Sign Language 370.
(photo credit: Avi Gan)
During her masters degree studies in emergency medicine at Ben-Gurion University
in Beersheba, Carolina Tannenbaum-Baruchi often had to run to shelters as rocket
alarms rang in the city and had become accustomed to it. One day however, as she
was rushing to a safe place, the thought crossed her mind: “What happens to
someone who can’t hear it?” This question then became the central subject of her
thesis about the struggles of deaf people during Operation Cast
Tannenbaum-Baruchi, partnering with “Prepared,” BGU’s center for
emergency response research, will hold an emergency training session for deaf
people at the university on Thursday. The main issues on the agenda are how to
behave in the event of an earthquake and what to do when one can’t hear rocket
“Reading lips is my mother tongue,” said Tannenbaum- Baruchi, who
is daughter to two deaf parents.
She made aliya from Chile 18 years ago
and is now married and a mother of three. Growing up, she often had to
help around with things her parents couldn’t do such as answering or making
“Sometimes people would hang up on me when they heard I was
a little girl, they thought it was a prank,” she said, smiling.
parents, however do not use sign language to communicate: They speak and read
“Not all deaf people are the same, that’s very important for people
to realize. Some sign, some don’t, some are very involved in the deaf
community, some are not. They also don’t all speak the same language. In Israel,
there are Israeli deafs, Russians who speak the Russian sign language, or even
Bedouin deafs who have a language of their own. It’s very different.”
to these differences, one solution for all deaf people in times of emergency is
Tannenbaum-Baruchi believes there should be many different
options for them. “For earthquakes, it’s easier because you feel it. You
don’t need to hear it. The problem is for when rocket alarms are
In these cases, the Home Front Command has made a vibrating
beeper device available for deaf people, activated when a rocket threat is
detected. However, there have been many instances when the beeper has not worked
“They have learned that you can’t trust the beeper, so they
just don’t use it anymore,” said Dr. Limor Aharonson-Daniel, the head of the
Department of Emergency Medicine at BGU, who accompanied Tannenbaum- Baruchi through her research.
“They are completely exposed to the
danger. Well, some of them have all sorts of arrangements with their
neighbors for example, who will let them know when an alarm goes off. So if it’s
a 45-second warning, you may find someone nice who will do it, but if it’s a
matter of 15 seconds, no one will take the time,” Aharonson- Daniel
She also underlined the importance of Thursday’s
event. “I think it’s a community whose needs have not been addressed
properly, mostly due to our lack of awareness of their needs and the lack of
knowledge about what solutions we can provide for them. Their voices haven’t
been heard,” she said.
Both Tannenbaum- Baruchi and Aharonson- Daniel
agree that the needs of deaf people in times of emergency are important, but
they extend this also to general basic needs: “For example, the bubble on the
corner of the TV screen during the news, where you see someone translate into
sign language? Well a lot of them have said that’s too small for them to see the
signs properly. So we think we give them solutions, but in fact, they can’t
really use them,” Aharonson-Daniel said.
As of today, no statistics exist
as to how many deaf people there are in Israel.
“They feel very
misunderstood. Their handicap isn’t visible on the outside, others can’t
tell it’s there. Their handicap is internal,” Tannenbaum-Baruchi explained. “I think deafness isn’t just a problem of not being able to
hear sounds, it’s a communication problem between the deaf and the
She explained there is also a significant cultural gap between
deaf people and hearing people: “Deaf people are much more about touch and using
their hands than us,” she detailed. She also explained that reading skills are
lower amongst deaf people than others. The reason for this, as
Tannenbaum-Baruchi explained, is that sign language is not an exact translation
of spoken and written language.
The emergency training seminar for the
deaf is scheduled to take place on Thursday evening in Beersheba and is
organized in partnership with the Home Front Command, which conducted a
nationwide earthquake drill on Sunday.