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The murder of Michal Sela

Domestic violence is a weapon from within, turning your most intimate and safe spaces against you
Michal Sela, found stabbed to death at her home outside Jerusalem on October 3, 2019. (Facebook)
Michal Sela, found stabbed to death at her home outside Jerusalem on October 3, 2019. (Facebook)

“I don’t think they could tell,” he assures me.

I stand in synagogue the night after Michal Sela was murdered, holding my keys and prayer book in hand. Around me, the Shabbat singing is joyous and deafening and oblivious.

Hit’oreri hit’oreri —
Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself!

She was just 32 years old. Her husband stabbed her to death with a kitchen knife in their home, in front of their 8-month-old baby daughter. He showed up at the neighbors’ house, covered in both of their blood.

V’rachaku kol meval’ayich —
Far away shall be any who would devour you

There is heat at the back of my throat and sweat condenses in the crease of my upper lip while I blink too much over watery eyes. I pull the prayer book over my face, embarrassed that I’m embarrassed.

Everyone who knew them expressed profound shock. She was so happy, they said. It came from nowhere, they said.

Yasis alayich Elohayich / Kimsos chatan al kallah —
Your God will rejoice over you / As a groom rejoices over a bride

The prayer book covers my mouth and the keys are close to my face now. I can smell the metal. It smells like blood. Sharp, metallic and heavy.

Iron is funny like that. It courses through your veins carrying life-giving oxygen, but it also makes up your kitchen knives. This is what domestic violence does. It lives invisibly inside your most intimate and life-giving spaces, and it turns them into weapons against you. Danger and safety feel indistinguishable because they are both defined by the same experiences. Home both threatens and sustains you. This is what domestic violence does.

Even in safety, it never fully leaves you.

“I’m not doing okay,” I tell my husband, as we spoon salads into bowls together before our Shabbat dinner guests arrive. My eyes finally release the hot tears I had been restraining the whole night and he puts a comforting arm around me, but right then, the guests walk in, and I hastily wipe my cheeks and become very engrossed in digging through the cutlery drawer so that no one sees my puffy face. I close the drawer, and, with it, memories from a different time, with a different man, and the same me.

I am quiet and subdued that evening and hope the guests don’t notice. After they leave, I worry to my husband that maybe they did.

“I don’t think they could tell,” he assures me.

No one ever can.

About the Author
Rachel Stomel is a literary translator, graphic designer and slam poet. She is passionate about social justice in the Jewish community, with a special focus on women’s rights and issues of religion and state. She is the English communications director for the Center for Women's Justice, a legal advocacy NGO advancing the civil and religious liberties of Israeli women.
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