Tens of thousands of workers halted work last Wednesday at noon for a 10-minute moment of silence to express solidarity with the fight to end violence against women in Israel. Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David called for the unions to join the action, originally initiated by the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). Dozens of them responded to this call.
The action followed the brutal murder of Diana Raz by her husband, a police officer, earlier this month. Raz, age 35 at the time of her death, worked as a mentor and advisor for women trying to leave abusive relationships. The killing has sparked outrage in Israel, as it comes on the heels of skyrocketing reports of domestic abuse and a string of murders since the start of the pandemic. A 2017 plan to deal with domestic abuse has stalled in Knesset, with its budget of NIS 250 million yet to be distributed to relevant organizations.
A wide range of companies stopped work and held internal educational activities for their workers on the pressing subject. These included: Israeli Aerospace Industry (IAI), Mekorot National Water Company, El Al, Teva Pharmaceuticals,the Jewish National Fund (JNF), Osem-Nestle, Strauss Water, Israel Railways and the Ashdod and Haifa port workers, Pelephone, Cellcom, Pri Galil (food canning and shipping) and many more.
Bar-David called on the heads and members of the unions to take part in the action in a letter sent out last Monday night.
"A wave of criminal and murderous violence against women must be put on the agenda," Bar-David wrote. "As early as June last year, when we saw a dramatic increase in the number of reports of violence, I made a firm decision to leverage the power of the Histadrut to change this sad reality."
“We will continue to fight until the unbearable violence against women is uprooted," Bar-David said during a solidarity event held by the Histadrut yesterday.
The initiative was started by Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). Throughout the day, anyone who called customer service number by dialing 103 would hear the names of women who were murdered by their family members.
"The pandemic has led to an increase in the number of women who have been attacked by their spouses. Every once in a while we are very shocked by a case of murder or violence within the family, and a moment later, we continue with the routine of our lives,” Miko Tzarfati, chairman of the IEC, said.
“It is our duty as a society to stop this shocking phenomenon and raise our voices in order to prevent the next case. We are sending a clear message that women are not anyone's punching bag and we must stop the phenomenon of domestic violence in general and against women in particular,” Tzarfati continued.
Mia Yaniv, chairwoman of the Cellcom union, explained why her union decided to take part in the action, condemning harshly the lack of government action around the issue.
“Recent events have proven beyond a shadow of doubt that violence against women is a real malignant disease that is spreading in our society without restraint, and I say today, our call is just the beginning and it is not enough. Israeli policymakers must intervene,” she said. “Drastic laws are needed to produce national information and education from an early age. Let's put an end to this."
At the Pri Galil plant in Hatzor HaGlilit, the union leadership decided to hold a meeting for all its workers about the issue of domestic violence against women, citing the importance for unions specifically to condemni this issue.
“Everyone should understand that a woman is not a man's belonging, she is a human with full and equal rights. Even if there are difficult moments, disagreements or quarrels, one should know how to respect another human being,” Motti Haziza, chairman of the Pri Galil union, told Davar.
"The union has social obligations, and its duty must be to educate, speak up and convey clear messages about the sanctity of the value of life, as well as the right to equality and respect between the sexes," Haziza continued.
Yair Katz, chairman of the Israeli Aerospace Industry (IAI) union, told Davar that the union and the human resources department in the management have jointly produced an informational video about the shocking uptick of violence against women in Israel, in order to increase awareness and sensitivity towards the issue.
"Unfortunately in the aviation industry, we also encountered it up close, after the daughter of one of our workers, Maya Vishniak, was murdered last June [by her boyfriend]. On the thirtieth day after her death, we held a day of lectures for workers on the subject," Katz said.
Rafi Kazalkofi, chairman of the Discount Bank union, wrote to the workers this week, demanding of them to increase their own recognition of signs of domestic abuse and intervene if necessary.
“We must start educating, raising awareness and emplace harsh punishments on domestic violence before it deteriorate to murder,” he said. “We must remember that murder can happen everywhere.”
"This is a cry for us. A joint cry," Israel Goldstein, chairman of the JNF workers' committee, told Davar, explaining that the JNF planted a forest in memory of the women murdered in the last few years. “But the truth is that the system needs to be shaken. It needs to be stopped."”
“If we are silent in the face of violence, we are endorsing it, and this is true of all types of violence, at home, in clubs, in the workplace,” Yechiel Shemen, chairman of the Pelephone union, said.