A staggering 88% of the female parliament members in Israel say they have experienced sexual harassment at least once. Some even tell of sexual assault.
Screen capture: Channel 2 News
A popular Israeli campaign against sexual harassment once claimed that it happens to “one out of one,” meaning to every single woman. A Channel 2 News special report reveals that almost 90% of female Knesset Members – 28 out of 32 – say they have experienced sexual harassment at least once in their lives. Some even admit they have been sexually assaulted. Two of them say they continue, even today as parliamentarians, to experience it in their workplace.
“I was 13 or 14,” says MK Ayelet Nachmias-Verbin of the Zionist Union. “I was roller-skating when a grown man called me. He dragged me into a stairwell, looked down my shirt and said he was looking for pretty girls. It took me years to understand. I haven’t even told my mother. This will be the first time she’s heard it.”
“There are certain feelings that a man would never understand, unless he’s been harassed. Like when I’m talking and people are staring at different parts of my body,” she adds.
MK Rachel Azaria of Kulanu recounted an experience from when she worked at the Jerusalem municipality. “It was an incident that repeated itself,” she said. “Another council member would make sexual remarks whenever I said something, which made everybody laugh. I consulted with the legal advisor and others, and they all told me there was nothing to do about it. It bothered me a lot. You can’t function professionally when you’re being treated that way.”
MK Gila Gamliel of Likud said she had experienced countless sexual harassments while riding on the bus to her home on army leaves. “I would fall asleep on the bus a lot,” she said, “and this one time I felt something was stinging me. I moved a little and I saw a hand touching me under my seat. I just froze. I can picture that man even today. I ran to the driver but by the time I felt calm enough to talk he had already gotten off at his stop.”
Two MKs, Meiran Ben Ari of Kulanu and Michal Biran of the Zionist Union, stressed that sexual harassment has happened to them recently at the Knesset. “Even today, as a single Knesset Member, I find myself in uncomfortable situations,” Ben Ari said. “I get comments I probably wouldn’t get if I were wearing a ring on my finger. There was a situation not long ago, I don’t want to elaborate but I solved it.”