Information and news on israel

empowering women in Israel
Founded in 1925, NA’AMAT is an organization that provides support, education and service to Israeli women. The women who originally started the organization believed in equality: that women were equal to men and deserved equal chances at life. The organization began in New York with the purpose of empowering women in Israel. Eventually, the organization spread to nine countries in total.

Israeli women fought for the right to receive equal treatment in the workplace and community long before the 1960s feminism movement. They demanded respect for all they did as wives and mothers. NA’AMAT played a large role in providing resources for these women. Its mission statement reads: “[NA’AMAT provides] vital educational and social services for women, children and families in need, in Israel.” Here are three ways NA’AMAT fulfills its mission statement.

Nurturing Children

NA’AMAT has 200 facilities to provide childcare to over 17,000 children, so their parents are able to work. The families who enroll pay based on a sliding scale fee, depending on their income. Because so many families live below the poverty line, the NA’AMAT U.S.A. branch raises funds to help pay for these children to attend.

On top of providing early education, NA’AMAT is also a safe haven for children who have suffered abuse or neglect, become an orphan or experienced terrorism. These children receive counseling and special attention.

Empowering Women

In 2004, 18,000 women in Israel reported experiencing abuse, but authorities believe the actual number was closer to 140,000-200,000. One out of three women will experience sexual assault according to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. However, most women with conservative or religious backgrounds do not file a complaint.

NA’AMAT focuses on empowering women in Israel by operating legal aid bureaus. Its purpose is to help women who have been victims of workplace discrimination and domestic abuse. It provides counseling and programs that give women a sense of pride and self-worth.

Education For At-Risk Youth

Not everyone without an education lives in poverty, but people who experience poverty are far more likely to not have an education. Education opens doors: it provides more job opportunities, helps fight gender inequality and allows people to develop social skills.

NA’AMAT provides education and vocational training for low-income children. Some of the schools are girls-only, and each student receives personalized care and attention. Whether the children have come from underrepresented groups in Israel or are migrants, NA’AMAT gives them a second chance at developing skills to contribute to society and feel a sense of empowerment.

Empowering women in Israel is a clear focus of the organization. Through NA’AMAT, Israeli women can progress forward in their lives. Whether they have been victims of abuse or neglect, the organization helps them stand on their own two feet. NA’AMAT gives women the support they’d otherwise lack with helping care for children, so they can have a career and provide for their families.

Each woman truly receives personalized care. Additionally, positive role models surround their children and provide support through their adolescence. With NA’AMAT on their side, Israeli women have had an ally for almost 100 years to help fight for equality for themselves and their children.

Tawney Smith
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Israel
Poverty in Israel impacts 469,400 families with around 1.8 million Israeli citizens living below the poverty line. Children make up 841,000 of the Israeli citizens in poverty, ranking second-most severe, next to Turkey. Poverty in Israel rose from 19.4% in 2017 to 20.4% in 2018 while child poverty rose 2% in those years from 27.1% to 29.1%. Luckily, there are groups looking to reduce child poverty by providing aid to those experiencing hunger. Several non -governmental agencies are working to collect, preserve and distribute food in the country.

Nutrition Among Impoverished Children in Israel

Child poverty in Israel results in children not receiving proper nutrition and reaching their full potential. Welfare services are in place for children who live in extreme poverty in Israel. In 2018, there were 2,934,000 children in Israel. Of these children, poverty affected 14% or 400,000. Families with more children are more likely to experience poverty. In fact, families with an average of five children or more account for two-thirds of child poverty in Israel. Meanwhile, poverty affects 25% of single-family households in Israel. Families who have immigrated from other countries since 1990 account for 16% of all children who are on the welfare support system and about 57.8% of Arab children live in poverty.

State support for child poverty in Israel lacks the nutritional diversity necessary to sustain proper growth and development. About 76.3% of children receiving nutritional support receive only bread and condiments. Meanwhile, reports have determined that 54.5% of children in poverty in Israel have smaller meals than required for proper nutrition or have skipped meals altogether.

