Lod Welfare Officials: Only Two of 50 City Social Workers Speak Arabic

The cabinet has promised an all-out war against crime and violence in Lod, but social welfare officials who will also be needed for the task may be ill-equipped to help end the recent string of murders in the city.

The cabinet has promised an all-out war against crime and violence in Lod, but social welfare officials who will also be needed for the task may be ill-equipped to help end the recent string of murders in the city.

According to city welfare officials, only two of Lod's 50 social workers speak Arabic and both of them are part-time. A mediator and an interpreter are also on the staff, but they lack training in social work.

Employees say most of their work is with retirees, and that they rarely deal with domestic violence. There are no Arab social workers in the department that does deal with family issues.

"No doubt there's justification for adding a significant number of positions, but the terms of employment are important too," said one former Lod social worker. She said many of her colleagues there have left over dissatisfaction with their terms of the unemployment and the lack of resources.

City officials say there are three Arabic-speakers in the welfare department, and that they can provide services in all areas of social work. They also said that 30 percent of the department's clients are Arab, which is proportional to their representation in the city's population. According to the officials, the majority of Arabs in Lod speak Hebrew and do not require an Arabic-speaking social worker.

Samah Salaime-Egbariya is founding director of the nonprofit association Arab Women in the Center, which is active in Lod. She says that while the problem is complex, a solution depends in part on the authorities' willingness to take action.

"The work of the police in the past several days proves that when it wants to it can [take action]," Salaime-Egbariya said. "I agree that not everything depends on the police, and that resources are also needed. We look at what's happening in the Ethiopian community in Lod, more than a few programs and a lot of warmth and caring, that doesn't happen with the Arab society because of a lack of desire to cooperate."

According to Salaime-Egbariya, "We don't demand top of the line conditions, only the minimum - informational programs and projects and workshops for women can always help. In Jaffa, for example, there are more than a few problems, including violence and drugs - but why is it that no women have been murdered in Jaffa in the last 10 years? Because there's cooperation there, and resources have been allocated by both the city and the Social Affairs Ministry," she said.

Salaime-Egbariya recalled a successful popular campaign to open a high school in Lod about a year ago, after the high schools in Ramle were closed to Lod's Arab residents.

"Apparently we have to fight for everything in this city - including for our lives," she said.

According to figures provided by nongovernmental organizations that work with women in Israel's Arab community, in the year to date eight Arab women have been murdered in Israel. In 2009, a total of nine Arab women were murdered.

The victims were from villages in the Galilee, the Triangle area and the Negev, from Arab cities and towns and from mixed Jewish-Arab cities.

Three of the victims this year were from Lod: Suhayr Balawi was murdered in March. Amal Khalili was murdered earlier this month, and Abir Abu-Katifu was killed on Tuesday.

According to a report issued this week by the Midot institute, 80 percent of the money and resources allocated by the state to deal with violence against Arab Israeli women are spent on enforcement and only 20 percent on prevention.

"What this means is that we are not fighting the phenomenon itself," said Aida Touma-Sliman, director of the nonprofit association Women against Violence, which is active in Arab and other communities. "One must take into consideration the fact that only seven percent of Arab women who are victims of violence go to the police, so enforcement does not get to the overwhelming majority of women who suffer from violence. It points to a lack of faith in the law enforcement system in general, in both the police and in the courts."

Lod murder Oct. 19, 2010 Nir Keidar
Nir Keidar