Cultural Competence

Cultural Competency in the Police – Mentioned in Ha’aretz National Daily

We’ve been working with the Israel Police since 2015, and you can read about our work here and here. And it was covered on the Walla! Internet news site here.

Title of article about police

Title of article about police

Now, we’ve been mentioned in the national Ha’aretz daily newspaper, as the driving force behind developing cultural competency training in the entire Israel Police Force. Here’s the link to the article, and you can download a .pdf of the article here.

And here’s the full text:

Are Israel’s Police Really More Violent Toward the Ethiopian Community?

Are police in Israel and the U.S. inherently racist, or are they part of a bigger problem? A series of reforms undertaken by the Israel Police indicates a desire to change

Nomi Levenkron Sep 02, 2017 8:06 AM

Police officers aren’t born racist – they become racist in a society where racism is more deeply rooted than people will ever dare admit. The frequent violent encounters between police and minority groups – in Ferguson and Los Angeles, in Paris and London, in Tel Aviv, Jaffa and Jerusalem – all stem from  the same thing: a racist society that tries to conceal its racism with condemnation of the police. We scapegoat the police while taking pride in our own clean hands.

The encounter between police and minorities has been volatile since modern policing began, amid the many groups based on ethnicity, religion and sexual preferences. Processes of nation-building marginalized the Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians. European colonialism was disguised as a “civilizing mission,” which continued when the residents of the colonies arrived as citizens in the lands of the colonizers. The U.S. Civil War led to the de jure but not necessarily the de facto liberation of millions of slaves.

And the tens of millions of immigrants to the West at the end of the 19th century weren’t welcomed warmly since they were perceived as carriers of four kinds of undesirable baggage: dubious morals, crime, disease and imbecility. Many immigrants had problems finding work and housing, and therefore crowded into struggling neighborhoods. This geographic and employment segregation made it even harder to break down cultural barriers.

These processes led to mutual suspicion and sometimes hatred between minority groups and the police in Western countries. The police’s central role in protecting the regime and public order, especially during demonstrations, increased the potential for friction. The police’s perception that crime among minorities stemmed from cultural traits, not socioeconomic traits and discrimination, sometimes led to over-policing — as seen in unnecessary arrests and violence. And it also led to under-policing, stemming from neglect and indifference.

Police methods did not arise in a vacuum but rather in a society that was racist in innumerable ways, among them the restriction of groups’ access to jobs, welfare, education and health. Police activity was harsher in terms of the damage it caused to the bodies and freedom of minority people, but police racism was no different from the racism in the wider society.

This is the background for understanding the many violent disturbances among minorities against the police. These groups were sitting on a powder keg and were fed up with hegemonic society’s treatment of them. The police only lit the fuse.

At the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, the LGBT struggle began after police known for their homophobia raided a gay bar. The 1992 Los Angeles riots erupted after the police who beat up Rodney King were exonerated in court. The 2011 London riots began after the police opened fire on a 29-year-old black man, and at the beginning of this year in Paris a similar wave began after a young man from a banlieue complained that the police had arrested him for no reason, beaten him and raped him with a baton.

Often the police know they’re the scapegoat, even when they admit responsibility, as with the events that ignited the most recent riot. But that accompanies the underlying racism and socioeconomic discrimination. At a Milwaukee police press conference in August 2016 after the police’s shooting of a young black man provoked riots, Sheriff David Clarke said: “Police use of force serves as an igniter — there’s no doubt — but to an already volatile mix of urban pathologies, failed urban policy that exacerbates inescapable poverty, failing public schools, inadequate parenting . Stop trying to fix the police. Fix the ghetto.”

In Israel, similar things happened after the establishment of the state, and the pretenses of creating a melting pot dissipated rapidly. We loved the immigration, not the immigrants. The Moroccans became an object of fear, the Germans scorn, the Yemenites pure paternalism (as in the kidnapping of Yemenite children).

Immigrants demonstrated in cities and transit camps against their treatment, but it was only the encounter between stevedore Yaakov Elkarif and two policemen in Haifa’s Wadi Salib neighborhood in 1959 that provoked a revolt by immigrants from North Africa, which included violent demonstrations, the blocking of roads and the setting of cars on fire. The appointment of a commission of inquiry and symbolic amendments to legislation were to no avail, and beneath the surface the embers continued to hiss.

The flames flared up again in the ‘70s when Israel’s version of the Black Panthers, representing Jews with roots in the Middle East and North Africa, demanded equality in education and employment. The racism against groups perceived as dangerous toward Jews was even harsher. The police stuck in the map flags dipped in the blood of members of the “minority” — the Israeli euphemism for Arabs. The 1956 Kafr Qasem massacre, the October 2000 riots in the Galilee and the 2017 Umm al-Hiran demonstrations are among the most notable incidents, but by no means the only ones.

A drop in the turbulent sea

If we probe our memories honestly, we must admit that Ethiopian Israelis’ problems neither began nor end with the police. The supreme heroism attributed to the bringing of this community to Israel stood in harsh contrast to the attitude toward them here. We labeled them “quiet and nice,” but we didn’t want them living near us. We refused to acknowledge them as Jews and put them in separate school programs. When they donated blood, we threw it in the garbage.