The Work of Latet

Latet, meaning “To Give,” works to eliminate child poverty in Israel. Latet has been working to restore dignity and feed families in Israel for more than 20 years.  Latet supervises 180 local organizations in Israel aimed at helping Israeli citizens sustain food supply via means of a food bank and other aid programs that attempt to reduce child poverty in Israel. Latet provides assistance to more than 60,000 families monthly by salvaging food that may have otherwise gone to waste. It collects food from grocery stores, food manufactures and food distributors before sending it to its distribution center. There, the organization sorts, packages and distributes the food to families in need. Latet owns a fleet of trucks for distribution, which occurs to preserve the dignity of families who are able to benefit from the organization’s services.

Latet maintains economic efficiency by maximizing benefits to families. For every one shekel that it attributes to costs of gathering and transporting food, it obtains and distributes nine shekels worth of food. About 19,100 volunteers have provided 452,000 hours of aid that assist child poverty in Israel. Latet has successfully salvaged $25,000,000 in food annually that would have otherwise gone to waste, and distributed it to families in need. Because of the strategic partnership that Latet has with food supply chains in Israel, it has been able to successfully supply much-needed food to help fight child poverty in Israel.

Non-governmental agencies such as Latet are continuing the fight against child poverty in Israel. It is striving to gain support and momentum both in Israel and abroad. The Alternative Poverty Report, which Latet distributes, keeps track of progress and provides different statistics to bring to light the severity of issues of poverty in Israel. The organization has thousands of volunteers and has large public displays to help raise awareness to provide aid to the issue of Israel’s child poverty.

– Carolyn Lyrenmann
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in israelHomelessness in Israel has been a rising problem in the country. Much homelessness in Israel is a byproduct of ongoing poverty that many Israelis face. In 2017, the poverty rate rose from 19.4% to 20.4% in 2018. Unfortunately, children make up a significant proportion of impoverished people in Israel. With Israel having many people on the streets without a place to call home, homeless Israelis are dying. Many homeless people have been killed over the last decade in Israel as well.

Lack of Assistance

One problem facing homelessness in Israel is the country’s failure to prioritize assistance for the homeless. Those who are homeless or struggling to meet their rental payments don’t receive enough benefits from the Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry to make ends meet. Specifically, Social Affairs and the Social Ministry only offer 1,632 shekels a month to these people who meet the requirements for aid. This equals $436 a month. Further, the maximum amount of money these services offer to victims of homelessness and poverty is 1,735 shekels a month. This equals $464 a month for a single person.

These living conditions make it challenging for poor Israelis to stay out of the streets. Moreover, this system helps less than half of homeless people in Israel. The other half don’t qualify because they can’t document that they are homeless. However, it is not easy for people on the street to support their claim easily. Even so, they still need any help they can receive to fight homelessness in Israel.

Fatality Rates Among the Homeless

Many people who find themselves on the street in Israel aren’t just financially hurt but are physically in danger, too. Many homeless people live in close proximity to others in the same situation. Additionally, many lack the funds to purchase treatment when they get sick, which is especially concerning during the pandemic.

As of 2018, 610 homeless people have died on the streets of Israel. Different diseases and viruses can be a major cause of death for those who die on the streets. Homeless people often suffer the same illnesses as others, but their death rate is three times higher. These circumstances can also make homeless people vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Indeed, as of October 2020, Israel has 126,419 cases of COVID-19. So far, 100,357 people have recovered and 993 have died.

Tackling Homelessness in Israel

Homelessness in Israel may seem impossible to eradicate, but many organizations are working to do just that. For example, the Israel Homeless Association (IHA) and shelters for the homeless have become safe havens for homeless people. The Lasova nonprofit organization and the Health Ministry have also provided a “home” to those on the streets. These organizations give them access a safe place to sleep. Around 1,900 people who are victims of homelessness in Israel are receiving aid from the Health Ministry. The IHA targets areas that are most at risk and ignored by the Israeli government. Recently, the collapse of the country’s safety net has caused the IHA charity to put its money into assisting struggling families.

