Volunteer with Eritrean toddler at community center 390.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
A group of 16 asylum-seeking Eritrean women wrote a letter to the health and
welfare ministers Tuesday seeking help for their children, who are denied some
health and social services.
“We cannot provide our children with basic
necessities that mothers want and need to provide for their children,” the
letter, addressed to Health Minister Yael German and Welfare Minister Meir
Cohen, said. “We do not have work permits – and therefore cannot legally and
properly [find employment] – and earn starvation wages. We find it difficult to
pay for health insurance for our children, not to mention afternoon programs or
The single mothers, some of whom survived torture camps
in Sinai to reach Israel, added that while they are unable to help their
children, they also do not receive any assistance from welfare and social
The letter, written just a day before Universal Children’s Day,
which will be marked on Wednesday, continued: “Our children, who now live in
Israel, are not equal to other children.
Their well-being and health are
not as important as other children’s.
They are being treated as unwanted
guests, and are being punished for a reality that they did not
“We are here alone. We had to flee Eritrea, leaving our parents
and siblings behind, and found ourselves lacking a voice in this
One of the women, Akbart Abraham, who has lived in Tel Aviv for
four years and works as a cleaning lady, said that the money she earns is often
not enough to buy food for her two young daughters.
“I feel that every
day is a war for me,” she said. “My eldest daughter, who is 3 years old, has
asthma. If I don’t pay for her health insurance, that could be
Another mother, Eden Younis, explained that writing a letter
to the Israeli government was a very difficult task.
“I want to say thank
you to Israel for not expelling us and saving our lives, but our children’s
lives here are not easy,” she said. “Our children are not worth less than other
children, please help them get at least health and welfare services.”