In a lecture by a policeman of Ethiopian origin in a law course I teach, a woman in the class asked him whether he feels safe enough to drink beer in the street after he goes off duty and dons civilian clothes.

The policeman smiled and said: “Are you asking me whether the police are racist? When I arrived in Israel I said that I would not live locked up in the Ethiopian community. I would have Israeli friends, an Israeli girlfriend, and an Israeli life. So yes, I did have an Israeli girlfriend. We went out for two years. But do you know what ‘we went out’ means? It means that not once did she invite me to her home.

“She was embarrassed. She didn’t want her parents to see her with an Ethiopian. After two years I understood what was going on and we split up. So are you asking me if the police are racist? I’ll answer you in the simplest way: You started it. We deal with the results.”

“A man is nothing but the image of his native landscape,” wrote poet Shaul Tchernichovsky, and by the same token, the policeman is the litmus test of Israeli society. Over-policing and under-policing developed gradually and led to a long series of clashes. More than once, a request to see an ID led to violence that at worst ended in an indictment for insulting public servants or interfering with a police officer. At best it ended with hard feelings of discrimination.

A 2016 Justice Ministry report noted that a large number of Israelis of Ethiopian origin – mainly minors – were being arrested and tried. For example, in 2015 the percentage of indictments against people of Ethiopian origin was 3.5 percent, compared with their 2 percent representation in the overall population. The report also showed that 18 percent of those held in the Ofek Prison for minors were of Ethiopian origin. The Tebeka legal aid organization for Ethiopian Israelis has received scores of complaints about police violence, but the group’s 2014 appeal to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch elicited only the laconic reply that “the police are not familiar with a phenomenon of police violence toward people of Ethiopian origin.”

Yet the community remained composed. Its young people joined the police but even there they didn’t find protection from the racism. Outside, police of Ethiopian origin encountered curses like “black zero” or “get out of here, it’s too bad you immigrated to Israel.” Inside the police, they came up against the glass ceiling that’s so familiar to every minority group. Joining the police, it seems, didn’t improve the police’s attitude toward the Ethiopian community.

The relative quiet ended in April 2015 when a video came out of the police beating Israeli soldier Damas Fekade and the attorney general closed the case. That event was preceded by a number of incidents, most notably the suicide of Yosef Salamseh; his family said he was abused by the police when he was arrested.

The video, however, was the last straw. In the days after its release, more than 1,000 people demonstrated in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, blocking main roads. The demonstrations got out of control, especially in Tel Aviv: Dozens of demonstrators and police were injured, store and car windows were smashed, and the police used stun grenades and tear gas.

Why did the protest erupt then? There are a number of possible explanations. The members of the generation born in Israel no longer agreed to bow their heads to racism, and the police violence was against a soldier in uniform – a symbol of the consensus and integration. Apparently Black Lives Matter in the United States also influenced the nature of the protest.

Conspicuous by their absence were other Israelis. During the following week smaller demonstrations took place in Kiryat Gat, Ashkelon and Haifa, where there are many Israelis of Ethiopian origin. The fact that there was no protest in Netanya reflected the success of the police there. Still, it’s doubtful the last word has been spoken.

Many faces of racism

How is racism eradicated? Quite simply, it isn’t. Racism is too deeply imprinted in individuals and society; at most it’s possible to decrease it. But in the Damas Fekade affair, the seeds of change were sown. From the outside, community activists demanded from the police an acknowledgement of over-policing, an apology and preventive action.

From within, an officer of Ethiopian origin, Superintendent Shai Yasu, a lawyer, contacted the police’s head of human resources, Maj. Gen. Gila Gaziel. Yasu suggested that he be appointed the liaison to the community. Similar requests by him in the past were refused, but the police saw the attack on Fekade as a warning sign, while the need for a change was clear to the top command. The police academy, which had been established just a few months earlier, was part of the change; all training processes were reexamined, and the question was asked: What kind of policing is needed in a multicultural society?

Despite the harsh criticism of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich after he said it was natural for the police to be more suspicious of Ethiopian Israelis, he has been the first commissioner to launch an extensive program for multicultural policing. Many changes have taken place over the past two years. For example, 29 community police officers, most of them of Ethiopian origin, have been assigned to heavily Ethiopian neighborhoods; they arrange meetings between community leaders and local police commanders. They also create unofficial bridges such as paint ball and soccer games with teens.

Cases that were filed in 2014 to 2016, some of them possible results of over-policing, underwent reviews. All police stations and commanders have taken courses on cultural appropriateness, which were developed with the Jerusalem Intercultural Center [emphasis ours]. This year the number of police officers of Ethiopian origin (1,085 out of about 30,000) is larger than their percentage in the overall population, and there is an increasing number of officers (27 in 2014 and 51 in 2017).

