This harrowing assault took place right inside the Knesset building Tuesday, but thankfully Hilou was in no real danger. This drill was simply part of a self-defense seminar which the Knesset offered female MKs, parliamentary aides and other Knesset personnel in honor of International Women’s Day.
The classes were provided courtesy of the El Halev Israel Women's Martial Arts Federation, a non-profit organization that works towards the advancement of women and female youth through the martial arts and woman-oriented self-defense.
Standing in a circle, female Knesset personnel learned all types of basic self defense maneuvers, all accompanied by piercing cries of ‘no’, which were alone enough to deter any potential attacker. With their left leg anchored back, their knees bent, and their hands thrust forward, the MKs learned to throw their knees forward and kick male attackers right where it hurts most. “Kick upwards towards the head but right through the testicles,” the instructor explained.
Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik told Ynet that she decided to holds this self-defense seminar for female Knesset personnel in order to convey an extremely important message to women. “Many times women just freeze up during an assault, but fighting back and knowing how to respond can make all the difference in the world.”
When asked if she was ever sexually assaulted or even harassed, MK Esterina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu) said that “any girl who served in the IDF back in the day experienced situations that we would define as ‘sexual harassment’ today. We just weren’t aware of it at the time.”
Tartman also noted that “what we are learning as part of this seminar is extremely important. Being assertive and yelling out ‘no’ is an extremely powerful statement.”
' I am a survivor’
One of the founders of the El Halev Federation is Yudit Sidikman, a woman who knows personally, intimately and painfully just what violence against women is all about, and the indelible imprint it can leave on a woman’s body and psyche.
Sidikman refuses, however, to label herself as a victim. "I am a survivor of sexual assault, though in no way, shape or form am I a victim,” says Sidikman, whose husband of nine years was also abusive towards her, though not physically.
Following her assault, Sidikman decided to teach herself - as well as other women - how to say ‘no’ and how to physically defend themselves should the need arise. “We teach women to cry out ‘no’ so that maybe one day they can muster the courage to tell a man ‘get out of this room,” she said. “If a man physically blocks the door to a room and doesn’t allow a woman to leave that is a violent act as well.”