Amplifying the Stories of Bereaved Mothers

17 March 2021

As the homicide rate in Arab society in Israel continues to rise, NIF grantee Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civil Equality marked International Women’s Day by speaking to bereaved mothers who lost their children to violence in recent years.

On average, in Israel’s Arab towns and cities, nine people are murdered each month. With the scourge of violence disproportionately impacting Arab localities, stemming from both under-policing and over-policing of Arab communities in Israel, citizen protests have grown in scope and urgency. Often met with violent police response, the weekly demonstrations, like in Umm al-Fahm two weeks ago, have continued unabated.

Watfa Jabali, age 51, from Taibeh recounted the story of her son Saad, a social activist, who was murdered two years ago. “It never occurred to me even once when he was alive that my son would fall victim to murder. I had heard a lot about people being murdered, but I had heard that the reason for these murders was to do with the world of crime and revenge killings for this or that reason. It is now clear to me that it has gone beyond the criminal world and everyone is in danger.”

“When our school principal Yussef Shahin, who educated our children, was murdered, I realized that crime had become something big. But I never imagined that it would touch me. We never attacked anyone or harmed anyone. After my son Saad was murdered, I say that nobody is safe on the streets,” Jabali said.

Saad was killed in a local supermarket owned by his family. His mother watched the murderer escape on the store’s CCTV. Watfa Jabali still does not know why her son was murdered. While the culprit was caught (most homicide cases in Arab Israeli communities remain unsolved, attesting to the level of under-policing this community suffered from), but when Watfa asked him why he murdered her son he refused to answer.

Watfa formed a circle of bereaved mothers whose children were killed like Saad was. “In Taibe alone there are dozens of bereaved mothers. They tell us to remain silent but we must speak up so that other mothers do not taste the bitter herbs that we must taste.”

She has yet to see adequate help from the police, the law, and the government. “The law is not being applied in our towns. If our society does not take action the matter will only get worse. In the past, violence was only directed against women in honor killings but now everyone is in danger, young and old, school principles and mayors.”

The bereaved women are leading a major demonstration on this issue on Thursday in Tel Aviv.