This is a translation of the profile of Etti Hen, which, with the help of RHR, first appeared last summer on the website of Israel’s Channel 2. Click here for the Channel 2 website in Hebrew.
My name is Etti Hen. I am 23 live in the Katamonim a single mother to Avior-Haim, three years old. Today I live in the Ein Breira encampment in Gan Hair,Jerusalem. I would like to tell you, through my personal story, what is sadly going on today in our country to these who fall sick or fall into need for other reasons. This is something that can happen to anyone. I am telling my story not to tell everybody how pitiable I am, but to show a wider phenomena: How low people inIsraelcan sink, and how much of this is due to the fact that the State is indifferent to its troubled citizens.
Nine years ago I was diagnosed as having cirrhosis, a disease for which there is currently no cure. The only solution is to take medications that will keep your liver functioning, but the medications are very expensive and I can not allow myself to buy it. I have to choose between medications, and food for my son and rent money. I chose to take care of my son. In addition to the physical pain, the fact that I am not taking this medication means that in the future I will probably need to have a liver transplant that I will not be able to finance.
Due to the disease, it was determined that I have a 60% disability. I am therefore categorized as a person who are not able to work, but I still have to work caring for the elderly for NIS 1,400 NIS in order to provide for my son. I hope to get help, but to whom will I turn? My country has turned its back to me, and shut every door in my face.
A few numbers and statistics to think about: When I was married I received both a rent subsidy and disability payments totalingNIS3,200 per month. After I was divorced I stopped receiving the rend subsidy, and my disability benefits were cut to IS 1,500 per month. Finally a few hundred additional shekels were restored. Because I am divorced the state payment I receive is onlyNIS79. This is in spite of the fact that my ex husband does not pay alimony or help in any other way to care for our son. Through no fault of my own I found myself running up a debt because I could not pay city taxes. A lien was put on my salary and social security payments. The only support hat I receive from the state today is 50% of the costs for my son’s pre school.
I tried to get public housing but failed, “Prazot” the public housing company in Jerusalem helps only mothers with 75% or more disability. In a meeting with one Prazot” representative I was told that in order to get help I need to bring three more children to the world. But if I do not have the money to provide one child, how do they want me to have three more? (The requirement is actually three children total for a single parent, but Etti wrote three more children. A.A.)
The tension influences the child
If I would not have received a small amount of support from my parents, I would be in the street/ But it is not clear whether they will be able to continue their support. I got to the point that in order to get to work I borrow money. Every month I receive a donation of food. I try to ask for more, but I a told that there are many families and mothers like me who need help.
The pressure and the tension of such a life is impacts on Avior. He is frustrated and cries a lot in kindergarten. He wants to be with me all the time, as if to protect me.
I would like to turn to all of the people ofIsrael, including those who do not have financial or medical problems at the moment, and ask them, “In what kind of society would you like to live?” Every one of us is vulnerable. Everyone could God forbid find themselves in my situation, something I would not wish on anybody. We must not become a society that abandons those in trouble, without any solidarity or support enabling them to live in dignity.
I call upon you to join the struggle. If I, being ill and disabled, can go out and live in an encampment, everyone can come to the decision that it is necessary to stop harming the weak people in the society.
I do not want to beg for donations and charity, I want to raise my son in dignity and on my own give him a secure life. I do not ask for much. I don’t want a plasma television, and not a nargila or sushi. I want only that my child will have a warm home, a warm place to live. I want to be able to give him a hot meal at noon and in the evening, and the leftovers in the morning. If one has these basic things, one can again live in dignity.
Ei Chen is a resident of Ein Breira encampment inJerusalem, an encampment that is occupied mainly by single mothers who have no public housing.
This piece originally appeared last summer on the Channel 2 website. Eti was in danger of being evicted from her home when this was written. As a result of six month subsidies provided to those in the encampments, Eti was able to rent a new apartment. It is not clear what will happen when these temporary subsidies run out. Activists have been able to help Eti with her medicine. Eti continues to be active in the “Ma’abarah” group inJerusalemwhich connects between the housing needs of all.