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Israel: Violence against women, including statistics, legal recourse, services available and response by government authorities (2005-2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 2 March 2007
Citation / Document Symbol ISR102086.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Israel: Violence against women, including statistics, legal recourse, services available and response by government authorities (2005-2006), 2 March 2007, ISR102086.E, available at: [accessed 18 March 2019]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Figures on violence against Israeli women vary among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. For instance, the Ministry of Health indicates that an average of 2,500 women are reported as domestic violence victims every year in Israel (Israel 2 June 2005, para. 118), whereas other estimates put the number of battered women between 140,000 (Ynetnews 26 Nov. 2006) and 200,000, of whom 18,000 reported the abuse to the police in 2004 (The Jerusalem Post 25 Nov. 2005). In 2003, the Health Minister reported that some 40,000 women suffering from domestic violence were seen in hospital emergency rooms, and of those, 15,000 were hospitalized (AI June 2005, 27). According to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI), one in three Israeli women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime (2004, 3).

In June 2005, Amnesty International (AI) submitted a briefing report on the rights of Israeli women to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, based on data from various sources, including Israeli women's rights organizations. The report notes that the majority of the victims of sexual assault do not file a complaint with the police (AI June 2005, 25), particularly women from conservative or religious backgrounds (of all faiths), as well as immigrant women from Ethiopia or the former Soviet Union (ibid., 27). The report indicates that the length of criminal proceedings, six years in some cases, also discourages many women from pursuing legal action (ibid., 26).

In May 2006, The Jerusalem Post reported the difficult situation faced by non-Jewish foreign women who are married to abusive Israeli men (10 May 2006). Since many of these women would lose their citizenship if they left their husbands, women from countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and, in one case, the Philippines may become trapped in abusive relationships for fear of losing their rights in Israel (The Jerusalem Post 10 May 2006).

Media reports highlight the particular vulnerability of Ethiopian Israelis to domestic violence (Reuters News 13 Mar. 2005; Haaretz 23 Aug. 2006; ibid. 15 May 2006). While Israelis of Ethiopian descent comprise less than 2 percent of the national population (Reuters News 13 Mar. 2005), 11 percent of the 688 women admitted to battered women's shelters in 2005 were Ethiopian (Haaretz 23 Aug. 2006). In addition, approximately one quarter of Israeli women murdered by their husbands in recent years have been Ethiopian (ibid.; ibid. 15 May 2006). Haaretz notes that 4 out of 12 women murdered by their husbands in 2005 were Ethiopian, while in the first eight months of 2006, 2 out of 10 murdered wives were Ethiopian (23 Aug. 2006).

According to an article appearing in Haaretz, some 50 to 80 percent of Israeli children whose mothers were abused by their fathers were also abused (16 Nov. 2006). The article notes that Israeli shelters and other domestic violence organizations deal with some 2,000 children throughout the year (Haaretz 16 Nov. 2006).

A survey carried out by the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women, of the Prime Minister's Office, found that 80 percent of the 502 Israeli Jewish respondents surveyed consider violence against women as only physical abuse (ibid. 21 Nov. 2006).

Media sources report that human trafficking is a serious problem in Israel, and that thousands of women are smuggled into Israel and sold into prostitution (BBC 24 Mar. 2005; Ynetnews 23 Mar. 2005). Additional information on the trafficking of women in Israel is available in the Trafficking in Persons Report released by the United States Department of State (US 3 June 2005, Sec. V).

Legal recourse

AI lists several laws that can be used in cases of violence against women:

- the Equal Rights for Women Law (1951);

- the Penal Law (1977);

- the Prevention of Family Violence Law (1991);

- the Sexual Harassment Law (1998);

- the Stalking Prevention Law (2001);

- the Victims of Offences' Rights Law (2001). (June 2005, 23)

The Penal Law was amended in 1998 to establish a four-year minimum sentence in cases of rape, indecent acts and incest (AI June 2005, 23). The Prevention of Family Violence Law, which was last amended in 1998, stipulates that an Israeli court may, at the request of a family member, the Attorney General or his or her representative, a police prosecutor or welfare officer, grant a protection order against a person who committed physical violence, a sexual offence, or psychological abuse against a family member (Israel 1991, Art. 3). The possible prohibitions contained in a given protection order are numerous, but two of the examples include prohibitions against entering the family home and "harassing a family member in any manner and at any place" (ibid., Art. 2).

