On Sunday June 9, a conference entitled Your Health Care as an English Speaker – Learn Your Rights was held in the Neve Dekalim Community Center in Ashkelon. While the southern city on the coast is not particularly known as being a center of the Israeli English speaking community, the event, headlined by MK Dov Lipman, drew an impressive crowd of local Anglos anxious to hear from “their representative” in the Israeli government, and to understand more about their rights in the healthcare system that they regularly navigate.
The major impetus for the conference was a deadline, last February, by which Israeli health service providers were expected to have implemented the Ministry of Health’s requirements for cultural and linguistic accessibility. As part of these requirements healthcare providers must make sure that the services and much of the information they offer be made available to patients in English!
The theme of the evening emerged as a call to action for English speakers to use their voice as a community to claim their rights to the English accessibility that is explicitly required of healthcare institutions, and to actually motivate change. MK Lipman opened up the evening with a message to the English speaking community that they should view him as their local congressman, importing a concept from American politics, as he invited anyone to contact him directly (via email) with their concerns for a personal voice in the government.
Ronen Regev Kabir, assistant director of the Public Trust (אמון הציבור) organization then presented a direct appeal for complaints about cultural/linguistic barriers in the healthcare system so that his organization can use these testimonies to pressure health service providers to come into full compliance with the Health Ministry’s regulations. Public Trust also intercedes on behalf of citizens that are in the midst of ongoing issues with an institution connected to language barriers.
Gabe Pransky, founder of the Shira Pransky Project, provided context for the imperative of ensuring English accessibility in Israeli healthcare with some personal experiences, and also appealed to the community to be a part of the slow evolution of the system that is currently taking place by being vigilant in claiming their rights and speaking up when they are not properly implemented.
The final speaker was Dr. Emma Averbuch, a senior Ministry of Health administrator responsible for decreasing inequality in the Israeli healthcare system, who reviewed the specific linguistic accessibility requirements. She and Gabe Pransky then fielded questions from the audience.
Everyone in attendance at the Ashkelon conference left with a bit more knowledge of their rights in the healthcare system and especially feeling more empowered to claim those rights through the people and organizations dedicated to protecting their interests. Dr. Averbuch, herself a Russian immigrant, later commented in conversation that the voices of immigrants have not been heard enough on these issues in the past, and she finds it personally and professionally inspiring to see the community organizing and speaking up now.
The conference was sponsored by the Yedid organization as part of their efforts in community empowerment, and organized by a group of students from the ISEF Foundation. With John Daly, a local celebrity (Google him, it’s an interesting read), community organizer and social activist serving as the student group’s coordinator, the conference focused on empowering the local English speaking community, organized as the ESOA (English Speakers of Ashkelon). The Shira Pransky Project was proud to join the other esteemed participants in serving English speakers in Israel and promoting their rights!