The Knesset officially gave the green light last week to translate licensing exams for paramedical professionals into English, but the translations will not be ready in time for the next test date later this month. Physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and dietitians will have to wait between three to seven months before they can take the test in English, depending on their respective fields, according to a Health Ministry official.
The Knesset's Labor, Welfare and Health Committee last week approved a Health Ministry decision from January to make English the third language in which official licensing exams for paramedics are offered, in addition to Hebrew and Arabic. Speech therapists will have to take an additional Hebrew proficiency test.
"This is a very positive development, it will make the absorption and acclimation process for new immigrants in these field a lot easier," said Danny Oberman, executive vice president of private immigration assistance group Nefesh B'Nefesh, which was instrumental in pushing the new regulation through the various bureaucratic channels.
Due to the timing of the approval, a Health Ministry spokesperson told Anglo File this week that the translation would not be ready for the upcoming tests, to be administered on November 28.
English versions of licensing exams will be available in English: for dieticians on February 19; for physical therapists, March 18; for speech therapists, June 17; and for occupational therapists, June 25, the spokesperson said.
"I am happy that they did it but I just wish they had done it sooner," an occupational therapist from the U.S. told Anglo File, asking her name to be withheld because she has been working without a license since she moved here two years ago. The 26-year-old never tried to take the licensing test in Hebrew, and while she currently works in her profession, she is keen to be officially licensed in Israel.
"I want to be able to go to places. I want to work with kids," she said. "I can't work with kids now. Nobody will hire me because they check for the licensing documents. In order for me to grow in my profession and to work in a better facility, I need to take that exam."
Ilana Herskovits and her husband Ezra, both paramedical professionals who immigrated to Israel this summer, say they are not yet ready to take the licensing exam in Hebrew - but will give it a shot anyway.
"The test is free and it's multiple choice, so I'm just going to try and pray that we pass," Ilana, 27, said laughingly. She started reviewing some of the material in Hebrew and says it is nearly impossible to master the technical terminology required and that they will likely fail the exam despite speaking fluent Hebrew. "That would mean neither of us could work in our fields, which would mean almost a full year without employment because of the exam."
In past, paramedics like physicians from English-speaking countries were exempt from the difficult licensing exam other immigrants needed to pass. According to a 2008 Health Ministry decision, however, immigrant paramedics who finished their studies after 2009 - including Anglos - would have to pass a licensing test before being allowed to practice in Israel. As soon as this rule took effect, Nefesh B'Nefesh and other immigrant groups lobbied the ministry to offer the test in English and other languages.
"I think it is a huge bonus to have the test in English," said Ruti Sherman, a physiotherapist who worked for some 20 years in her field before moving from Toronto to Gush Etzion in 2003 and did not have to take the test. "I have been working now for five years and only now do I think that I would even be able to manage the test in Hebrew," she told Anglo File. "There is a lot of professional language that I did not have. I think that aliyah is hard enough, and if someone wants to work in a profession that is so in need here, they should be tested on their professional knowledge, and the language will come with actually working."
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