Three years in a row, the IHA has provided clothes for the homeless in Israel registered with the Homeless Offices of Beer Sheva and Eilat. Additionally, the IHA, with the help of other service organizations, helped relocate seven families to a higher quality of living conditions. One hundred thirty kids in the Negev region who are homeless have received over $7,500 worth of toys from the IHA.

The work of organizations like the IHA provides a glimmer of hope among the crisis of homelessness in Israel. During the pandemic, the fact that homelessness puts many people at risk of death and disease is especially significant. Organizations and the Israeli government must work together to tackle this issue.

– Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Israel

In Israel, the battle for gender equality continues to rage. Despite being the third country in the world to have a female head of state, women were forced to sit at the back of the bus as recently as 2018. In the face of gender equality legislation, religious figures continue to promote and enforce gender segregation in public spaces.

Israel, a fairly new country in the Middle East, identifies as a democratic state. The country gained its independence in 1948, passing the Women’s Equal Rights Law in 1951 to ensure gender equality. The Israeli Declaration of Independence states that the nation “…will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” However, the Israeli government has found it difficult to combat gender segregation.

Women’s Rights in Israel Today

Presently, Israel ranks 25th on the Gender Inequality Index. Although the Israeli Declaration of Independence sought to establish gender equality, there has been an increasing demand for enforcing gender segregation in public spaces by Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. There have been instances in which women have been denied access to a public bus for wearing shorts deemed “immodest.” In many situations, if women can access a bus, they are forced to sit in the back. In some universities, women are even forced to drink from separate water fountains.

Many lawsuits in Israel have been filed in the name of gender inequality. Although gender segregation in cemeteries is illegal, the Israeli government and the Ministry of Religious Affairs do not uphold the law. As a result, women sit separately from their male family members and are not permitted to be a part of funeral ceremonies.

Women hold esteemed positions in Israeli society. As of 2017, women comprised 59% of the university student population and  53% of the Ph.D. student population. Israel’s Supreme Court has had three female presidents, with women comprising 54% of judges in Israel as of 2017.

Despite the prevalence of female leaders, female lawmakers have been deemed “indecent” by their religious associates and admonished for wearing sleeveless dresses. Although the majority of college degrees are held by women, women academics are not allowed to instruct ultra-Orthodox men at universities. Female lawyers are seated separately and at the back of the room for training programs. Female army cadets are separated from their male counterparts by partition during graduation ceremonies. However, several organizations are advocating for equal treatment.

The Future of Women’s Rights in Israel

Many organizations are fighting for gender equality in Israel. For example, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) fights gender segregation and religious extremism. IRAC has made great progress in the field of anti-segregation legislation, including filing a class action suit against public radio stations for refusing to put women on-air. IRAC’s work has also lead to a Supreme Court ruling making gender segregation on public transportation illegal.

Founded in 1984, The Israel Women’s Network advocates for gender equality through education and awareness. They are currently advocating against gender segregation in public transportation and gender violence. The Women of the Wall are fighting to secure women’s religious rights to pray at the Western Wall through education, empowerment, and advocacy. When gender equality laws will be upheld, the visions for gender equality can be achieved.

The Future is Equality

As the first woman to serve as president of the Israeli Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch said, “We are commanded to act with tolerance and to promote the protection of human rights.”

The gap between the visions for gender equality and the reality women face is vast. Gender inequality is crucial to the advancement of Israel and the rest of the world, being essential to peace and development. Ultimately, the work of organizations such as IRAC and The Israel Women’s Network continues to empower women and allows Israel to look toward a brighter future.

– Tara Hudson
Photo: Pixabay

UNRWA
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was specifically created to help Palestinian refugees after the 1948 Israeli-Arab war. The Palestinian refugee problem has only grown since its formation, so the U.N. has allowed the agency to continue operating.

Palestinian refugees are unique. Every person who was a resident or a resident’s descendant of what is now Israel all have a legal designation as ‘refugees.’ UNRWA now serves four generations of Palestinian refugees, having grown from serving 750,000 to 5.6 million.

