More than one-third suicides in Israel over the past decade were new immigrants, but the State of Israel is steadfastly refusing to fund services for new immigrants that would reduce that suicide rate because the state says it is “not a priority."
State Of Israel Says It Is “Not A Priority” To Fund Suicide Prevention And Mental Health Services For New Immigrants, Even Though One-Third Of Israeli Suicides Are New Immigrants
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
More than one-third suicides in Israel over the past decade were new immigrants, but the State of Israel is steadfastly refusing to fund services for new immigrants that would reduce that suicide rate because the state says it is “not a priority,” Ha’aretz reported.
Eran, which operates a psychological crisis hotline, reportedly gets about 18,000 calls a year from new immigrants. About one out of every 18 of those calls are from or about suicidal people.
From 2000-2013, 4,806 committed suicide. 1,658 of them were new immigrants, most from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.
The IDF’s figures reportedly show that 37% of the soldiers who commit suicide are new immigrants.
But despite the frequent lip service the prime minister and the State of Israel give to aliyah, the state has consistently refused to pay for mental health needs of new immigrants. In 2015, more than 30,000 Jews made aliyah. None of them get mental health benefits from state.
The only help these new immigrants get is from Eran’s hotline.
Eran’s hotline gets no state funding even though it runs 24/7 in three languages – Hebrew, Russian and Arabic. (Eran also operates a special service for Holocaust survivors that does receive state funding through the Social Affairs Ministry.) There is no suicide hotline service in Amharic, the language of Ethiopian Jews, or Spanish or French, and services for Russian-speakers are spotty. (Many secular Israelis speak English, although it is unclear whether those volunteering for Eran have the vocabulary to properly deal with an English-speaking caller.)
The past year has seen a major leap in aliyah from France, and Eran asked Israel’s Immigration Ministry to finance hotlines in Amharic and French, which would cover the two largest unserved immigrant populations. It says it needs 500,000 shekels (about $126,000) to fund those hotlines and train 500 volunteers to staff them.
The Immigration Ministry refused to allocate the money to Eran and even said this need was not “a priority” for the state, Eran’s head, David Koren, told Ha’aretz.
“Until a decade ago, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry used to fund us, but they stopped,” Koren continued. “‘The immigrants are no longer immigrants,’ they told us, ‘and they don’t need a hotline.’ According to all the studies and figures, immigrants run a greater risk of suffering a [psychological] crisis, and this situation doesn’t end when their absorption money ends. Also, there are no lines in Amharic and French and not enough [trained] volunteers for the Russian language line. Sometimes a Russian-speaker calls and there’s no one to answer him and we look for volunteers who can call him back. Telling a person in crisis that someone will get back to him is not an ideal situation. By the time someone gets back to him, he may no longer want the aid [or be dead].”
The state refusal to fund Eran bothers Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee Chairman MK Avraham Nagosa of the Likud Party, a PhD in education who is himself an immigrant from Ethiopia.
“It’s absurd that such a vital service doesn’t receive sufficient support from the state. Beyond the general psychological distress that all people may suffer, new immigrants have unique problems like authority crisis, loneliness and livelihood difficulties,” Nagosa said after visiting Eran’s headquarters last week.
Committee member MK Ksenia Svetlova of the opposition Zionist Union Party said she was “shocked” such an important need isn’t even on the cabinet ministries’ agenda.
“Immigration is a one-day thing,” Svetlova, who was born in the Former Soviet Union, said, “but absorption is for life.”
The Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee reportedly decided to hold a meeting with officials from the Finance, Health and Absorption ministries to get money to Eran so it can train volunteers who speak Amharic and French to man its hotline.
The quasi-governmental Jewish Agency also lashed out the state for its refusal to fund Eran.
“My whole professional life I’ve dealt with immigrants and I’m very aware of the lack of services for them, all the more so these days with the increase of immigration from France and the psychological distress some immigrants develop. It’s critical that the person on the hotline speaks the caller’s language. We have no other help for them,” the Director of Social Services at the Jewish Agency, Mira Keidar, said.