Jun 26, 2020

Update from Israel with special guest speaker Hagit Pe'er

On each of the international calls, Na’amat Canada members experience the drive, the enthusiasm and the high degree of commitment by Na’amat Israel. It is most gratifying and inspiring to find ourselves contributing to the welfare of Israeli society through the work of incredibly talented professionals, top among them are Shirli Shavit and Hagit Pe'er. On this call we also had chaverot from the USA and a Montreal member who made Aliyah.

Day cares issues

Day care Staff concerns - At the start of the Covid-19 lock down, the day care workers should have continued to receive part of their income from the government but this did not happen. This left families financially vulnerable.  Thankfully, emergency funds from Na’amat Canada, made it possible to provide food, which was especially important before Passover.

Day care centres are struggling financially - Due to the effects of the lock down, parents of approximately 1200 children are unable to pay their daycare fees because these parents are not working. On a brighter note, Na’amat Israel was able to retain all of the day care workers with full pay. The combination of these two factors created a major financial shortfall for Na’amat, which has reached out to the government for some relief.

To date, the government is restricting the capacity of each daycare which typically handles 70 children. As a result, Na’amat has had to deal with many angry parents whose children could not return.

Day care closures and new ones opening - Even as the country begins to open up again, Na’amat has had to close 18 of its day cares  - due to low enrollment, insufficient employees or some centres not meeting the new government regulations.  This was a very hard decision to make. The children from these centres have been directed to other Na’amat day cares, including, one of three new day care centres that have opened. These are in Naharia (with funds from a Canadian donor), Tel Aviv (funded by US donors) and one near Haifa.

Domestic Violence during the Lock down  

A media campaign to reach women facing violence continues to be a success. This media campaign can be viewed on radio, social media, Facebook and newspapers. Click here to watch the ad. 

At the height of the Covid-19 crisis, 11 women and one child were murdered. This surge of domestic violence has put pressure on Na’amat’s Help Line is available 24 hours a day and is able to handle hundreds of calls in response to concerns for physical safety and emotional / psychological issues. There has been a 120% increase in the use the violence hotline since the Covid-19 crisis began. 

Political obstacles

Under the new government, the current minister in charge of women’s issues is a male. In Hagit’s opinion, the absence of gender equality, women’s issues face a challenge and an obstacle with a male minister.

She also explained how Na’amat continually struggles with the government to raise the importance of education in the high schools and the need to provide social services. As an example, Na’amat was able to diffuse a volatile and potentially dangerous situation. They intervened in a critical family crisis by counselling a very agitated male to stay in his car for two hours. Only after he calmed down did he return to his home.

Na’amat is sending a clear message to the government for the need to support social workers who are literally saving lives.

It was Hagit who conducted a fierce campaign, aimed at the government, to establish day care. 

Questions & Answers

What process does Na’amat follow to lobby the government? - Three agencies, WIZO, EMUNAH and Na’amat, extensively lobby the government using a hired lobbyist.

In particular, Na’amat had to pressure the government to focus on reopening day care centres.

In addition Na’amat continually raises the importance of early childcare. Day cares are not considered to be schools, according to the Ministry of Education definition, thus reducing the amount of available  government funding, Na’amat is constantly campaigning  to shift the government’s view of child care as ‘baby-sitting’ to seeing the value of early child development.

What happens to day care workers who lose their job? - They are transferred elsewhere.

Who owned the buildings that Na’amat vacated? - They belonged to the municipalities and were returned. Na’amat is attempting to access new buildings.

 Both Shirli and Hagit acknowledged the outgoing Na'amat Canada Toronto president, Roni Maderer and the incoming Toronto president, Sally Mintz-Levy.

Throughout our call Shirli and Hagit expressed their huge gratitude for our support, which they acknowledged makes a big difference. They welcomed our interest in our regular Monday calls.