The United States Pulls Funding

The United States pulled its funding from UNRWA in 2018. President Trump cited the reason behind the defunding as the agency’s incompetency. The United States had previously been contributing about $355,000 million of UNWRA’s budget.

The United States’ decision affected refugees who rely on UNRWA’s aid for education, health care, protection and basic human needs like food security. In 2017, reports determined that 39% of Palestinian refugees lived in poverty, and very little effort has occurred to assimilate Palestinians into host communities.

Palestine, Israel and the international community, in general, see the United States’ choice as an effort to delegitimize UNRWA and the 5.6 billion Palestinian refugees it serves. Revoking these generations of Palestinians’ refugee status would take away their right to return to their homeland.

Aftermath of Funding Removal

In 2020, the U.N. extended UNRWA’s mandate to the year 2023. However, UNRWA is still struggling financially. Not only did it appeal to the international community to donate a minimum of $1.4 billion for the yearly budget, but it requested another $14 million for COVID-19 emergency aid.

The UNRWA reported that it can only sustain operations until May 2020 with the added health crisis that COVID-19 brought on. It has only raised one-third of its budget. UNRWA’s director stated that the UNRWA must run on a “month to month basis” enduring the biggest financial instability since its creation.

Pleas for Help

The United States made the suggestion to transition the UNRWA’s responsibilities into the hands of the Arab countries that host Palestinian refugees. However, these nations are struggling to fill their own funding gap. Arab countries are suffering from high poverty rates and an influx of refugees from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

UNRWA has also sought the help of NGOs, such as Islamic Relief USA, to fill the funding gap. This is a faith-based organization that works to raise funds and mobilize volunteers for a range of initiatives including UNRWA. It has been helping Palestinian refugees since 1994. Islamic Relief USA has served 1,077,000 people from 2017 to 2019.

The United States government might have cut off funding to UNRWA as a result of flaws within the agency. It might have hoped to delegitimize the Palestinian right of return. Either way, Palestine’s impoverished people need UNRWA’s support. If UNRWA is not successful in gaining new donors, they will lose their access to education, health care and other necessary securities that are human rights.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

Tzedakah
“Tzedakah” (pronounced suh-dack-uh) is the Hebrew word for “righteousness” or “justice.” The word relates to “tzaddik,” the name for a righteous Chasidic spiritual leader. Both words come from the Hebrew root word “tzedek,” meaning justice. Tzedakah is an ethical obligation that the Torah mandates, also known as a “mitzvah,” or law. Many Jews give tzedakah before Shabbat (the sabbath) and festivals (such as Purim and Shavuot). Its intention is to show the Jewish people’s determination to improve the world.

What Does it Mean to Do Tzedakah?

Though many Jews typically perform tzedakah by giving money, many Jews do volunteer work to pay their dues. Examples include volunteering at a soup kitchen, participating as a school field trip chaperone or visiting the elderly or sick. The Jewish sages of the Mishnah taught that every Jew has something to contribute, whether it be money, time or attention.

Jews who give money for tzedakah usually give it to organizations that help the poor, Jewish institutions and charities, humanitarian causes or Torah schools. The Shulchan Aruch (a legal code in Orthodox Judaism) gives some guidelines as to where donated money should go to first. For example, a Jew with a struggling family member should give money to them before they give it to an organization outside the family. Similarly, local charities and organizations take priority over ones that are farther away.

Many Jews give tzedakah in multiples of 18 because the Hebrew word “chai” (pronounced hai), meaning “life,” has a numerical value of 18. For example, one may give $18 to a Torah school or $360 to a local Jewish organization. Alternatively, they may volunteer at a school field trip for 540 minutes (9 hours).

The Pushke (Tzedakah Box)

Before the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples in 586 BC and 70 AD respectively, there was a designated chamber where people could deposit donation money in a box. Poor people would then enter the temple in a respectful manner and receive the money that people had left for them. The tradition of a tzedakah box persists in many Jewish homes today. Only now, instead of poor people entering strangers’ homes and taking the money themselves, Jews simply go to the charities they wish to support and drop off money there.

