In Hebrew we have a saying about sunlight being the best disinfectant.
That feels particularly relevant as we see the impact of #MeToo throughout the world. In Israel, stories have been brought to light, each more shocking than the next. Still, it doesn’t feel like it’s taken hold in the same way that it has in the United States.
I am a documentary filmmaker who makes socially conscious films. I don’t usually do short pieces, However, I felt compelled to be part of The Washington Post’s project on the global movement. In my piece about the backlash journalist Oshrat Kotler is facing after coming forward with her own #MeToo story, I was able explore the attitudes toward sexual assault and harassment in Israel.
On paper, Israel does not suffer from inequality issues. We appointed a female Prime Minister in 1969, and women serve in the military in combat roles. We even had a president who was charged, and actually served jail time for rape.
Still, it often feels that Israel is nothing but a place of contradictions. As religion plays a major role in our daily lives and political decision making, we are falling far behind when it comes to women’s rights over their own bodies. And many times harassment and rape are dealt with internally or swept under the rug.
Recently, well-known nightclub owner Alon Kastiel was accused of repeatedly slipping date rape drugs into women’s drinks. While the reactions were mostly supportive, there were many people suggesting that he had some kind of right over the women since they had come into his house or had allowed him to buy them a drink. People questioned what the women were wearing and whether their own actions led to their assault.
The most upsetting reactions though, were from people who knew the man: club owners and friends who said they were not surprised, that they knew he used “dirty” tricks. No one said a word. No one warned anyone. Instead, they denounced him once it was discovered.
In Kotler’s case, she shared her experience of an inappropriate and unprofessional proposition offered to her many years ago by Alex Gilady, the founder of Keshet Broadcasting, and a powerful man in Israel. Instead of an apology, remorse or even silence, she received a defamation suit.
Kotler is brave, and recognizes that she is one of the lucky ones. She was able to come forward thanks to support and legal backing from her employer, Israel’s Channel 10.
Journalist Sharon Shpurer started a crowdfunding campaign to support the legal defense of independent journalists being sued for publishing stories about sexual harassment, misconduct and rape by high-profile men.
Shpurer was sued herself for reporting several stories about a real estate mogul who made his money from trafficking women. He was charged in over 20 cases of rape, pimping, and women trafficking. He later became a witness for the prosecution in exchange of his charges being dropped.
We see over and over that gender equality is a great challenge in societies throughout the world. That justice isn’t always served.
But this is where we are now. We are seeing light coming to the surface, acting as a disinfectant.