AI reports that there is no specific law criminalizing marital rape, and that persons convicted of rape within the context of a marriage or relationship receive more lenient sentences, such as fines instead of jail sentences (June 2005, 27).

Citing an article appearing in Haaretz, human rights organizations announced the January 2005 amendment of the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Felonies Against Minors, which extended the maximum age by which victims of childhood sexual abuse could file a police complaint to 28 (AI June 2005, 24; ARCCI n.d.).

Throughout 2005, the ARCCI worked with the Knesset to create new legislation to protect women from sexual violence (ibid.). These new pieces of legislation include a January 2005 law preventing convicted sex offenders from working in institutes for the mentally challenged and a December 2005 law that "requires sex offenders to be evaluated and monitored, when deemed appropriate, upon release from incarceration" (ibid.).

In 2005, the Government of Israel announced the creation of a new law, the Limitations on the Return of a Sex Offender to the Victim of the Offence Surrounding Law, which can be used by a court to prevent offenders from living or working in the vicinity of their victim's house or place of employment for the sake of the victim's psychological well-being (Israel 2 June 2005, para. 101).

The Prevention of Stalking Law enables the court to issue a protective injunction against a person for a maximum period of six months, and, under special circumstances, extend the injunction for up to two years (ibid., para. 102). According to Israeli government figures, the law resulted in 2,946 requests for restraining orders between 2002 and 2005, with the number steadily increasing every year (ibid.).

The Victims of Offences' Rights Law stipulates the rights of female victims of violence during a criminal procedure, such as the right to be accompanied during investigations and to be informed if the accused perpetrator escapes or is freed from custody (AI June 2005, 23).

Government response

The Ministry of Health funded programs that, between 2000 and 2003, trained some 7,000 health workers, including doctors and nurses, to recognize signs of domestic violence (Israel 2 June 2005, para. 119).

Citing an article by Haaretz, AI indicats that between 1995 and 2005, the number of men incarcerated for sex crimes rose from 287 to 1,000, while the number of convictions for domestic violence grew from 400 to 2,000 (June 2005, 25). Still, according to data gathered from the ARCCI, more than half of rape cases do not lead to prosecution (AI June 2005, 25). According to Israeli government figures, between 2004 and 2005, police opened 188 investigations into sexual harassment but closed 141 cases for lack of evidence (Israel 2 June 2005, para. 96). The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women conducted a study that indicates that approximately six per cent of domestic violence complaints in Israel result in convictions (UN 6 July 2005). In response to this study, representatives of the Israeli government noted that while police investigated about 50 percent of domestic violence complaints in 1995, in 2005 they were investigating 93 percent of such cases (UN 6 July 2005).

In November 2005, The Jerusalem Post reported on plans by the Internal Security Minister, Gideon Ezra, to pass legislation that would allow women threatened or beaten by their husbands to have panic distress buttons installed in their homes to alert the police (23 Nov. 2005). Ezra's decision was based on a pilot project that installed the panic buttons in 33 homes and that had positive results; during the time that the buttons were installed, 90 percent of the previously battered women reported no violence by their spouses, and police responded immediately in 90 percent of the cases in which the button was used (The Jerusalem Post 23 Nov. 2005). However, further or corroborating information on the legislative plans could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Services available

The Israeli government listed 49 centres for the treatment and prevention of domestic violence in its June 2005 report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, a figure that it said was constantly growing and which was 18 more than in 2001 (Israel 2 June 2005, para. 127). Although some of these centres are operated by women's organizations, they are fully funded by the government (75 percent by the Ministry of Social Affairs and 25 percent by local authorities) (ibid.; AI June 2005, 26). The centres treated 8,556 persons in 2004, 13 percent more than in 2003 (Israel 2 June 2005, para. 127). However, AI explains that two of the centres for victims of sexual assault had their funding cut in half in 2005 (June 2005, 26).

