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Women without a state and without an army

By: Hedva Eyal
10 June 2005

Translated by Mark Marshall

Original Hebrew:,7340,L-3096337,00.html

Going out onto the street is like going to battle. Sometimes the enemy is inside the house. But we don’t have an army, and the Cabinet does not discuss this war.

In this war we never hear the rise and fall of warning sirens. Many are killed in this war, but always as individuals. This war takes place in the house, in the back yard, on the road, in the workplace. Every place is a battlefield. There is much compassion in this war, but not for its victims; only for the murderers. In this war women are murdered, raped, beaten, humiliated, but a state of national emergency is never declared, and the deaths of our sisters are not recognized as a war-crime. In this war we are on our own: women without a state, without an army, without allies in the halls of justice.

Women in Israel live under constant threat. Our living space is diminished all the time, our movements are restricted in the day and accompanied by great fear at night. Our existence is haunted by the constant fear that maybe the murderer or the rapist is lying in wait for each one of us, and we live in a protracted game of Russian roulette. The progression of a woman’s life in Israel does not at all resemble that of a man. We are subject to the constant threat of violence, and it makes no difference at all how we look, dress or walk. Violence against women is blind to age and appearance. When we go out into the street we take a deep breath as one who is headed into battle. For many of us the enemy is located at home, the enemy is a relative. It is daily violence, with piercing cries, and for all that it is invisible violence. It does not get people out of their houses. It does not produce a change in the public agenda. It remains in the realm of the private, the personal, as if it does not belong to us as a society. Nevertheless, more than once reports of violence have reminded me of terrorist attacks. The media accompany the report with shock, a photo, a few details on the life of the murdered victim, family and friends are stricken with grief. A day passes and we go back to the commercials, routine.

But unlike reports on nationalist terrorism, the Security Cabinet does not convene for emergency sessions, and does not make weighty and fateful decisions. After a terrorist attack many Knesset Members seek to give their opinions, to go to the media and through the media to the citizenry. “Securitist” [bitahonist] is a label that is reserved for those who are knowledgable, those who make decisions in a State in which the “security” of the residents is at the top of their list of priorities. It is a concept on the basis of which governments rise and fall, on the basis of which is determined Israel’s agenda, its borders and its heroes.

How is it that many women in this country undergo daily terror, await the all-clear siren that is slow in coming, struggle for their survival, and the Security Cabinet has not yet even discussed this war? How is it that there are no experts looking into this terror and this threat? How is it that women are not included under the Israeli security “umbrella”? The Security Cabinet and the famous “Kitchen Cabinet” are barred to women and to women’s security.

Now we are told that the Minister for internal security, Gideon Ezra, is setting up a commission of inquiry that will include economists, lawyers and police. An important step, no doubt. But in order for this commission to be effective, it must include a feminist gender analysis, and it must deal with violence against women as an issue in its own right, and not as an annex. This commission must representatives of both Jewish and Arab women, who are struggling to put an end to this war. For they are the experts in this security cabinet.

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