Just before the Jewish holiday of Pesach, Naam: Arab Women in the Center, a local women’s rights organization in Ramat Eshkol, organized a demonstration to address violence against women in the area. The demonstration was spear headed by Samah Salaime and other Arab female activists from Lod who were motivated by recent violent incursions against women in the area.
The demonstration drew a relatively large crowd comprised of Jews, Arabs, and others coming to stand in solidarity with survivors of violence. Community members made signs in English, Arabic, and Hebrew with slogans calling for violence against women to end. The demonstration began with Samah speaking to the crowd and was followed by speeches from several community activists, politicians from the municipality, and others. The demonstration began quietly and was confined to a small piece of sidewalk designated by Lod’s local police force. As each speaker said their piece however, the crowd’s energy became progressively more impassioned and unified.
Violence against women is not new to Israel or its vast array of Jewish and Arab communities. Citing a recent study by the Ben Gurion University in the Negev, the Times of Israel reported in November 2016 that approximately 40% of Israeli women between the ages of 16 and 48 experience intimate partner violence (IPV) of all types. This includes any physical, psychological, or sexual harm between two people in an intimate relationship. This is particularly true for low income or Arab families. Additionally, only half of the women surveyed reported that their healthcare providers had asked them if they have experienced IPV, the study concluded that this was a problem that needs to change within Israeli society.
Lod stands out as a problem area within the larger issue of Israel’s violence against women problem. In October 2016, JPost published an article citing that 40 women between Lod and Ramle have been murdered within the past 30 years. For those outside of Ramat Eshkol, this may have felt like one of many demonstrations. For the community however, this was a necessary gesture to empower the public, raise awareness, and bring people together in solidarity with victims of violence and their bereaved families.