Arab children living in east Jerusalem suffer more from abuse than their Jewish
counterparts in the western part of the city, experts working in the sector said
They spoke on the last day of a week-long conference
organized by the Haruv Institute, a Jerusalem-based research and training
center, for professionals on preventing child abuse.
According to data
presented by Ra’anya Harish, director of the East Jerusalem Social Services
Office in the municipality, there were 1,022 new cases of abuse against children
in 2010, with more than half (526) involving physical abuse and most of the
cases of violence happening within the family structure.
“Unlike in more
developed areas of the country, children in east Jerusalem still have no rights
and the subject is not really talked about at all,” Harish said at the
conference, which included senior professionals from the Ministry of Welfare and
Social Affairs, as well as local and international academic experts in the field
of child abuse.
“Punishing children in a very physical way is still very
much accepted,” she said.
Harish’s figures showed that among the abuse
cases uncovered by social services in that part of Jerusalem, 79 involved sexual
abuse and 417 were neglect-related.
Extreme poverty, low awareness and
lack of resources were the main reason for the growing abuse recorded last year,
“Up until pre-school age, when the state pays for education,
the children simply sit at home and do nothing, and that is because of the
poverty experienced by most families in east Jerusalem,” said Harish, who
estimated that 90 percent of children under five were not enrolled in an
As many as 84% of east Jerusalem children lived
below the poverty line and more than half of the teenagers in the city dropped
out of school at one point or another, she said.
Harish also told the
conference: “There is a serious gap between the needs of the population in east
Jerusalem and the available resources. There is no center for children suffering
from different disorders, either behavioral or learning disabilities, and when
we encounter such children, we send them to institutions in other parts of the
city, such as children suffering from hyperactivity.”
for the rapidly growing child abuse within the capital’s Arab sector, according
to Harish, is the young age of girls getting married and giving birth. The
marrying age is now as young as 14, she said.
“As far as we know, this is
one of the main reasons there has been an increase in abuse against children
under one,” she said. “The young mothers do not know how to take care of the
babies and in many cases they themselves are still children. This affects the
entire family structure, and the poverty they endure does not help the situation
According to official figures, there are roughly 270,000 Arabic-
speakers living in east Jerusalem and roughly a third live below the poverty
Around half the residents have a child under the age of
“One of the main characteristics of the Arab population in east
Jerusalem is a low use of services,” said Harish, adding that mixed couples,
where one spouse is an Israeli citizen and the other a permanent resident or
with a temporary status, often are not entitled to municipal
“In addition, many of them do not believe in state
institutions, chose not to obey local laws or simply do not understand their
rights,” she added.
Prof. Hillel Schmidt, director of the Haruv
Institute, said the low level of services in the Arab sector is a well-known
phenomenon and that for cultural reasons many cases go unreported.
in the Arab sector, like in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, do not rush to
inform the authorities in cases of violence,” Schmidt said.
undertaken by the institute a year ago found that ultra-Orthodox Jewish and
Arabic-speaking communities are less likely to report child abuse or view it
with the same severity as those from more secular segments of the population,
either for cultural reasons or due to fear of outside interference.
on interviews with 812 Israelis – 688 Jews and 124 Arabs, the study highlighted
that secular people viewed child abuse as a very serious problem in society
while those from the ultra-Orthodox sector were less informed and saw it more as
a secular phenomenon.
The study also found that while 61% of Jewish
citizens viewed child abuse as a very serious problem in their community, only
39% of Arabs felt it was a big issue among their people.
Institute was founded just over three years ago by the Charles and Lynn
Schusterman Family Foundation with the goal of becoming a world center for
advanced research in the field of child abuse within the family in Israel. The
institute works closely with the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services and in
training all professionals who work with children.