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When Women Come Together

After last week’s mass strike in Israel, FZY Bogeret Issie Levin explores the powerful impact of female solidarity.

‘Women’s blood is not cheap’.

These are the harrowing words that echoed nationwide in Israel last Tuesday: an impassioned and forceful response to the rape and murder of 12-year-old Silvana Tsegai in Tel Aviv and 16-year-old Yara Ayoub, found dead days after being reported missing in her home in Northern Israel.

My base, initial reaction to these incidents was simultaneous shock and disgust at the gruesome and horrifying details of what I presumed to be two freak incidents. I hadn’t necessarily considered being angry.

Yet as I found myself unraveling the intricacies of the individual stories further, I quickly discovered that in just 2018 alone 24 Israeli women and girls had been murdered by a partner, family member or somebody they knew. I could no longer qualify these deaths in my mind as freak as out of the blue incidents. As we appreciate that these are real women, not just statistics, the words of the protesters came to my mind: ‘this is an emergency’.

Activists fighting against this crisis have simultaneously focused not on the brutal, bloody elements of domestic abuse, but have also drawn attention to the government’s negligence through a failure to provide the 250 million shekels previously pledged to support services coping with the surge of cases reported.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women saw Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara visit a women’s refuge shelter, claiming to be ‘unsettled’ by the events surrounding him. Nevertheless, Netanyahu still chose to vote against previous bills proposed by opposing parties which have aimed to deal with the crisis, opting to act more singularly, to the frustration of activists, by personally chairing another interministerial committee himself.

At odds with the deep-rooted polarisation within the governing bodies is the unity shown by organisers of nationwide protests and strikes. A coalition of over 50 feminist and women’s groups, coined ‘The Red Flag Coalition’, have focused on working together to protest, strike and promote the importance of this emergency.

Some of the most visually impressive demonstrations featured a 20,000 strong protest in Rabin Square and a display of 200 blood red painted shoes in Habima Square, not to mention numerous strikes and 24-minute silences held across workplaces, universities and public spaces across the country.

While on the surface we may struggle to find much solace or consolation when addressing such a devastating issue, we can find promise in the vision of a unified, Israeli female body.

Organiser Einat Nir, when addressing the crowds in central Tel Aviv, aptly expressed how ultimately the difficulties transcend ‘classes, ethnicities and nationalities’ highlighting how ‘in this struggle we stand together’.

Three year course participants hold up signs that say 'I'm a woman. I'm on strike.'
'I'm a Woman. I'm On Strike.' Photos from Year Coursers at the demonstration (courtesy Maddy Duchen).

In practice, this translates to all Israeli women coming together to condemn and reject labels which permeate within society. Damaging discourses towards ‘honourable murder’ continue to largely float around Arab communities, a problem which founding director of an Arab’s women centre in Ramle-Lod, Samah Salaime, expressed great concern towards. Despite the differences and nuances in which Israeli women may face, we must insist on remembering what Salaime exemplifies that ‘We are all – Jewish and Arab women – citizens of this country’ deserving of equal protection and support.

It’s undoubtedly challenging and troubling for all people to process the fact that women across the world are still having to tirelessly enforce that our ‘blood is not cheap’, but it’s more than difficult, in fact, it’s certainly impossible for us to sit back and accept this gruesome reality.


About the contributor: Issie Levin is an FZY Bogeret originally from Leeds, currently living in Bristol. She took part in the first Netina cohort with Tzedek, which you can read about here.

Photo: ‘I’m a Woman. I’m on Strike.’ Year Coursers attend the demonstration.

Photo credit: Maddy Duchen

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