Jewish Charities Associated with Tzedakah

The following organizations are specifically Jewish or Israel-focused. Not all Jews donate to these charities, and there are many who donate to organizations that have nothing to do with Judaism. They also commonly give donations to schools, synagogues and halfway houses.

  • ALEH (founded in 2003) is an organization that has an association with Aleh Negev in Israel, a village that gives rehabilitation, medical care and education to disabled Israelis.
  • Yad Sarah in New York primarily gives home and healthcare services to the elderly and the disabled.
  • The LIBI Fund (founded in 1980) combines a body of donations to helps fund Israeli Defense Forces.
  • American Friends of Magen David Adom (founded in 1940) helps American Jews donate to Israel’s national emergency medical service.
  • Regional Bikur Cholim (founded in 2013) is a nonprofit organization from New York that gives food and care packages to people in need.
  • Yad Eliezer (founded in 1980) distributes care packages and food stamps to people living in poverty.

While not comprehensive, this list helps illustrate the many organizations that help Jews engage in tzedakah. Through these charitable contributions, Jewish people have the power to make significant progress in the fight against poverty in their communities and around the world.

Kia Wallace
Photo: Flickr

children in palestine
Palestine is a country located in the Middle East, off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Its boundaries are disputed but include the major territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestine has a population of over five million people, with almost two million living in the over-populated Gaza Strip and three million in the West Bank.

The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict has played a detrimental part in the livelihoods of 2.4 million Palestinians, denying them access to necessities such as health care, stable housing and education. The 13-year blockade on Gaza has restricted freedom of movement for inhabitants in Gaza, limiting one million children of Palestine access to basic commodities found in Israel. Children are subject to shocking levels of violence on the way to and from school, during school and even in their own homes. Every year, the Israeli military detains and prosecutes around 700 Palestinian children, many of whom commit mild crimes, such as throwing rocks during demonstrations.

Much of Palestine consists of young people, about 53% of its population is made up of children under the age of 18. In every society, including Palestine’s, the children are the most valued members; dreams are built with the hopes of manifesting a better future for the youth who have a potential that is yet to be realized. Here are four ways to invest in the children of Palestine to help them attain the right to a safe and just future.

4 Ways to Invest in the Children of Palestine

  1. Participate in Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) – The Palestinian BDS is a movement for freedom, justice and equality, protecting the principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of the world. It endorses nonviolent protest on Israel until the state complies with international law, which includes ending the violence on and detainment of Palestinian children. BDS entails boycotting goods from well-known companies, such as HP, Puma and Sabra, all of which are complicit in violations of Palestinian children’s’ rights. Divestment and sanctions campaigns urge banks, churches, universities, local councils and governments to withdraw aid and investments from Israel and all companies that uphold the state’s noncompliance with international law.
  2. Sponsor a child – There are a number of nonprofits that give people the opportunity to sponsor one of many Palestinian children and invest in their futures. Organizations such as Humanium and SOS Children’s Villages look to provide children with a safe living environment, education, emotional and mental support, as well as access to healthcare services. These organizations also fight injustices aimed specifically at Palestinian children, such as child labor and marriage.
  3. Support legislation – Much good work comes from initiatives such as the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act (H.R.2407). This bill, proposed by Minnesota Democrat Rep. Betty McCollum, prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds to support the military detainment, interrogation, and ill-treatment of children in violation of international law. It also prohibits funds from being used to support certain practices against children, including sensory deprivation, solitary confinement and torture. It is important for U.S. citizens to speak up on behalf of Palestinian children, to let their voices be heard by urging Congress to take action against these injustices via phone calls, emails, and lobbying meetings.
  4. Stay informed –  Several initiatives aim to improve conditions for the children of Palestine. UNICEF, for example, plans to work closely with partners to provide children with safe drinking water, solar power, improved latrines, sanitation services and access to school WASH facilities. The nonprofit will continue to prioritize strengthening child protection systems, addressing negative coping mechanisms and supporting neonatal and postnatal care. The organization will also ensure that children benefit from improved access to quality learning in safe and inclusive environments, and are empowered to contribute to their society’s development.

