“Protection and restraining orders for women victims of violence are life-saving tools, but there are difficulties in their implementation and enforcement,” International Women’s Zionist Organization, or WIZO chairwoman Gila Oshrat said in a statement. “The lack of enforcement ultimately puts women at risk. They find themselves standing alone in front of their violent spouse,” she said.Yet facing the fears and risks of retribution 56 complaints of domestic violence are reported every day to police. In its annual report on violence against women in Israel, WIZO saidthat 200,000 women suffered from domestic violence in 2012 and 600,000 children were exposed to it. The Ministry of Social Affairs also reported that in 2011 its prevention centers for domestic violence received approximately 14,500 new applications, a 16% increase from the previous year. The ministry’s data also showed that the prevention centers treated about 10,286 households (11,778 individuals) in 2011.
“In the Messianic community in Israel we are far behind even the secular world where there is much more awareness of the problem,” says Oran Greenman director of “Ot Oomofet” a local ministry to abandoned and abused women in Israel. “Sometimes there is a tendency to cover up or excuse domestic violence. It is an embarrassment to the family. They would rather not talk about it. Others hide behind religious language unwilling to admit the horrors and hell they are living with at home. At least in the secular world an abuser feels guilty,” says Greenman. “Here in the congregations sometimes you don’t even have that.
Greenman has witnessed many families in the Messianic community suffering from some form of domestic violence and abuse. “Many of the men and women that come to faith in Messiah in Israel come from broken and dysfunctional families. They just don’t have the tools to end the abuse and restore a healthy environment in the home,” she says.
Domestic abuse is mostly hidden from sight. “Get the children to talk,” says Greenman. “Ask them to paint a picture of their family. They will tell you more about what is really happening in the family than most parents are willing to admit.”
Sometimes even the Bible is misused to prevent intervention in abusive families. “The word of God says submit to your husband. Humble yourself and turn the other check,” one local pastor told the wife and mother of two children suffering domestic abuse during 25 years from her husband who was a servant in the local congregation.
When the mother finally received “permission” from another Messianic leader to go to the police, the husband was removed from the family for three months. Enough time for Greenman and her team to begin the long process of restoration for the mother and her children. “When the abusing husband realized that he had lost everything he finally came to his senses. The family is now miraculously restored,” smiles Greenman.
According to Greenman there is not enough education in the Body of Messiah in Israel to deal with the problems of domestic abuse. There are situations where an abusive husband or wife will take control of the finances. “I know a situation where a husband stole $100,000 from his wife and family just because she was not aware of her rights. Get a good lawyer even before separation is discussed,” she recommends.
A new Messianic initiative called “Shelter” is trying to bring awareness of the problems of domestic violence in the Messianic community. At their recent June 2013 conference in Jerusalem topics included: boundaries of authority of a husband over his wife, congregational responsibility towards the victim of domestic violence and Israeli laws and violence in the family.
“Are we doing enough to protect our families. Are we providing the necessary tools to help families survive in the modern world? Do we even have these tools ourselves? Are we modeling what a healthy family really looks like?” asks Greenman.
Tough questions that may just help crack open a door of opportunity for someone trapped in an abusive family. Questions that Messianics are now finally beginning to ask.