In Israel, the shelters are also funded by the federal and local governments, although they are run by non-governmental organizations (Israel 2 June 2005, para. 129).

The first type of shelter-care comprises "'reception apartments'" that provide, for a maximum of six weeks, housing for women who have just left abusive households (ibid., para. 130). These apartments are located in Afula, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva and Dimona, and can also accommodate women with disabilities (ibid.). They sheltered 63 women and their 100 children in 2004 (ibid.).

The second type of shelters provides accommodation for battered women and their children (ibid., para. 131). The shelters number between 13 (JWI n.d.b; Miklat 2006) and 14 (Israel 2 June 2005, para. 131; AI June 2005, 28) and provide "immediate physical protection for women and children" (ibid.). These shelters are located throughout Israel and are open 24 hours a day to receive women; they housed 692 women and 1,064 children in 2004 (Israel 2 June 2005, para. 131). The Israeli Government notes that there is one such shelter for Orthodox Jewish women and two shelters catering to Arab women (ibid.). There are also two shelters that can accommodate women with disabilities, one of which is for Arab women (ibid.). However, AI reports that Arab women have more difficulty finding shelters in which the staff are familiar with their socio-cultural background than do Jewish women (AI June 2005, 29). Some of the shelters offer assistance in five languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Amharic and English (JWI n.d.b). Women with jobs who stay in a shelter are protected by the Employment of Women Law (1954), which prohibits employers from dismissing employees who cannot work because of their stay in the shelter (AI June 2005, 28). In addition, women who must leave their home due to domestic violence are legally entitled to a one-year housing allowance but, according to AI, reportedly find it "difficult ... to benefit from this assistance" (ibid.).

The third type of shelter-care includes 16 "'transitional apartments,'" which house, for up to one year, women trying to adjust to life outside of the shelter. These apartments accommodated 54 women and 93 children in 2004 (Israel 2 June 2005, para. 132). Some of these apartments specifically cater to religious women (Miklat n.d.).

The following Israeli organizations provide domestic violence resources:

- The Counseling Center for Women in Jerusalem and Ramat Gan is known for its provision of "almost-free therapy" to abused women with limited financial means (JWI n.d.b);

- The Crisis Center for Religious Women in Jerusalem offers subsidized therapy and educational workshops for parents and teachers (ibid.);

- The Na'amat Center for the Treatment and the Prevention of Violence in the Family provides telephone crisis intervention, counselling and legal assistance to victims of family violence in Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (ibid.);

- The Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO) provides hotline services, legal clinics, community education (ibid.), welfare, job training, and volunteers to wait at police stations to immediately receive women victims of violence (The Jerusalem Post 25 Nov. 2005);

- L.O. Combat Violence Against Women operates 24-hour hotlines in Hebrew and Russian and runs shelters in Hadera, Herzliya and Rishon Le Zion (JWI n.d.b; L.O. n.d.a), which housed 190 women and 293 children in 2004 (ibid. n.d.b);

- Miklat-Bat Melech provides shelters to abused haredi (ultra-Orthodox) women (New York Law Journal 21 Jan. 2005) and offers therapy, vocational training and children's counselling (Miklat 2006);

- The Victim Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) helps women to file complaints at police stations, meets with the victims and their attorneys and escorts victims to court (ARCCI 2004, 5-6).

The VWAP assisted over 200 women in 2004 (ibid.). It is operated by the ARCCI, which also runs an Emergency Assistance Fund to enable women of modest means to access psychotherapy and obtain emergency necessities such as clothing, lodging, taxi fares, food and drink (ibid.).

