The Social Affairs Ministry has launched a website that can be linked to a client's file and help him or her take full advantage of the available benefits – but only in Hebrew.
Ministry sources, however, said it's an initial “beta” version that in the coming months will be translated into other languages, though they did not specify which.
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The ministry, whose full name is the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry, then released a statement saying the site is currently being translated into Arabic.
The site, which is also designed to ease the job of social workers, has been online since December and was formally launched last month.
The new format was created after the number of complaints about the ministry jumped during the coronavirus pandemic. The site has been touted as “an advanced set of universal, personal and social services for every condition in life." It includes services for new immigrants and volunteers from abroad.
“The site is accessible to people with disabilities in accordance with all the rules. Work is currently underway to translate it into Arabic, a project expected to be concluded in the coming months,” the ministry told Haaretz, adding that the site will then be translated into other languages.
The Knesset Research and Information Center reported an 8 percent increase in the number of social welfare files opened for Arab Israelis between March and October last year, the first eight months of the pandemic. For the country’s population as a whole, the increase was negligible.
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In its annual report, the Bank of Israel noted that Arab Israelis have suffered more financially due to the pandemic. In a poll, 54 percent said their economic situation worsened last year, compared with 42 percent of Jewish Israelis.
Meanwhile, 26 percent of Arab Israelis said they were eating less, compared with 14 percent of Jewish Israelis.
“They're actually again leaving to the end those who may need more help,” said Ran Melamed, the head of the nonprofit aid group Turning Point.
“This isn’t the first time they've created government websites and provided major PR while leaving language accessibility for down the road. And even then it’s not certain it's fully going to happen.”
Melamed said the many immigrants from the former Soviet Union whose Hebrew-reading skills are not stellar meant the whole site had to be translated into Russian.
Only 10 percent of service and information pages on Israeli government websites are available in Arabic, the Israel Internet Association reported this month, including just 6 percent of the sites of the social affairs and transportation ministries.
Only 1 percent of the content of the Culture and Sports Ministry is available in Arabic; for the Finance Ministry and Israel Tax Authority the numbers are 3 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
On the other hand, for the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Population and Immigration Authority, the numbers are 59 percent and 23 percent, respectively.