In honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Israeli President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog hosted at the President's Residence a ceremony awarding certificates of recognition to individuals who have made special and significant contributions to the fight against violence against women in Arab society.
The prizes were handed out by Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen (Yesh Atid).
This year's winners were: Amal Alnasara, a social activist for women's rights in Bedouin society in southern Israel, who helps women in need of assistance in times of emergency; Manal Shalabi, the founder and CEO of A'dar — The Forum of Professionals to Oppose the Murder of Women; and Ola Najami Yusuf, an activist for safer communities at the Abraham initiative non-profit, who works to improve personal safety in Arab society and improve police-community relations, in addition to raising awareness in Israeli society about violence and crime in Arab society.
Speaking at the ceremony, First Lady Michal Herzog said: "I too am a woman who has on occasion walked in fear down dark streets. Every woman knows this experience, which is a tangible and relatively minor example of the far too broad scale that we call violence against women."
Noting the murders which often occur within Arab families, she said: "For many years we have euphemistically called these murders 'family honor killings' or 'romantically-linked murders.' These are terrible acts that have nothing to do with honor, and nothing to do with family. As if romance or unacceptable social norms could justify murder. Today, to our delight, the use of such language is shrinking. And I call on all of us — to Israeli society and especially to news editors, journalists, and websites to completely expunge it from our lives."
"Each and every one of you is a heroine who has worked, and continues to work, in her own way to eliminate this horrifying violence in Arab society in general, against women in particular. Violence that has become a genuine national plague, violence that we must fight and eliminate in every way. The three of you winners are role models for all of us in this uncompromising but extremely sensitive fight. It is impossible to stand by any longer and be silent in the face of a situation in Arab women's twofold marginality—as women, and as Arabs—has a direct impact on their life expectancy."
"This generation is certainly leading to change and inspiring hope in all of us. But the deepest, most meaningful change will be created only when these solutions are added to a single solution: an uncompromising, cross-communal all-out war against violence against women. First and foremost physical violence, but also emotional, economic, and verbal violence. Yes, verbal violence against women is one of the worst evils of all, not just because it leads to other kinds of violence, but because it is intrinsically humiliating and harms women's dignity and humanity."
First Lady Michal Herzog concluded her remarks by saying: "I believe in us. I believe that there is hope for us. Hope that this generation, in which more women are fighting raise their voices and seize their places; in which more men understand that equality and security for women will liberate them too — this generation will lead the struggle for violence against women, all sorts of violence against women, and will win. So that all of us, each and every one of us, can walk around safely, even as a woman walking alone down dark streets."
President Isaac Herzog addressed the winning activists in Arabic and said: "I congratulate you, the women who are fighting against violence in Arab society and everywhere else in the State of Israel. I want to make a vocal call for all women who feel under any threat, not to hesitate, and to ask for help. There has to be change."
Minister Cohen said: "For thousands of women in Israel in general, and in Arab society in particular, every day is a struggle against violence. The road to changing our violent reality is long, complicated, and exhausting, but we are strong and determined to fight this terrorism, this 'terror at home,' exactly as we in the State of Israel know to fight other forms of terror."
"Several government ministries are working in tandem to eliminate this terrible phenomenon, and together we have raised the budget for the program to fight violence in the family. We are advancing legislation against economic violence; we shall adopt the Istanbul Convention, committing the state to a high standard of addressing this phenomenon; and the list of policies is long.
"As a woman, and as the minister responsible for promoting the status of women in Israel, I want to thank, salute, and pay tribute to the brave women leading this battle on the ground to eliminate the phenomenon of violence against women in Arab society, where the phenomenon of violence is particularly on the rise and demands urgent treatment: Some 60 percent of women murdered in Israel every year are Arab. It was important for us today to honor the brave women who did not stand idly by when they saw other women suffering from violence and chose to extend a hand and save their lives."
Eva Madjiboj, Director-General of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women: "This year, I am especially moved to award these certificates of recognition to these wonderful women — Amal, Manal, and Ola — who belong to Arab society and are bravely fighting violence against women. Over the past year, painful stories of violence against women have come out, and this certificate of recognition is a reminder that we must act with all our strength against violence used by men. These women are a font of strength and power. They inspire us all to act against violence against them."