Youths are not only the future, but they are also the present. The children of Palestine have a right to a safe and just life, where persisting conflict and a lack of human rights do not define their potential. It is important that citizens of the developed world play an active role in investing in these young people and helping empower them so that they can graduate from a life riddled with conflict and violence, to a fulfilling, more sustainable one.

– Sarah Uddin
Photo: Flickr

 

 

palestinian children
Palestine is a Middle Eastern state that borders the Mediterranean Sea and primarily consists of the Gaza Strip and West Bank regions. Over five million people make up the population of both regions combined. Decades of conflict with Israel have left the land, especially Gaza, in a precarious state, with 80% of the population in Gaza needing some form of external aid to survive. Thus, Palestinian children face unique challenges and experiences.

Two-thirds of Palestinian families live above the poverty line, leaving almost one-third below the line, defined as having a monthly income of less than $640.

Children in Palestine, who make up about half of the population, are the most affected by these conditions. In both regions, more than one million children are in need of humanitarian assistance. Here are seven facts about the lives of Palestinian children.

7 Facts about Children in Palestine

  1. Infant mortality in Palestine is among the lowest in the Middle East. Infant mortality rates in the Middle Eastern region average to 18.3 deaths per 1,000 births, which is greater than Palestine’s alone. On average, there are 18 deaths per 1,000 births in Palestine between the West Bank and Gaza regions. As restrictions in movement confine Palestinians to their homes, the accessibility of adequate health care services may deprive children of their right to obtain necessary medical care.
  2. 70 percent of Palestinian children attend primary school. However, nearly 25 percent of boys and seven percent of girls drop out by age 15. These numbers are much larger for children with disabilities, who have a more difficult time accessing education. This is, in part, due to movement restrictions, as children and teachers need to cross at least one checkpoint to attend school. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education, over 8,000 children and 400 teachers are in need of protective presence to obtain safe access to schooling in the West Bank.
  3. More than 80 new school buildings and 1,000 new classrooms are needed in Gaza over the next five years. The lack of sufficient classrooms has reduced learning hours for Palestinian students to 4.5 hours a day and has forced two-thirds of schools to operate on multiple shifts per day to prevent overcrowding. A lack of resources, materials, and willing teachers makes it difficult for children to attend school.
  4. Since 2000, over 10,000 Palestinian children in the West Bank have been detained by Israeli military forces in the Israeli military detention system. Defense for Children International — Palestine (DCIP) took the testimonies of 739 children, between 12 and 17 years old. Based on these testimonies, the organization found that 73 percent faced physical violence following their arrest, 64 percent faced verbal abuse and intimidation tactics by Israeli interrogators, 74 percent were not informed of their rights and 96 percent were interrogated without a family member present.
  5. The joint American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and DCIP led the No Way to Treat a Child campaign that exposes the systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention facilities. The campaign challenges Israel’s extended military occupation of Palestine by creating a sizeable network of people demanding immediate safeguarding of Palestinian children. As such, the proposed Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act (H.R.2407) follows these protocols and calls for U.S. citizens and policy-makers to take measures against unlawful detention.
  6. Conflict-related violence significantly impacts the physical and mental health of Palestinian children. Violent discipline in Palestinian homes and schools is widespread, where 91.5 percent of children have experienced psychological aggression or physical violence. The Israeli occupation has increased stress-levels and dysfunctionality within Palestinian families. The most vulnerable population— children— experience violence from both their families and Israeli soldiers alike. They are traumatized, confronting “flashbacks, nightmares, agoraphobia,” according to a UNICEF study involving children in the Gaza Strip.
  7. Coping mechanisms are eroding. Palestinian children and families are resorting to unhealthy coping strategies, such as school dropout, early marriage and child labor. Socio-economic difficulties, poverty and violence from the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict have forced children to mature early in life, with one in 10 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years old getting married. Checkpoints have contributed to significant dropout rates. Some children are even referred to as “One Shekel Kids”, moving into the labor sector to support their families.

