The Knesset's Labor, Welfare and Health Committee convened Tuesday to discuss the impending closure of seven of Israel's 13 shelters for battered women.
It was discovered in late June that the shelters failed to meet an administrative tender issued by the Social Affairs Ministry.
Israel's 13 shelters house some 160 women, some with small children, who escaped severe domestic violence. Should the shelters be forced to close, 90 women, some with children, will face eviction.
Ronit Ehrenfreund-Cohen, chairwoman of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, spoke before the committee. She called the Social Affairs Ministry's tender "defective," adding that the current guidelines the centers are subjected to are "contemptuous to women."
Mistakes happen? The committee (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)
She further complained about the lack of governmental funding for battered women's shelters and urged the committee to "change the entire process."
Her demand was echoed by members of various social and women's groups, who took part in the meeting.
"There is a grave need for more women's shelters," one of them said. "It is pointless to close shelters down, only to open new ones to replace them."
"This is a disgrace. We cannot let this happen," Ruth Rasnic, executive director of the "No2Violence" center, which fights violence against women, said. Closing half of the battered women's shelters in Israel, she added, "is like shutting down half of the emergency rooms."
Committee member MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) said that decisions regarding battered women shelters cannot be made solely on a financial basis, but must stem from social responsibility.
MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) added that the Social Affairs Ministry decision was "incomprehensible," criticizing it for "seeing only the bottom line and ignoring the issue of social welfare, or the good of those in need of the shelters."
Nahum Itskovitch, director general of the Social Affairs Ministry, said the ministry was "open to all ideas and we'll review the matter. I admit some of the proceedings regarding the tender were wrong. Sometimes mistakes happen."