Violence against women has long been a problem in Israel: according to the women’s labor-Zionist organization Na’amat, one out of seven Israeli women has suffered from some form of partner abuse. Statistics show a significant rise. In reported violence in the past five years. But the good news is that professionals attribute this increase to the fact that battered women now are coming forward more readily. At present, 13 shelters exist in Israel for battered women, according to Barbara Swirski, the policy center director of Adva, an organization that dispenses information about social justice issues in Israel. Among them is one specifically for ultra-Orthodox women in Jerusalem, started in1998 by Estanne Fawer, a New York-based activist and philanthropist, who divide sher time between the U.S. and Israel.
“Everyone said that I was crazy,” Fawer said. “They said, ‘What are you doing? There is no need!'” Fawer’s organization, Miklat—Hebrew for “shelter”—houses upto 10 women and 15 children at a time, and provides them with the services of a social worker and a therapist.
Fawer says that it takes even more courage for an Orthodox Israeli woman to leave her husband than for her counterpart in Borough Park, Brooklyn, who is apt to be better educated and more sophisticated.
“These women in Israel have to be scared to death for the children,” Fawer says. “Most have no education and no profession.” She said that Miklat is now starting a catering project in order to help the women learn a profession “because they all know how to work in a kitchen.”
What ultimately happens to them? Most domestic violence victims go back to their husbands. These women are no different. And, as is typical at shelters, often the same women return, more than once. Still, says Fawer, “they go home stronger, and they handle things differently.”
“The word is out that there is a shelter for religious women,” Fawer said. “If we did that, we’ve accomplished something.”