Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheikh met with victims of domestic violence Tuesday night to lite Hanukkah candles and discuss challenges facing religious victims of domestic abuse. Alsheikh’s visit was hosted by the Bat Melech shelter for battered women in Jerusalem.
“Dealing with domestic violence, is one of the most sensitive issues for the Israeli police. It requires a professional understanding of different cultures, complex training of police officers in different positions and close control of the officers and professionals in cooperation with the authorities to give a proper response,” Alsheikh said during his visit.
There are fourteen shelters in Israel and only two of these shelters (both operated by Bat Melech) work with women from Orthodox backgrounds. According to Bat Melech, over 5,000 women have been housed in their shelters and 20,000 have received legal counseling since 1996.
In 2015, 755 women were provided shelter from domestic violence – an increase of 20% from the year prior – according to a report in Ha’aretz.
Victims of domestic violence from the ultra-Orthodox sector face unique obstacles, including isolation from their communities, which tend to be suspicious and lack relations with government services.
Some religious women can also be trapped in abusive relationships if their husbands refuse to sign a Jewish divorce contract, known as a get.
“We are honored to host the chief of police in our shelter,” Bat Melech Chairwoman Attorney Zilit Jakobsohn said, “to visit, have direct contact with female victims of violence, which allows for a broader understanding of the fact that domestic violence is a phenomenon outside sectors and social standing.”
In 2015, over 14,000 appeals were made by citizens from domestic violence prevention centers that are operated by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry. While at least 15 women in Israel have been killed by a boyfriend, husband, or family member since the beginning of 2016.
Alsheikh said the police are working to combat domestic violence, especially when it comes to the women in ultra-orthodox communities.
“As discussed this a complex issue, I am pleased that the religious and ultra-Orthodox community has demonstrated in recent years more maturity to address this issue without denial,” Alsheikh said.
“Dialogue with rabbis and community leaders is widening the understanding that no society is immune to domestic crises and with this the community’s cooperation with the police and social services deepens.”
“Chanukah symbolizes the peak season of darkness,” Alsheikh remarked but added that volunteers of Bat Melech have “injected a lot of light into the darkness.”