It was dusty, the sun descended into the evening sky as five hundred people watched in rapt anticipation.
The field in front of me revealed a scene 100 years old. I saw soldiers on horseback, hat feathers blowing in the breeze, ammunition belts draped across their chests and long leather boots protecting their feet from the desert sun.
The crowd lifted their iPhones above our heads to record the re-enactment of the charge of the Australian Light Horse and the capture of Beersheba’s ancient wells in 1917.
I watched this magnificent scene too. Then, suddenly another scene caught my attention.
The two seats in front of me were empty and a man nearby stopped anyone sitting in these seats. I noticed that he was constantly looking around, moving in his seat and calling someone again and again. His body language said, “I’m annoyed, I’m angry, I am furious!”
Soon a woman and child arrived and sat next to him. I assumed this was his family. What followed took my focus away from the horses and riders and soon brought tears to my eyes. As the woman and child sat down, the man raised his voice in a tirade of angry words. I looked at his wife and saw fear and embarrassment on her face. Her young son’s eyes seemed to plead Abba, calm down, Imma didn’t mean to be late, forgive us, forgive us. But Abba’s angry words didn’t stop.
His loud voice disturbed people sitting nearby. But, no one said anything to him. Maybe we didn’t speak because his loud voice shocked us at the very moment when we were concentrating on the horses approaching in formation. We heard his angry voice but we were silent about the threats it implied.
At the end of the ceremony, he got up and left without waiting for his wife and child, anger still written on his face.
Watching this scene upset me terribly. Later I regretted not speaking up and felt I was a coward. I consoled myself with the thought that if she needs a safe place to sleep, legal advice or emotional support she can approach a WIZO shelter for battered women and the staff will help her build the life she wants.
This incident revealed to me the bullying and fear women experience in abusive relationships. I don’t know this woman’s name and I’ll never know her fate, but now more than ever I know that even from far away Australia, I can help Israel’s women lead lives free of violence by helping WIZO maintain safe places for women.
My photo shows her beret in the lower right corner and is a reminder of a day in Beersheva that will remain with me for a long time.