • There has been an increase in domestic violence – with the murders of 10 women and a ten month old baby this year.
  • Women are 50% of the labour force, but have experienced 57% of the job loss.
  • Job prospects for women are poor, particularly for pregnant women.
  • Israel is facing a Second Wave of Covid-19 and is going back into isolation.  Pools, gyms and theatres are closed again. Weddings are permitted only in restaurants, not in wedding halls.
  • Nine Na’amat day care centres closed in part because some children and care givers tested positive for Covid-19.
  • Currently women are still not getting their divorces in a timely manner, as the courts are not functioning.
  • Parent Alienation Syndrome is a problem, as many men are trying to convince the courts that their wives, not themselves, are the violent partner and thus children are taken from their mothers as men falsify the real situation.
  • Absence of life sentences in Israel has lead to the release of murderers too soon.  Recent cases were discussed:
  • The father of a murdered woman is fighting to have her murderer sentenced for life.
  • Na’amat, through a special committee, successfully advocated to halt the parole of a murderer of multiple women.  The case - Twenty-nine years ago, this man murdered his 19-year old wife and was convicted of that murder.  He also murdered a young Arab women before and another woman afterwards. He was sentenced to a term of 36 years.  While his parole was denied, he will be released in 7 years at age 57.
  • A new organization has started to help families of murdered victims along with a new form of sentencing being sought to put murderers of women in jail for life.
  •  Currently the law deals with sex offenders more than with violent offenders.

But change takes time.

  • However, there are some positive changes:
  • Signs for “women power”. After the murder of 22 year old, Maya Vishniak in mid-May in Ramat Gan, a lot of young women said enough is enough and there was a big demonstration., bringing the issue to the public and to politicians.
  • With a new government - introducing new legislation is finally possible. Since the last 3 elections, there was a total freeze on passing legislation.
  • In the new government, the Minister of Justice, Avi Misenkor, was once head of Histardut (a Na’amat sister organization).
  • Na’amat is trying to convince government to understand that women and children are in serious situations. They advocate for and request money to assist the situation. but change is still a long way off.
  • There is hope that while the portfolio on Women’s Issue headed once by a woman and now headed by two men,  could lead to positive change in social dynamics.
  • Gali hopes the positive impact of the new necessity for working from home, for both men and women, could be beneficial for the family, as men will also seek to be with their children at home.

Updates on Na’amat Israel

There are more than 20 Legal Centres in Israel.  They have been working during the lock down to deal with family and labour laws. The two main issues are the return to work for laid off for pregnant women and the issue of child support. During the quarantine, many men also sought help.

Each centre has a different number of staff and lawyers, depending on the population and need.  Most of the lawyers are female and are paid staff. These positions generally pay less than what is available in private practice. The fees for people who come to these Legal Centres are less than going to a lawyer in private practice.  There is also some legal aid funds available from government. If a client is just over the qualifying scale, they are sent to lawyers that offer a discounted rate to them.

Normally, daycares in Israel close during August for 3 weeks. Na’amat has a new strategy - to open the day care centres past August 8th  for one week. This would provide care givers additional salary (at 160% of their normal salary for that week). It is hoped this will offset some of the Na’amat financial losses. Plus it will provide day care so parents can return to work.

Na’amat’s Rishon Metzion School offers a diploma in Practical Engineering.  This program provides a job path to the students when they get drafted into the army and beyond.  Thirty-one students just graduated from this program. 

The Na’amat Scholarship ceremony, planned for September, will be much smaller than normal. Only the PhD recipients will be featured. Na’amat gives preference to those women in a masters program who study social work, as half their time is spent in volunteer work.

Participants on the call continue to be amazed at how strong, hardworking and determined Shirli, Gali and all of the Na’amat Israel members are.

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