A group of feminists plans to protest outside next week’s Jerusalem Conference over the decision to award a prize to the anti-abortion organization Efrat.
B’Sheva, a weekly religious national magazine, sponsors the yearly Jerusalem Conference and honors an individual or organization each year with the Jerusalem Prize.
This year, the conference will award the prize to Efrat, which tries to provide women with alternatives to abortion, including financial support and counseling.
Detractors accuse the organization of brainwashing and preying on women during an emotional and vulnerable time.
Hundreds of protesters are expected to attend a protest during the prize ceremony next Monday at the Jerusalem Crown Plaza as part of a grassroots feminist movement. Activists are also appealing to conference participants, including Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat and other pluralistic leaders and more moderate leaders, to boycott the conference.
“The worst part is that they’re using the woman for demographics,” said protest organizer Tzaphira Allison Stern. “Why shouldn’t a woman have an abortion? Because we need the baby so there are more Jews, and so there are more Israeli soldiers, so we can defend the land and continue the occupation.”
Stern added that the organization works only with Jewish women, rather than with Arab, Druse or Christian women, which illustrates that they care only about politics and not about women’s health.
“They are saying that a woman’s ovaries are a political tool,” she said.
Stern stressed that the feminist activists involved in the protest were not pro-abortion. “I don’t get involved [with the decision to abort] because a woman’s ovaries aren’t part of the public sphere,” she said.
According to Efrat’s website, the organization has saved more than 54,000 children over the past 35 years and now stops approximately 3,000 abortions per year.
The organization was roundly condemned for its alleged involvement during a tragic suicide in Jerusalem in October, when 17-year-old Raz Attias was killed during a shoot-out with volunteer police. Attias and his girlfriend planned a double suicide after realizing his girlfriend was pregnant, and police attempted to locate and stop him. In a dramatic turn of events, he got agitated after he was confronted with a roadblock near Beit Shemesh and fired, prompting the police to fire back.
“The central problem was that there were three activists from Efrat, called ‘pregnancy supporters,’ who sat with [the girlfriend in the hospital] and said, ‘Don’t abort, we’re from Efrat, we will support you,’” Riki Attias, Raz’s mother, said outside her home during the shiva mourning period.
Ruth Tidhar, the assistant director of Efrat, said that the organization had no record of interaction with Attias’s girlfriend.
She said that the woman in the hospital bed next to Attias’s girlfriend urged her not to have an abortion and recommended she contact Efrat. She said it was “simply a lie” that Efrat was involved in the incident.
Tidhar said that the organization reaches out only to women who are unsure of whether or not to have an abortion, or want to have an abortion because they cannot afford a baby.
“We tell them we know that women who have abortions are very sorry about it later, and it never goes away,” Tidhar said in October.
In a statement on the website of Arutz 7, which own B’Sheva, B’Sheva director David (Dudu) Sa’ada said the organization would not back down despiter pressure.
“We found it especially necessary to award them the prize this year because of the unfair opposition from the public and media over the past year,” he said.