The Jewish woman, Nechama Tina, holds weekly protests outside the Israeli parliament, calling for an investigation into a prominent rabbi she accuses of rape, and seeking to break the silence surrounding sexual assault in the religious Jewish world.
“I just ask them to listen to me and stop preventing the victims from speaking,” Nichama, a 38-year-old mother of five, told AFP.
In August, Tina upset Israel’s religious Jewish community with a Facebook post in which she accused Rabbi Zvi Tau, 84, of raping her over several years, including when she was a minor.
Taw heads one of the most influential Jewish study centers in Jerusalem, the Har Hamor yeshiva.
He is also the spiritual head of the staunchly anti-LGBT Noam party, which won a seat in the Israeli parliament in the last elections in November and struck a deal with Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to support his next government.
Tao declined to comment on the series of allegations made against him by Tina and another woman, Dorit Lang, who brought charges dating back 40 years. Tao did not respond to AFP requests for comment.
And Israeli media reported on Monday that he might be acquitted in the Fatah investigation several weeks ago, due to the lack of conclusive evidence.
In addition to Tina’s protests in front of Parliament, she also tries to confront Tao and meets him in an area where he is revered by his followers.
“It is not easy to come here. I have been part of this community for more than 15 years. I was married to a man from this community and my children studied in his institutions,” she said.
She told AFP that her protest was motivated “by her sense of duty to help vulnerable people under threat.”
“There are people who are suffering. It is really a matter of life and death,” she added.
Yair Ettinger, a writer specializing in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, has described Tao as one of the “most influential” rabbis in the country, but also one of the “most conservative and extreme”.
“The accusations made by Tina and Lang caused shock waves in the religious world,” he said.
“It’s the beginning of a deep process, and it’s hard to know its long-term effects on the religious world,” Ettinger said.
Pact of silence
There are also signs that Tina’s protest, which began as an individual effort, is gaining momentum, with dozens of people regularly joining her outside Parliament every Monday.
Her brother, Yosef Boyarsky, was among those who stood by her at a recent rally, saying that Tina’s protest was against a system that had forced many victims of rabbinic abuse to remain silent.
“My sister’s campaign is in the public interest and not a personal endeavour,” he told AFP, stressing that “compensations were offered to her in exchange for her silence, but she refused.”
A growing list of rabbis have publicly supported the investigation of Tao. Even Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionist party that included Noam’s party on its electoral list, said an effort should be made to “shine light” on the complaints against Tau.
Carmit Fintosh, an ultra-Orthodox community leading rabbinic who came to support Tina at the weekly protests, said the mentality within the religious community on how to deal with these issues was gradually changing.