The Women’s International Zionist Organization and the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation – Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development unveiled a free telephone hotline on Wednesday offering consultation for parents regarding the care and education of children from birth until age six.

Sawat Alahal, or the Voice for the Parent, aims to provide advice and support to Arabic speaking parents in Israel. The hotline operates anonymously and is run by Arab professional women who have undergone training to provide telephonic advice culturally tailored to the community.

“Arab society has patterns of service consumption different than those of Israeli society due to its unique characteristics. The family is in a transitional period from traditional culture to life in modern times; one hand relies on the caring and rearing of children in the nuclear family, and the other raises dilemmas as a result of a changing lifestyle. Accordingly, the anonymous telephone hotline can provide an appropriate response to numerous questions parents ask themselves, when the traditional treatment of these issues does not fall in line with the feelings of the parents,” Najah Abu Nadi of the Arab-Jewish Center – Negev Institute said.

There are around 250,000 children in the Arab sector. According to Yael Levaot, director of the department of early childhood education at the Arab-Jewish Center – Negev Institute, the existing services for young children and families in the fields of education and health are not always suited to face the challenges that characterize the Arab population.

The community receives poor services that were developed without reference to local needs and do not address the difficulties of everyday life, she said.

“We appreciate the opportunity given to us to partner with AJEEC [the Arab-Jewish Center – Negev Institute] and set up a counseling line in Arabic based in the Center for Early Child Development in Beersheba. We see the partnership with AJEEC as an important social and ethical process promoting equal opportunities and contact between early childhood professionals and Arab and Jewish society in Israel,” said Dr. Nomi Moreno, director of WIZO’s Early Age Division.

For the past five years WIZO has been operating a Hebrew hotline for early childhood inquiries run by experts in the field, providing service to 4,000 parents annually. In conjunction, the Arab-Jewish Center – Negev Institute operates extensive activities for young children among the Beduin in the Negev. The organization specializes in the development of models and early childhood programs, such as running educational frameworks in unrecognized villages and developing training programs for professional women.

The Arabic hotline began operating as a pilot project in October and has already enjoyed great success among parents. Dozens of parents have called to receive advice and assistance from professionals. The majority of the inquiries were about toilet training, integration into a new educational framework, and behavioral difficulties.

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