Child abuse (illustrative).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Social welfare departments shut down their offices and social workers in the education and health systems did not go to work Monday as social workers throughout the country went on strike to protest increasing violence directed against them.
The strike was called following an incident last week in which dozens of shots were fired at a car belonging to Hadija Abu Gzallah, a social worker in Umm el-Fahm.
“Today, I began to grasp what happened to me. I am very afraid to leave the house. I will sit at home for a few weeks until I am be able to deal with the traumatic situation,” Gzallah told Army Radio “There should be a strategic plan in order to secure the departments and pass legislation accordingly. We need protection,” she said.
Two years ago, the Silman Committee, headed by Yossi Silman, then director-general of the Welfare Ministry, released findings regarding the state of social workers in Israel, saying they were viewed in a negative light and regularly were subjected to threats, violence and hostile work environments, including on the Internet and in court cases.
As such, the committee reflected a growing concern that social workers were “running away” from making hard decisions, and posited that social workers are afraid to protect children at risk, seriously compromising the basis of their work.
Since then, the social workers have claimed, they continue to be victims of violence and have demanded better protection.
Also on Monday, Meretz Chairwoman MK Zehava Gal-On proposed new legislation calling for state-funded protection to be provided to civil-service workers who face harassment and threats as part of their work.
“On a daily basis, social workers face cases that are so complex and difficult that most of us would rather not even hear about them. They receive wages that, to call them insulting is a compliment. They face an impossible work load in the face of violent attacks, in a paralyzed system with a depleted budget,” she said.
“They do this out of a sense of purpose while absorbing humiliations and insults and they continue their work. There is no justification for the fact that those who send them to fulfill their role should abandon them to threats, harassment and harm to their good name and even physical violence,” she added.