For women suffering from abuse in their marriages, both physical and mental, asking for help takes bravery. Just admitting there is a problem can be difficult and painful, especially for Orthodox Jews who want to honor their husband and family. They worry that by asking for help, others in their religious community will think negatively about their families.
Bat Melech, a Fellowship-supported shelter for battered women and children, is the only shelter in Israel specifically for Orthodox Jewish women, giving them a safe haven where their religious values are respected. These women could enter a secular shelter, but then they would be forced to live without observing their faith, something that brings them comfort.
The shelter opened in 1995 and has supported nearly 1,000 women and about 4,500 children since its opening. They have two locations in Israel – one in Jerusalem and one in central Israel – where Orthodox women, along with their children, are provided kosher meals, job training or help with schoolwork, legal advice, and emotional support.
Women and children who’ve lived with abuse and violence come to Bat Melech feeling broken and lacking all self-confidence. Through psychological support and a welcoming community, women begin to heal. Many seek independence and are well prepared to enter the workforce after having job training classes provided at the shelter.
Freedom from Fear and Abuse
Although she had spent 22 years in an abusive marriage, Yaffit was still hesitant to enter Bat Melech. Often there is a stigma attached to entering a shelter, and Yaffit feared her family would be criticized.
However, soon both she and her children realized that it was truly a place of safety and healing. After meeting the helpful staff, she realized they provide “the strength and energy to deal with what others had brought on us.”
Today Yaffit is divorced and studying to become a physician’s secretary. She hopes to one day become independent and provide her children with a hopeful future – one without fear and abuse.
She credits her new-found happiness and stability in her family’s lives to the Fellowship-supported shelter.
“Only in a place with so much love can you get well and get back to yourself," she says. "I feel like I’ve been given a chance to start anew.”
Yaffit feels blessed to belong to a community of people who truly want to see her succeed.