The Web site of Jewish Women International (JWI), a Washington, DC-based NGO that seeks to ensure Jewish women's self-sufficiency and safety from domestic violence around the world (JWI n.d.a), lists six hotlines serving female victims of violence in Israel (JWI n.d.b). A national hotline is funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs to provide services in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and Amharic to victims of violence (Israel 2 June 2005, para. 133). It received 4,700 phone calls from women, men and children in 2004 (ibid.). In the same year, the Rape Crisis Hotline run by the ARCCI received 8,049 first-time phone calls (ARCCI 2004, 3). The ARCCI says that in 1996, 11 percent of callers filed a police complaint while in 2004, 22 percent of callers did so (ibid., 6).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). June 2005. Israel: Briefing to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. (AI Index: MDE 15/037/2005) [Accessed 15 Dec. 2006]

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI) [Jerusalem]. 2004. Annual Report 2004. [Accessed 15 Dec. 2006]
_____ . N.d. "Legislative Achievements 2005." [Accessed 12 Dec. 2006]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 24 March 2005. "Israel Women Trafficking Soars." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2006]

Haaretz [Tel Aviv]. 21 November 2006. Ruth Sinai. "Survey: 80% of Public Think Violence Against Women Is Only Physical." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2006]
_____ . 16 November 2006. Ruth Sinai. "Most Kids with Battered Moms Are Also Abused." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2006]
_____ . 23 August 2006. Vered Lee. "'Not a Subject You Speak about with Your Girlfriend'." [Accessed 23 Aug. 2006]
_____ . 15 May 2006. Ruth Sinai. "25% of Women Murderd by Their Partners Are Ethiopian." [Accessed 15 May 2006]

Israel. 2 June 2005. Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Fourth Periodic Report of States Parties – Israel. (CEDAW/C/ISR/4) (United Nations: CEDAW/C/ISR/4) (United Nations: CEDAW/C/ISR/4) [Accessed 15 Dec. 2006]
_____ . 1991. Ministry of Justice. Prevention of Family Violence Law, 5751-1991 (Last Amended 1998). [Accessed 15 Dec. 2006]

Jewish Women International (JWI). N.d.a. "About Us." [Accessed 5 Feb. 2007]
_____ . N.d.b. "Directory of Domestic Violence Resources." [Accessed 12 Dec. 2006]

Jerusalem Post. 10 May 2006. Ruth Eglash. "Fear of Deportation Ties Non-Jewish Women to Abusive Spouses." (NEXIS)
_____ . 25 November 2005. Hilary Leila Krieger. "WIZO Program Offers Support to Battered Women. Int'l Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women." (Factiva)
_____ . 23 November 2005. Yaakov Katz. "Study: Panic Distress Buttons Can Help Save Battered Women." (Factiva)

L.O. Combat Violence Against Women. N.d.a. "About L.O." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2006]
_____ . N.d.b. "Statistics-Shelters." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2006]

Miklat-Bat Melech. 2006. "Women's Shelters: A Place for a Woman and Her Children to Seek Refuge as They Heal and Slowly Rebuild Their Lives." [Accessed 13 Dec. 2006]
_____ . N.d. "What Is Miklat-Bat Melech?" [Accessed 13 Dec. 2006]

New York Law Journal. 21 January 2005. Thomas Adcock. "Shedding Light on a Dark Issue; Israeli Lawyers Who Confront Domestic Violence Abuse among the Ultra-Orthodox Solicit Help from Manhattan Firms; Hard-Ball Tactics." (Factiva)

Reuters News. 13 March 2005. Allyn Fisher-Ilan. "Ethiopian Jews Battle Poverty, Prejudice in Israel." (Factiva)

United Nations. 6 July 2005. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. "Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee Voices Concern About Inequalities Among Ethnic Groups, as It Takes Up Israel's Report." [Accessed 5 Feb. 2007]

United States (US). 3 June 2005. Department of State. "Israel (Tier 2)." Trafficking in Persons Report. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2006]

Ynetnews [Tel Aviv]. 26 November 2006. Attila Somfalvi. "Olmert: Increase Struggle Against Violence Towards Women." [Accessed 8 Dec. 2006]
_____ . 23 March 2005. Miri Hasson. "Israel's Sex Trade Booming." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources, including: The Acre Women's Association, Arab Women's Forum (AISHA) [East Jerusalem], Israel Women's Network [Ramat Gan], Jerusalem Center for Women [East Jerusalem], Kol HaIsha [Jerusalem], and Women Against Violence [Nazareth] did not respond to requests for information.

Internet sites, including: Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI),, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Israeli Ministry of the Interior [Hebrew only], Israeli Ministry of Justice, Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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