Thousands Protest Sexual Violence after Gang Rape of 16-Year-Old Girl

Two thousand protesters gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Sunday evening, August 23, to decry sexual violence against women, following the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in the southern resort city of Eilat last Wednesday, August 12. Among the protesters were members of Hadash, the Communist Party of Israel and the Young Communist League. The crowd blocked several streets leading up to the square and some hundreds began marching down the adjacent Ibn Gabirol Street, a main artery in central Tel Aviv after the protest ended. The protesters chanted: “No means no. What part of that don’t you understand?” “It’s not a mistake, its policy,” and “Stop, enough, blame the rapist.”

Noa Levy, a member of the Communist Party of Israel's Central Committee during the protest held in Tel Aviv, August 23, 2020. The placard she's holding reads "Enough murder of women."

Noa Levy, a member of the Communist Party of Israel’s Central Committee during the protest held in Tel Aviv, August 23, 2020. The placard she’s holding reads “Enough murder of women.” (Photo: Zo Haderech)

Protests on were also held Sunday afternoon at the Chords Bridge in Jerusalem were participants wore red and carried signs reading: “Stop blaming victims” and “Even one is too much,” referring to the tens of suspects who allegedly sexually assaulted the young girl in Eilat. Smaller rallies also took place on Sunday and Monday in Haifa, Nazareth, Kiryat Ono, Beersheba, Raanana, Petah Tikva, Ashdod, Hod Hasharon, Shoham, Rehovot, Modi’in and other locations.

The protesters blamed the far-right government for its lack of efforts in fighting sexual and other violence against women and demanded an increased budget for programs to combat the phenomena, changes in the justice system for such cases, and better medical support for victims of sexual assault.

Hadash lawmakers expressed their outrage on Thursday, August 20, after knowledge of the gang rape in a hotel room in Eilat was made public. Several demonstrations were held across Israel to protest violence against women on the same evening and Friday. Joint List MK and former chair of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash), described the alleged assault as “horrid.” “Another gang rape by 30 violent men is an incomprehensible evil. The thought that a 16-year-old girl had to deal with that situation is mortifying.” “She deserves a support system, which will back her claims with the required sensitivity and the rapid gathering of forensic evidence. We cannot abandon victims in the face of the bureaucratic hell of the police and the justice system,” said Touma-Sliman. According to Joint List MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash), “The accusations are gut-wrenching. It is our duty as a society and a state to viciously fight the culture which allows for such horrid incidents to occur, and support the victims as much as possible.”

Files for nine out of 10 rape crimes in Israel are closed by prosecutors without charges being made, according to an annual survey released at the end of last year, which also found a significant increase in the reporting to authorities of sexual assault and harassment. A report by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel found that in 2018 police opened 6,220 investigations into alleged sex crimes and harassment, including 1,166 of suspected rape, constituting a 12% increase compared to the previous year and a 40% rise from 2013.