Olim group concerned over PTSD following blaze

In Tirat Carmel's 20% Russian-speaking community, there is only one social worker out of 30 that speaks Russian.

December 24, 2010 03:38
2 minute read.
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto in Afula.

Olim social workers in Carmel fire 311. (photo credit: Ronnie Sofer)

A non-profit organization that fights for the rights of new immigrants living in the North sent an urgent letter this week to Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog expressing concern over the significantly small numbers of Russian and Amharic-speaking social workers available to help olim deal with the trauma and destruction following the Carmel forest fire three weeks ago, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The Forum for Families in the North highlighted in its letter to the minister that the number of social workers that speak the languages of the large immigrant populations in the area affected by the fire and understand the immigrants’ cultural specifications was far too low. According to information collected by the NGO, in Tirat Carmel, where the Russian-speaking community is roughly 20 percent of the 19,000-strong population, there is only one social worker out of 30 that speaks Russian.

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“In light of what happened following the Second Lebanon War, when many immigrants failed to turn to social welfare services for help, even though they were in dire need of assistance, we call on you [Herzog] to provide enough people able to provide culturally sensitive treatments in a language that the immigrants understand,” wrote Marina Zamsky, head of the forum.

“Efforts to help people deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome following the Second Lebanon War failed among Russian-speakers because there was a lack of information and outreach in their language and a real understanding of their culture,” she said, adding that the fire on the Carmel had no doubt triggered vivid memories of the trauma suffered during the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.

“We are trying to prevent a failure similar to what happened after the war,” continued Zamsky, adding that “we have seen a lot of money wasted because the treatment given to olim by the welfare services and other government bodies was not suitable to address the cultural needs of the community.”

She pointed out that Russian-speaking immigrants are not used to relying on social welfare services and therefore any form of treatment must be culturally sensitive.

“This includes those from Ethiopia, as well as Russian-speakers and immigrants from the Caucuses,” said Zamsky.

In response to the letter, the welfare and social services ministry said a whole range of services had sprung into action since the fire, including some provided in Russian. As well as the ministry’s main help line (118), the spokeswoman said that three emergency centers had been created. For the Hof Carmel municipality, the hotline’s number is (04) 984- 0479 and (04) 984-0592; for Tirat Carmel, (04) 857-3308; and for Usfiya, (04) 839- 1350.

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