(photo credit: Associated Press)
Jerusalem’s highly touted center for treating child victims of sexual abuse and rape is unable to offer assistance to the capital’s significant Arab-speaking population, unless they can communicate in Hebrew, The Jerusalem Post has discovered.
A spokeswoman for Shaare Zedek Hospital confirmed to the Post on Monday that a teenage boy from an east Jerusalem neighborhood had been treated at the hospital last week for severe sexual abuse, but after being referred to the rape crisis center, known as Beit Lynn, the boy was turned away due to the absence of Arabic-speaking professional staff.
“More than 100,000 Arab children live in Jerusalem and most of them, especially the younger ones, do not speak Hebrew,” wrote Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child, in a letter to Welfare and Social Services Ministry Deputy Director-General Motti Vinter last week.
“It does not seem possible, when there is such a large ethnic group, that a center such as Beit Lynn does not provide this service in Arabic,” he said.
Funded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and supported by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, Beit Lynn is supposed to streamline the initial process that victims of rape and sexual abuse go through.
In the past, children suspected of being molested were forced to visit each office independently, usually being carted around by their parents from the hospital to the police station and on to social workers and lawyers. At Beit Lynn, in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, all the elements are brought together under one roof, with first responders sharing information and easing the trauma for the victim.
“This child was forced to go through the old fashioned process of having to go from place to place and answer the same humiliating questions over and over again,” commented Kadman, protesting what he called “discrimination” against the city’s Arab-speaking population.
“We see so much money being poured into other less important projects but something like this needs to be fixed,” he said.
While Shaare Zedek could not reveal further details about the case, the spokeswoman did confirm that the victim was 14 and hailed from east Jerusalem.
“The hospital’s social workers first called Beit Lynn to see if they could help him but were told that unless he spoke Hebrew there was nothing they could do for him,” she said.
“Then they contacted another rape crisis center in Jerusalem but were told it only works only with females,” she said, adding that the hospital sees five or six such cases each year.
In response, the Welfare and Social Services Ministry explained that such cases from east Jerusalem are typically referred to local social service offices in their neighborhoods.
“Child welfare officers visit [Arabic-speaking] children in their surroundings as part of the services provided by the department in their area,” said a spokeswoman.
However, lawyer Ali Haider, co-executive director of Sikkuy, the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, said that social workers in Arab Israeli neighborhoods were highly overworked, dealing with more than 165 welfare files at a time.
“This is much higher than in Jewish neighborhoods,” noted Haider, editor of the NGO’s Equality Index of Jewish and Arab Citizens in Israel.
“There is a huge increase in unemployment, violence, sexual abuse and more, but there are simply not enough resources for Arab-speaking social workers to deal with it,” he said.