Thursday, February 2, 2017

The evils of institutionalization are now on the front burner

From Bizchut's Hebrew-language Facebook page (there is an
English-language version as well). The photo shows an ill-fitting mattress
on one of the Neve Ha'irus residents' beds
If you are not already familiar with what is happening at Neve Ha'irus, see my December 24, 2016 background post: "Not a Dickensian tale".

Now this quote:
The 130 residents of Neve Ha'irus are exposed to contagious skin diseases that are not being treated properly. Bizchut has received difficult-to-view photos depicting shocking neglect. According to staff members, residents suffering from this contagious illness are "treated" with nothing but hand cream.
This is just another instance of how Neve Ha'irus is a gaping wound in the heart of Israeli society which has chosen to conceal these people and ignore their plight. We call for the immediate appointment of an independent investigative body in order to rescue these residents. In addition, they must be transferred to respectable residences. This wound has to be treated!
Would you like to make a difference?
Contact Knesset member, Haim Katz, Minister of Employment and Welfare [in the Israeli government] (email: and demand that he set up an independent emergency committee to investigate the operation of Neve Ha'irus.
The post above, which appeared this week in Hebrew on the Facebook page of Bizchut, the Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities, has sparked a fiery exchange of views from readers. 

Several, who were enraged by the post and by accompanying photographs of Neve Ha'irus - one of the dining room and of a resident’s hand - conceded that they are employees of the institution. (Note: the comments of Neve Ha'irus staff members were posted without any Hebrew punctuation.) They asserted that their positions there grant them inside and irrefutable knowledge of the situation. Here is one excerpt:
“The warmth and love we give our work is holy work We the caregivers work every day of the year unlike you who sit in some office Sit there frustrated Stop harming Be adult people and leave Neve Hairus in peace because Neve Hairus is #1…” 
Another employee wrote:
“I don’t recall that dining rooms must be decorated and colorful… where is such a thing written is there a regulation that a dining room must be decorated with every color of the rainbow???????? What’s important is that the food be well-cooked and hot and fresh and varied and suited to each and every resident and that’s what happens here”
And regarding the photo of a resident’s scabies-afflicted hand, one employee wrote:
“This resident receives treatment in clinics We also have dryness on our hands at times or on our entire bodies and we go to a dermatologist and our residents go out for treatment as well…”
As one ex-employee pointed out, this is just what you would expect to hear from a frightened employee desperate to keep his job.

Bizchut responded to these comments stating, among other things:
“Is it possible that the entire staff at Neve Ha'irus is bad? Is this the reason that the facility is operating as it is? The answer is “No”.
We had the pleasure of meeting some of the employees during our visit and we maintain contact with some of them. They are warm people with values who truly desire to do good and to give the residents quality of life.
They do the best they can and the problem does not lie with them but with the structure of life in an institution. It is a closed place, surrounded by a fence. At its entrance stands a locked gate and even parents of the residents arriving to visit may not walk around freely nor can they visit the building where their loved ones live.”
Bizchut’s recent postings and emails about this institution have elicited critical responses from its supporters as well. Their gripes relate to the specifics of how to tackle this blight – not whether it is one at all.

Bizchut employees, parents of children with disabilities and other involved citizens have joined the discourse. Needless to say, it is uplifting to finally see institutionalization in Israel and its evils receiving the attention they warrant.

I’ll be translating those further exchanges as soon as I find the time.

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