Women have disappeared from some of the health-care material sent out from
Clalit Health Services, which instead only shows photographs of haredi (ultra-
Orthodox) men and boys to illustrate the “perfect family.”
“breast cancer” could not be found in some Kupat Holim Meuhedet material, which
preferred to use the euphemism “women’s disease.”
Although the material
was intended for a haredi-only audience, it was also sent to secular and modern
Some non-haredi recipients viewed the material as
evidence that the insurers had decided on a least common denominator that would
not offend the ultra- Orthodox.
But this was false.
was caused by the fact that the material sent to them was not labeled as being
meant for a haredi audience, which is used to the barring of women and
intentional censorship of sensitive matters in the haredi press and
To address their concerns, Health Ministry Deputy Director-General
Dr. Yoel Lipschitz, who supervises the four public health funds, has changed the
ministry’s policy, at the suggestion of The Jerusalem Post.
issue special editions of information and publicity material will now be
required to to state for which sector they are intended and to give members the
option of choosing that version or opt out of receiving them.
presented its ideas after it received angry responses to an op-ed it published
last week that based on the supposition that Meuhedet health fund members had
all received informational material that avoided mentioning the words “breast”
and “cancer” to avoid offending haredim.
The image of a haredi man and
his two young sons, part of a booklet to market supplementary health insurance,
was labeled as “the perfect family.”
Lipschitz said he would not require
all the health funds to prepare versions specially for sectors such as the
ultra-Orthodox, Arabs or Russian or Ethiopian immigrants, but those insurers who
did will have to label them as being meant for a specific sector. He recently,
however, told the health funds they must allocate 25 percent of their marketing
funds for the elderly rather than targeting only the young.
requires proper disclosure,” he said about the objections to the “haredi”
messages in publications.
In addition, continued Lipschitz, people must
be informed that they could choose material meant for other sectors by sending
an e-mail, making a call to their health funds, responding to a website or by
Lipschitz, a modern Orthodox Jew, said he understood that
some more open-minded haredim would want the general edition while some “haredi
Zionists” (hardalim) might object to explicit mentions of breast cancer or
publication of women’s photos.
learned on Sunday that at least
one health fund has a haredi public relations adviser who tells the insurer what
neighborhoods or towns are “largely haredi” and should be mailed special
editions that do not publish images of women or girls and avoid sensitive
One health fund does not use such an adviser but marks down
whether a new member is haredi and is likely to want a special edition and
continues to send the material to a new address when the family
Kupat Holim Leumit told the Post
that for several years, it no
longer publishes special editions for haredim as a cost-saving measure. It
“rarely” sends material by mail, but when it does to announce the appointment of
a new director-general or a new district director (including a woman), the
bulletins sent to all members showed photos of the two officials. Leumit said it
did not get any objections from haredim over the woman’s photo but conceded that
it doesn’t know how many copies were discarded unread by people who
Asked to comment before Lipschitz made his statement, the
Clalit Health Services spokeswoman said with the current massive publicity about
“obscuring women” due to widespread but not unanimous demands by the haredi
community, it “recognizes as a health provider that this is a sensitive issue.
Something is happening in Israeli society, and we will examine the
issue. We serve a large population; the booklet on supplementary health
insurance was meant for the haredi community. Of course we did not mean
to offend other members of the public.”
Another Clalit source added: “Our
aim is to save lives and improve health. How does one reach people who
object to the way the message is presented? We are in a dilemma.”
Health Services, the second-largest health fund after Clalit, produces its
magazine, Maccabiton, for the general public; a considerably smaller version
geared to the sensibility of the haredi public; and two more smaller editions
translated from the general edition into Arabic and Russian. All editions
together add up to 900,000 free quarterly magazines for member
Every new member is asked what edition he prefers to receive,
but Maccabi does not poll veteran members on their choice, which they can
nevertheless change at will by contacting the health fund.
versions does not cost Maccabi much extra money, the spokesman said, but it does
help educate sectors that need to know about important issues and services
relevant to their health. If they will read them because the way they are
presented is suited to them, said the spokesman, it is worth it.
Maccabi has received very few complaints from people who received haredi
issues sent to them in error, but he did not know how many go unread
or are discarded because the recipient objected to the publication.