Justice in Israel

A look at the work of the Hadera Social Rights Center

0 Comments 09 January 2018

Every year, hundreds of Jewish Israelis, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, and Arab residents of towns neighboring Hadera and Wadi Ara turn to Rabbis for Human Rights’ Hadera Rights Center in order to ensure they receive their socioeconomic rights and entitlements.

Demonstrative photo of RHR workers conducting an intake interview with a client in RHR’s Rights Center in Hadera. RHR assists workers & the unemployed receive the benefits they are entitled to.

Many of those who visit us live in poverty, or struggle with chronic health issues, language barriers, restrictions due to their age. Many are single parents or families caring for elderly relatives in addition to themselves and their children. After careful intake, our staff sits with each person and reviews the issue they are struggling with, seeking to solve the problem as quick as possible. This often means making phones calls, sending faxes and emails, or consulting with our social justice lawyer. The major focus of the center is to assist the unemployed and underemployed with issues relating to rights available from the National Insurance Institute. This includes ensuring access to unemployment benefits such as paid leave, sick days, and assisting low-wage earners to pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty. In recent years, the range of issues the center handles has expanded to include matters dealing with public housing, urban renewal, additional national insurance issues and debts to various government and private interests. For many of our clients, a few phone calls or emails helping them untangled confusing bureaucracy can make the difference between a dignified life and a life of poverty.

The work we do at our Hadera Center is important not just for the people who we directly help. What we learn on the ground at our center informs the advocacy work we do on a national level, mostly in the Knesset.  If we note a problem occurring again and again, we get to the bottom of it, seeking to change the law or policy at fault. Poverty and social inequality are not handed down by heaven, they are the result of bad laws and bad policy.

Below are a few recent examples sent to us by Rabbi Sigal Asher of the Rights Center demonstrating the sort of cases we see there. They exemplify how vulnerable populations within Israel are often victims of unfair policy and laws and unscrupulous business practices. These practices lead individuals further into the cycle of poverty:

“Another day with a client – this one suffers from a heart disease, is on full disability, walks with with a cane, and can’t climb stairs. He is entitled to public housing. Amidar, one of the major public housing governmental firms in Israel, offered him an apartment on the first floor with a few steps. He could not climb the stairs, and so he could not even view the apartment. He stayed outside while Amidar’s people entered it. They told him to wait until they find him another apartment. Go back to the queue and wait for another chance … how long he will wait is anyone’s guess. This client saw the Promised Land but he was not permitted to enter it. The only silver lining is that at least they did not record the offer as a ‘refusal’ from him, or so they say. “

“A pair of Russian-speaking immigrants, subscribers to one of the cable companies, suddenly receive a notice that their debt, which they were unaware of and had never received notification of, was being transferred to a lawyer, and the amount due had increased. It’s clear that debts have to be paid, but if the company didn’t notify them ahead of time so they could clear the debt (that they were uninformed of), why charge them the additional fees for the lawyer? Our Russian speaking staff member spent hours on the phone with the cable company until they finally agreed to remove the additional fees and leave only the original debt. Why do you have to argue and insist on something so obvious? And what happens to the many people who cannot argue with the big companies, either because of their lack of knowledge of the language, their unfamiliarity with the system, or because they cant’ afford to be on the phone for hours?”

“A person with no means, who often needs an ambulance, turns to Magen David Adom (Israel emergency services) and asks for a discount each time an ambulance is called that doesn’t end in them being admitted to the hospital, and asks for a document from their health insurance stating how much it will cover after the discount. The health insurance won’t provide the document, the Magen David Adam is not willing to offer a discount, and the client is lost in a maze of bureaucracy.”

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