Nearly one in three Israeli children were living under the poverty line in 2020 as the coronavirus crisis ripped through families,
according to a report published Sunday by the Israel National Council for the Child.
The report noted that the poverty line moved down in 2020 due to the declining economic situation. Some 31.7% of children are living
under the poverty line according to 2019 calculations, and 30% according to the 2020 figure.
About 57% of ultra-Orthodox children were living under the poverty line, as well as 46% of Arab-Israeli children, the report said.
During the months of March-October 2020, the number of people calling Israel’s 118 domestic abuse hotline to report violence against
children doubled, from 609 in 2019 to 1,225.
The number of hotline reports of child neglect declined 21% during the pandemic period, and reports of sexual abuse dropped 38%.
Reports filed via Israel’s health funds showed a 19% decline in domestic and sexual abuse. Children were less exposed to non-family
members due to closures and lockdowns, the report noted.
Sexual harassment and abuse cases remained stable, as a 14% decline in cases of abuse within the family were met with a 14% increase
in harassment online.
Calls to Israel’s 105 hotline, which is for protecting children online, rose 63%, with 57% reported by children themselves. Most calls
were about suicide prevention, online bullying, online sex offenses or computer hacking. Some 48% of those calls came from children
aged 14-16, while 30% were on behalf of children 11-13, and 20% for 17-18-year-olds. About 30% of reported events happened on
Instagram, and 24% on WhatsApp.
More children were reported as suicidal in 2020. Israel’s psychological services reported a 24% increase in the number of potential
suicide cases, and the number of children being treated by educational psychologists rose 40%.
As distance learning became the new normal in 2020, 29% of students did not participate in online classes even half the time, or
didn’t have classes at all. Some 52% of Arab students and 35% of Hebrew-speaking students did not have sufficient access to computers
for learning, and 56% of Arab students and 30% of Jewish students did not have viable Internet connections. Approximately 50% of all
students said that school is no longer a significant part of their lives.
The government has neglected the services for children that were in place prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Vered Winderman, a lawyer
who is the executive director of the National Council for the Child, said on Sunday, after presenting the council’s annual report to
President Reuven Rivlin, who received it for the last time. Winderman stated that because children are socializing less and are not
often seen in the streets, their distress goes largely unnoticed.
Rivlin’s tenure will expire in mid-July, and for the past half year all annual reports that he has received from various organizations
and institutions have been for the last time.
This year’s report on the welfare of the child focused primarily on the effects of the coronavirus on Israel’s children, and the
possible consequences of such effects, particularly in the areas of education and mental health as well as domestic and sexual abuse.
There has been a 40% increase in the number of children at risk.
Greatly disturbed by the statistics detailed in the report, Rivlin said that after the elections the citizens of Israel are obligated
to do everything possible to make it clear to the officials elected by the public that it is their duty to ensure that the present
time is good for everyone “with a better future for our children. Anything else is unacceptable.”
Rivlin found it untenable that this generation of youth is growing up in an environment in which the sector of society in which
children are raised determines the kind of education they will receive and the quality of their lives, simply because they are Jewish,
Arab, secular, religious or ultra-Orthodox.
Rivlin said he believes that every child is entitled to a comprehensive education – preferably not online.
In reference to the time that children spend in front of a computer screen, Rivlin said that half of Israel’s children are exposed to
more harm than good, especially girls, who are subjected to sexual harassment on social media platforms.
Vaccines, he added, have brought hope that Israel can look beyond the health crisis.
In relation to vaccines, national corona coordinator Prof. Nachman Ash and Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch, confirmed in radio
interviews on Sunday, that children are more susceptible to the coronavirus than was previously thought, and that the number of
children infected has risen dramatically. Ash said that he is in favor of vaccinating all children, but this cannot be done until
research by Pfizer receives American FDA approval.
Ash voiced the hope that in the near future, 80% of the Israeli public, including children, would be vaccinated.