Knesset: Doctors, professionals must speak Hebrew

Absorption Ministry representatives, immigrant groups oppose new requirement, claim it will make it difficult for new olim to earn a living.

May 13, 2013 23:43
1 minute read.
Doctors (illustrative)

Doctors perform surgery (generic) R 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Swoan Parker)

Until now, new-immigrant nurses have had to prove they can converse with patients in basic Hebrew, but physicians – who have less direct contacts with the sick – were exempted. Now, the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee on Monday approved regulations that would require doctors and two other types of professionals in healthcare to show their Hebrew proficiency as well.

In addition to immigrant doctors, clinical communications specialists and clinical criminologists who ask for a license in their fields will have to prove to the Health Ministry that they have a basic knowledge of Hebrew.

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The proof will be by one of the following: passing a state exam in Hebrew; holding an academic degree in a Hebrew speaking college or university; passing matriculation exams in Hebrew; passing exams in a relevant Hebrew ulpan; passing a Hebrew screening test as part of psychometric exams given in other languages.

Committee chairman Likud MK Haim Katz said that while aliya is very welcome and that he was aware of the language difficulties faced by new immigrants, especially in the health professions, the good of the patient was even more important.

Yesh Atid MK Shimon Solomon, who said he almost lost his son because of medical treatment in which the professional had difficulty understanding Hebrew, said that even physicians must communicate with patients so their treatment could better succeed.

Representatives of the Absorption Ministry and immigrant associations opposed the new regulations, arguing that new immigrants will have difficulty getting acclimated to the country and making a living if they cannot work without first learning Hebrew.

Lawyer Avital Weiner of the Health Ministry’s legal department said the required level of Hebrew was very basic and a “minimum for conversing with a patient.”

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