Tens of thousands of women and men, Jews and Arabs participated in a general strike across Israel on Tuesday evening, December 4, declaring a “state of emergency” to protest the far-right government’s inaction towards violence against women.
The strike, which included demonstrations, direct actions, and vigils for women who have been murdered, took place in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa, in universities across Israel, as well as in Arab cities and villages. The day’s events culminated in a mass rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
The strike comes in the wake of last week’s murder of two teens – Silvana Tsegai, 12, in south Tel Aviv and Yara Ayoub, 16, in Jish. Theirs were the 23rd and 24th murders of women and girls in Israel this year, marking a sharp rise in such slayings compared to last year. The nationwide protest was launched two weeks ago by the communist chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash – Joint List). Touma-Sliman dubbed Tuesday an “historic day” in which women “go out to the streets to demand the obvious — the elementary right to life and security. We will not let this government continue to abandoni us.”
According to statistics compiled by the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, the number of women and girls killed since the beginning of 2018 is the highest since 2011. In 2016 and 2017, 16 women were murdered; and 13 were killed in both 2014 and in 2015.
Over 300 institutions participated in the Tuesday’s strike including Social Security, the Histadrut Labor Federation, the Koah LaOvdim labor union, the Teachers Union, the Student Federation, universities and colleges and the Na’amat women’s organization. Several local authorities, among them all cities and villages under Hadash leadership, indicated that they too would allow female employees to miss work without docking their pay.
The Social Workers’ Union joined the protest as well, and its members were called to attend the rally in Tel Aviv. The union’s chairwoman, Inbal Hermoni, called on the government to immediately transfer the 250 million shekels ($67 million) it had committed to allocate to an emergency plan for prevention of violence against women.
On Monday, activists dyed water in the fountains across Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa red to protest the government’s disregard for women’s lives. The nation’s cities have been awash with faux blood splattered on sidewalks or on urban walls — or spouting from fountains. In Jerusalem, water in the Paris Square fountain facing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence and in the Lions Fountain in the stately neighborhood of Yemin Moshe was also dyed blood red.
On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, several demonstrators blocked traffic in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem saying that the government was indifferent to the abuse of women. Another rally took place outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, during a cabinet meeting. Ten women held up banners reading: “Prime Minister Netanyahu, wake up! The blood of women is not cheap; do not allow us to die. Violence starts in the corridors of power.”