Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Tel Aviv on Tuesday against what they see as the Israeli government’s inadequate response to violence against women.
Red-capped demonstrators called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “wake up” and carried signs reading “Women’s blood is not cheap” and “We are killed and the government is silent.”
Organizers of the nationwide protests want the government to implement a $67 million plan it promised last year to combat violence against women. At least 24 women were killed in Israel this year, most of whom notified the police prior to their deaths that they were concerned for their safety.
“We had to do something radical, to make sure that women in Israel show the government that we are not going to take this anymore,” said Ruti Klein, a protest organizer.
Netanyahu came under fire last week after a visit to a women’s shelter where he demanded the government act. He was called out for voting against a proposal to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry into violence against women.
Dozens of major Israeli corporations and municipalities supported Tuesday’s strike by paying women who took leave. The protests cut across Israeli society’s many divides. Religious and secular Israelis, both Arabs and Jews alike, attended protests in every major city across the country.
In Jerusalem, protesters splattered red paint on a street littered with signs bearing the names of dozens of women killed. Activists filled a Tel Aviv square with some 200 dyed-red shoes meant to symbolize violence against women.
Kefaia, 42, an Israeli Arab woman who joined the protests, said her husband was sentenced to only five months in prison for trying to kill her with a knife, and that she fears for her safety when he is released next week. She declined to give her last name for fear he would retaliate against her.
“I’ve been scared to talk for so long, because these topics are really sensitive in the Arab community,” she said. “But I can’t be silent anymore.”