Third Training to Municipality Absorption Neighborhood Workers

February 4, 2009

On February 4, we held the third training in the series that provides the Absorption Workers at the municipality with an introduction to the field of Cultural Competence.  The series covers topics such as organizational cultural competence, cross-cultural communication, tools for cultural competence, case studies and simulations.

In the training we continued and deepened our efforts to adopt Cross-Cultural Communication skills. This time, using the example of interaction between American guests and their hosts, their Israeli partners, we defined some of the main attributes of the Israeli manner of interacting and communicating. We applied these insights to interactions between Israelis who come from different cultural backgrounds, with an emphasis on new immigrants in Israel.

Next we examined positive and negative ways to judge behaviors of the “other” and how we can broaden the repertoire of behaviors that one can accept as legitimate. Yet, the main challenge is to find the bridge – to find the way to get the most out of the inter-cultural encounter. An interesting example was brought up by one of the participants regarding an Ethiopian couple who were supposed to go to the hospital for an important appointment that was set months in advance. At the last minute before their departure some of their family relatives showed up unexpectedly. According to their values and norms the Ethiopian couple had to host the guests. When they arrived to the hospital hours later the staff there were very angry with them.

At the training we took the opportunity to analyze this real life example, similar to many that we at the JICC encounter these days. We asked ourselves in which circumstances is it legitimate, in Israeli society, to arrive late to a medical appointment – e.g. death of close relative or a road closed because of a security threat. How would a “mainstream Israeli” act in order to ensure that she/he gets to the appointment even though he or she are late due to such reasons. We tried to work out how would it be possible for both sides – medical staff and patients – to get their interests and needs met in such a situation. This important example resonated with the training participants, who are exposed to similar cases in their daily work as service providers, and as those who try to help new immigrants navigate Israeli bureaucracy.

In the next meeting we will aspire to adapt medical models for inter-cultural dialogue with patients to the work of absorption officers and other service providers.

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