Poverty and conflict greatly affect children in Palestine, leading to high dropout rates and negative mental and physical health impacts. More than one million children in Palestine are in need of humanitarian assistance. Despite these conditions and traumas, Palestinian children still present inspiring stories of hardiness and hope. 

Sarah Uddin
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in Israel
Israel’s healthcare advances have been successful globally as well as nationally. Due to constant and careful reforms in both the healthcare system and technology, healthcare in Israel excels in many areas.

Healthcare Plans

In 1995, Israel enacted universal health coverage to all of its permanent residents and citizens. The Ministry of Health is responsible for governing the healthcare system while the local government has limited involvement. Within the ministry are various bodies focused on specific aspects within that system. The Benefits Package Committee, for example, zones in on new health technology to add to the National Health Insurance Benefits Package. The committee also assesses the development of new medications. The benefits package within each plan must include hospital, primary, specialty, mental health, maternity care and prescriptions.

Israel has a higher percentage of young citizens compared to the number of elderly residents. This percentage factors well into its health statistics, but the nation has recognized that those governing healthcare in Israel must be more appropriately committed when it comes to the elderly and long-term care. Recent measures are meant to improve conditions for long-term care. Such measures include providing means-tested government subsidies for informal caregivers and better access to clinicians through in-home care and telemedicine.

While every citizen has the right to the universal healthcare plan, not every citizen has suitable access. Important barricades that keep those living in poverty from receiving proper care are the social, economic, and technological necessities needed to acquire health services. As present times generate larger limitations, crucial services are only attainable by those who are equipped with the essential resources. For example, some may face challenges like accessing care during lockdowns and receiving crucial health information such as data and guidance concerning COVID-19.

Recent Major Reforms

The Ministry of Health is carefully examining and gradually improving healthcare in Israel. Some of the most recent changes include:

  • Communication: Those working in healthcare facilities are prioritizing Electronic Health Records for better information exchange between care centers.

  • Diet: The Ministry of Health is mandating food labeling, restricting unhealthy food advertisements, and placing a higher value on nutrition served in schools and other public institutions.

  • Expanding the roles of nurses: Nurses’ responsibilities are growing to allow doctors to better balance their highly demanding tasks. Treatment, diagnosis, and prescriptions in cases that are considered simple to treat have been placed in the capability of specialist nurses.

  • Healthcare extending beyond the insured: Free clinics that concentrate on both physical and mental health are rising in number for asylum seekers and refugees. The need for these clinics was based on severe physical injuries and deeply rooted PTSD that many suffer after surviving realities such as torture camps and kidnapping.

Startup Central

Israel excels in medical innovations and research, making it one of the most technologically advanced nations. Some of the areas the country has proved transformative in are computer, agricultural and medical technology.

Elevated venture capital investment mainly contributes to Israel’s prosperity. The country fosters entrepreneurship and through strong government support, the country thrives on creativity. Multinational companies such as IBM and Philips have organized research and development centers in Israel. These multinational companies are supporting the country’s economy to a great extent and aid the government in major funding towards developing medical technology. The country’s focus on new technology has already served them well. Current revolutionary technologies include:

  •  The SniffPhone system: Quickly diagnosing cancer by simply breathing into a device the size of a smartphone.

  • The tuberculosis patch: The working development is a skin patch that can diagnose and monitor TB.

Facing and Fighting COVID-19

Israel has a much lower aggregate of mortality when it comes to COVID-19. Some of the major contributing factors include:

  • Early and strict quarantine rules: These rules include general lockdowns, social distancing, mask requirements and entry into Israel being restricted to one location

  • The high number of doctors: The more trained professionals, the better the aid and response to those infected with COVID-19. Israel has six medical schools, and the government largely supports the yearly tuition. Each school is a public, nonprofit university.

  • The low rate of cardiovascular disease: This condition is one of the major risks of mortality once infected with Covid-19.

While the impoverished lack access to Israel’s healthcare system, the nation itself has the potential to make innovative adaptations and improvements to overcome the obstacles to access.

