Answering a burning need

We want to get the word out to the Bedouin community about the hotline: It’s a free call to 1201, and all you have to do is ask for the Arabic extension.

By ILANA STUTLAND
October 2, 2019 17:08
Answering a burning need

PROUDLY RECEIVING course certification in the presence of Eran CEO David Koren (right).. (photo credit: SHAHAR HADASH)

‘In recent years, the Bedouin community has been dealing with lots of changes as many people try to become more modern and alter traditional ways of living,” said Jamal Alkarinavi, the director of Shahar Hadash, whose goal is to help young Bedouin living in the Negev with questions regarding education and jobs.

“Many Bedouin are confused about their identity. On the one hand, they want to be part of the global community but they also want to preserve their traditional heritage and remain members of the Bedouin community.

“This is an incredibly difficult gap to manage. Many people are forced to deal with serious psychological distress, and have no one to talk to about it, mostly due to budgetary restraints. We know that this community is in vital need of assistance, and that we must provide them with a way to deal with these changes and traumas.”

In an effort to deal with these needs, Eran – The Israel Association for Emotional First Aid, in conjunction with Shahar Hadash, created a new Arabic-language service that offers psychological counseling over the phone and Internet. Currently, 11 Arabic-speaking volunteers answer the phone so that Arabic-speaking residents throughout Israel can call in for help.

“The two organizations are working together to deal with this very real and burning need,” explained Alkarinavi. “Eran, which offers emotional first aid services, wanted to bring its specialty to the Arabic-speaking community, and we at Shahar Hadash, had access to volunteers. So far, we’ve located 50 volunteers, 12 of whom have completed Eran’s intensive training program. We don’t have so many Arabic speakers calling in yet, but we expect the number to grow significantly following our upcoming campaign launch. We’re making great efforts to get the word out so that people know that help is available.”

Alkarinavi, 27, from Rahat, works in both formal and informal education, and was among the first people to complete the Eran training course. She is currently Shahar Hadash’s program manager, and also organizes Eran’s Arabic-speaking department.
“There’s not much awareness in the Bedouin community of the resources that are available to help with mental health issues,” said Alkarinavi. “The Bedouin community is very insular, and it’s not really acceptable for us to reach out when we experience emotional distress. There are many people who are suffering from physical and sexual abuse, which cause so much latent trauma, and there’s really nowhere for Israel’s hundreds of thousands of Bedouin residents to go for help and receive support.”
She added, “As an educator, I see the difficulties members of the Bedouin community face, since it’s not widely acceptable in this society to express your feelings or talk about personal issues.

“It’s not just an issue of language, but also of culture. Muslim Arab culture – and the Bedouin especially – have a very unique and strong heritage. It’s extremely difficult for outsiders to understand what the Bedouin are going through, even if they can identify with the psychological issues they’re dealing with. Our volunteers come from all over the Negev and we’re always searching for more volunteers to take a few shifts each week. We want to get the word out to the Bedouin community that we have a new Arabic-language hotline up and running that they can call into. It’s a free call to 1201, and all you have to do is ask for the Arabic extension.

“We are working hard to save people who are suicidal, prevent violence, refer clients to the proper government bodies for assistance, and also just lend a listening ear,” continues Alkarinavi.

ERAN CEO David Koren explained, “We’re having a hard time finding Arabic-speaking volunteers. We’ve been teaming up with Shahar Hadash in Rahat and Beersheba. In the meantime, we’ve also not been inundated with calls from Arabic speakers since we haven’t done much publicity yet.”

Such services are something new, noted Koren.

“Eran has 1,500 volunteers, of which only three were Arabic speakers until this last course ended. Now we have 15 volunteers who speak Arabic. Members of the Arabic-speaking community have a really hard time talking about difficult, emotional subjects in Hebrew, even if their Hebrew is good.”

Suleiman Algadifi, 32, from Wadi al-Na’am, is a counselor who works with at-risk teens, and the only man who has finished the course so far. He’s currently taking on three shifts a month and offers help in both Hebrew and Arabic.

“It’s really important that Jews, Bedouin and Druze take this course,” said Algadifi. “Everyone experiences hardship and there’s so much trauma and violence. Kids don’t get along with their parents, and so it’s imperative that they be able to talk with volunteers who can help them through the hotline.”

Asked if he thought any Bedouin will call and take advantage of these services, he responded, “Well, they’re not used to airing out their dirty laundry, so it’s not so straightforward. For example, talking about domestic violence is hard. A woman who gets beaten up carries lots of shame. But because Eran enables callers to remain anonymous, they’re much more likely to open up. We can’t deal directly with incidents of domestic violence, but we can lend an ear, let them talk about what’s bothering them, and then direct them to a psychologist or the welfare authorities. Bedouin women often aren’t usually aware of the all the services available to help them. Everyone can benefit from having someone who will be there to listen.”

Dina Alzamali, 24, from Rahat, who also finished the course, added, “I work with at-risk teens. The kids I deal with have been through some really tough times. Many times their fathers aren’t around much, or they come from extremely dysfunctional homes. I took the course because I really want to help people deal with their traumas.

“We learned in the course how to really listen when people call in, how to give them the feeling that we’re giving them 100% of our attention. Even if someone calls in and only asks for advice about where to look for a job, we make sure to offer them lots of ideas and suggestions, and refer them to other services that can be of help. In the meantime, I’ve only had one call in Arabic. It was from a mature woman who talked about sexual problems she was having with her husband.”

Surprisingly, the woman felt comfortable discussing the topic, although Alzamali admitted that she was “a little uncomfortable... so afterward, I reviewed the call with my supervisor, and she helped me review how I’d handled the call. It’s so wonderful that this service is now available to the Bedouin community, too, so that they can finally have someone to talk with and help them deal with their problems.”

Translated by Hannah Hochner.


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