In the wake of the inconclusive elections, several groups protested in front of the Knesset, including a group of self-proclaimed witches whose magic seemed to be based on their unique ability to appear in public in their undergarments.
Witches in Jerusalem
Dozens of fringe organizations, including those advocating women’s and gay rights, gathered their forces in front of the Knesset on Tuesday while the swearing-in ceremonies for the MK’s were taking place inside. The groups were protesting the Noam and Otzma Yehudit, both parties that ran with the Religious Zionist Party-list, they felt opposed their political agendas.
One group stood out thanks to their pointy witch hats and scanty clothing. The Tza’adat HaSharmutot (Parade of Sluts) is an offshoot of the transnational “SlutWalk” (SW) movement which, in a manner that seems counterintuitive to many, decries the mistreatment and rape of women by protesting while dressed in a cheap and sexually provocative manner.
“We the sluts”
In her speech to the crowd, Shira, one of the organizers of the Israeli SW protest, decried the Noam party.
“I’m here to tell the loveless people sitting up there, that there’s no way in the world that they’ll decide for us what’s normal here,” Shira said. “I am here to say sexual violence is a thing that happens to every woman, to a trans. And also to tell men that it is urgent that it stop. We are here to say that gender terrorism is taking place. Victims of sexual violence are considered guilty simply because others harmed them. And now ‘normal’ members of Knesset want to make these accusations as well.”
“We, the sluts, will stand and not let them take us back to the Middle Ages. We are here now and we will come again. You can’t ignore us. You won’t be able to prevent us from existing and loving.”
The leader speaks
Margalit Lenk, a participant, explained her motivation to Israel365 News editor David Sidman:
“We are protesting because today, they are bringing into the Knesset people who believe that women belong in the kitchen, that gays are a sin, that crippled people don’t deserve to live,” Lenk said. “We believe that everyone has a right to life with dignity and respect and equality. So we are here to protest against this corrupt and hateful government that is being formed. We believe that the citizens of Israel, 51% of whom are women, deserve better than a hateful, chauvinistic, homophobic, racist government.”
When asked how identifying as witches helped her cause, she answered, “We are the witches you couldn’t burn. They are trying to burn and bury us. So if they are so scared of us, we will be witches. We call ourselves witches for the same reason we call ourselves sluts. If that is what they call us in order to shame us, we will take the word back and own it, wearing it proudly.”
She admitted that to her knowledge, no members of the group practiced witchcraft. It is interesting to note that a similar phenomenon of identifying with witchcraft as a left-wing political ploy has gained popularity in the US. This first went public just a few weeks after Donald Trump entered the White House in 2016 when a group gathered in front of Trump Tower in New York City to cast a hex on the new president and his supporters. This was accompanied by an online group that posted instructions on how to perform a “binding spell”. The group continued meeting every month during the full moon and similar groups were organized for other pressing political issues, such as the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Witchcraft is, of course, prohibited by Biblical mandate.
Let no one be found among you who consigns his son or daughter to the fire, or who is an augur, a soothsayer, a diviner, a sorcerer,one who casts spells, or one who consults ghosts or familiar spirits, or one who inquires of the dead.For anyone who does such things is abhorrent to Hashem, and it is because of these abhorrent things that Hashem your God is dispossessing them before you. Deuteronomy 18:10-12
You shall not tolerate a sorceress [to live] Exodus 22:17
The SW witches may have, in fact, been unconsciously channeling a Biblical archetype by combining the two concepts of promiscuity and witchcraft. In his article titled “Witches in The Bible And In The Talmud”, Prof. Meir Bar Ilan explained that this was precisely the aspect of witchcraft the Prophet Nahum condemned:
Because of the countless harlotries of the harlot, The winsome mistress of sorcery, Who ensnared nations with her harlotries And peoples with her sorcery, Nahum 3:4
“In other words, in ancient times there was evidently a link between sexual immorality and witchcraft, two ‘qualities’ or ‘professions’ which were possibly on the fringes of society, but which men needed,” Prof. Bar Ilan wrote.
In his conclusion, the professor went on to explain what may have been an unconscious dynamic implied by the women’s protest.
“…the tension between the sexes brought about accusations of the physical weaker sex as being engaged in demonic pursuits which endangered the stronger sex. This was what the ruling class did to strengthen its power, and exploited the weakness of the inferior class: the women. On the other hand, the lack of social equality brought about, if not directly then at least indirectly, women with a charismatic ability to engage in witchcraft, if only to attain a certain degree of leadership and social status.”
The SW movement claims that the attire is to protest women being blamed for being sexually victimized while its detractors claim it lionizes the sexualization of women. The movement’s ideology has been questioned and its methodology criticized by some. In the US, the movement has been criticized for being exclusionary to black women.
It is interesting to note that the Israeli movement chose to use the term ‘Sharmuta’ which is, in fact, an Arabic derogative slang word which some left-wing advocates objected to as it could be understood as targeting Arab women. The closest Hebrew equivalent (zonah) literally means ‘prostitute’ which does not carry the same victim-blaming connotation as the Arabic. For this reason, the group chose to retain the title sharmutah to emphasize the victim-blaming/shaming implicit in the Arabic language.