Amy Schlagel
Photo: U.N.

Hunger in Israel
Despite being a high-income country, Israel has one of the highest rates of hunger and poverty in the developed world. Many citizens experience hunger and have relied on NGOs to provide food. They are also asking for the government to take further action, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Israel is a small country located in the Middle East with an estimated population of 8.7 million people. Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt border it. Established as an independent country in 1948, its gross domestic product (GDP) has grown significantly over time. This has made Israel a high-income country.

Food Insecurity in Israel

Despite Israel having the categorization of a high-income country, about 25% of individuals living in Israel experience food insecurity, and up to 40% are living with extreme hunger. According to the Poverty and Social Gaps Annual Report by the National Insurance Institute of Israel, Israel has one of the highest rates of hunger in the developed world. In particular, food insecurity and poverty tend to disproportionately affect:

  1. Orthodox Jewish communities
  2. Arab communities
  3. Single mothers
  4. Elderly individuals
  5. Families
  6. Children

There is adequate food available in the country as a whole. However, there is a notable discrepancy between income levels and nutritious food available. The risk of hunger in Arab and Orthodox Jewish families attributes to potentially larger families and lower employment levels. For ultra-Orthodox Jews, 50% of men and 73% of women do not have employment. Additionally, more than 800,000 children were living in poverty as of 2016. This has resulted in almost one-third of Israeli children experiencing hunger on a regular basis.

The Response of the Israeli Government

In response to hunger in Israel, nonprofit organizations have taken the large responsibility to provide for people in the country. On the other hand, the response of the Israeli government in regard to this issue has left many dissatisfied.

In an interview with Channel 12 in Israel, Minister Tzachi Hanegbi made controversial remarks. He said people in Israel who claim to struggle with food insecurity are talking “nonsense” and are not actually starving. He has since apologized, stating that he intended to convey that “[his interviewers’] extreme and gross criticism of the government creates fear amongst the public, instead of hope,” and that “the government that I am part of works day and night to put Israel back on the track of a healthy and flourishing economy.” Hanegbi’s initial comments have caused public disbelief and outrage in Israel and around the world.

Response of NGOs

Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new economic hardships that further complicate efforts to reduce inequality and provide adequate food. Many expect that a major food crisis will occur as a result of the pandemic. GDP in the country has fallen 1.7% in the first quarter of 2020, while it had previously been rising.

As a result, there has been an increasing reliance on NGOs. Leket Israel, the largest food rescue program in the country, fed over 175,000 people in need before the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the pandemic and resulting economic situation, it began a new program that delivers food directly to homes. With this program, it sent over 700,000 meals to people, many of whom never needed food assistance before the pandemic.

Other NGOs like Latet and Mazon made significant impacts regarding combating hunger in Israel and providing food to lower-income citizens. Latet is a large NGO that fights food insecurity in Israel and is partnered with 180 other local organizations in the country. It provides monthly assistance to 60,000 families, according to its website.

Policies and Government Efforts

The amount of policies toward the reduction of poverty has increased by 3.4% in 2016 in comparison to the previous year. This demonstrates the importance of continued governmental support.

The Israeli Forum for Sustainable Nutrition has been campaigning for changes toward better nutrition, improved health and environmental sustainability. Some of its projects include creating a data center for public use about nutrition and the environment, counseling municipalities, advancing research and holding the government accountable for advertising misinformation about food and the environment. It holds annual conferences and has had over 60 professional seminars with government officials, policymakers, academic experts and others.

In 2017, there was an increase in the minimum wage. It went from NIS 5,000 per month at the beginning of the year to NIS 5,300 by the end. In addition, in 2016, 80% of households had employment. This has resulted in a reduction in poverty and hunger for elderly individuals, Arab communities and immigrants in Israel. However, since COVID-19, unemployment has again increased within a month from under 4% to nearly 25% in April 2020 and leaving more than 1 million people without jobs. While there is continual progress, the government still relies mostly on NGOs and third-party organizations. Overall, more change must occur to improve the issue of hunger in Israel and support a more balanced world.

– Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Unsplash