The glass ceiling is also melting a bit; two Ethiopian Israelis are now chief superintendents. Police are regularly briefed on multicultural policing before they go out on duty, and there are plans to enlarge the pilot project in which police wear body cameras and at every station someone is responsible for cultural appropriateness. Surveys in the Ethiopian community indicate a steep rise in trust in the police, from 18 percent in 2015 (versus 48 percent in the general population) to 25 percent in 2016 (also versus 48 percent). The main tool is a joint steering committee of the police and the community.

One member of the steering committee is Issachar Makonnen. He was Israel’s first Ethiopian lieutenant colonel, and he heads an organization that helps the community and prepares its young people for the army. In this respect, he lauds the police’s head of human resources, Gila Gaziel.

“But let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he says. “There is still a gap between the orders from above and the field, and there is police violence. And there are police officers who beat someone up and then run to complain that they’ve been attacked. But I’m telling you unequivocally that it’s getting better. Today we have possibilities that we didn’t have before. I have an open door at the station commander’s office, at Gila Gaziel’s office and at Alsheich’s when necessary.”

When I recently completed a long day of interviews at the police academy, an officers’ graduation ceremony was going on. On stage stood 138 excited cadets; it was obvious that considerable thought had been invested in creating a culturally diverse cadre: seven of Ethiopian origin – four times their representation in the general population – as well as 10 Druze, one Muslim and two Christians. The speeches stressed the importance of diversity and multiculturalism. In the audience sat families and friends of every religion, origin and color – all of them shedding a tear of the same color.

At the end of the day, there seems to be reason for cautious optimism, even though there is still a long way to go. Are the police less racist than in 2015, the year Damas Fekade was beaten? It’s possible to say for certain only that the police are trying and investing money, manpower, thought, time and effort – which is a lot more than can be said about Israeli society. And anyone among us who has never committed the sin of racism has the honor of casting the first stone at the police.

Nomi Levenkron is a doctoral student at the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law.

While this is a national program, we owe our deep gratitude to the Jerusalem Foundation, which has been our strategic partner in developing Cultural Competency in Jerusalem for the past decade.

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Wisdom of Experience in Cultural Competency

After 10 years trailblazing the area of Cultural Competency we and our partners in action have garnered a broad spectrum of experience in a wide variety of areas. Throughout the country, there are many people who have developed expertise in different aspects of cultural competency, in different disciplines. They’ve dealt with countless difficulties and are proud of impressive achievements. We’ve all come a long way. After 10 years, we and our partners in action are excited to share some key aspects of Cultural Competency in Israel, and are taking a moment to reflect on the journey of the last decade.

We’ve called this reflection “Wisdom of Experience” newsletters. They detail different issues in Cultural Competency that we’ve dealt with. Each 3-5 page description includes a page introduction about the topic, plus a detailed description of the subject, written by our partners in the field.

Rabbi as a Hospital Consultant

Rabbi as a Hospital Consultant

Thus far we’ve written about (in Hebrew):

Rabbi as a Hospital Consultant (for matters concerning the Ultra-Orthodox population)

In Your Language – Language Accessibility at Hadassah Medical Centers

Assimilating Use of a Telephone Interpreting Hotline

Training at the Western Galilee Medical Center

We’ll continue publishing these newsletters monthly. Other subjects soon to be published include our Haifa-based round table with Haredim and the Maccabi HMO, Cultural Competency in Mental Health, making health services accessible to French-speaking olim, and more.

These newsletters join our series about multi-cultural and religious holidays, that we continue to revise in 2017 (on our Hebrew publications web page).

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued partnership and support of cultural competency over the past decade!

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Continuing Support for Jerusalem Medical Interpreters at Shaare Zedek

It’s always nice to be praised by someone else. This time, it was by the Sha’are Zedek Medical Center’s social media team, after our Dr. Michal Schuster led a meeting for Jerusalem-based medical interpreters.

Dr. Michal Schuster, leading the workshop

Dr. Michal Schuster, leading the workshop

Here’s their Facebook post:

 

The meeting was held on July 19, for more than 20 medical interpreters. Most were from Sha’are Zedek, and others came from Hadassah Mt. Scopus and Ein Kerem hospitals, ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital, as well as from the Tene Briut organization. The first part of the meeting dealt with the role of medical interpreters in bridging cultural as well as linguistic gaps. In their training the medical interpreters had studied mainly how to translate medical terms from one language to another; the concept of bridging between cultures was not focused on. Michal raised several examples in which medical interpreters were faced with the need to bridge cultural gaps, and they discussed how to approach these differences. This discussion was important for the interpreters, since previously many had focused mainly on language translation, and the concept of cultural bridging, although an important intuitive aspect of medical interpretation, had not received as much attention. It was now brought front and center.

Afterward, participants split up into groups according to mother tongue. Each group discussed specific issues pertaining to medical interpretation in that language.

Thanks to Sha’are Zedek for the mention! And of course, many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued partnership in our Cultural Competency efforts throughout the past decade and into the future!

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Palestinian Municipal Social Workers Learning Hebrew

We’ve told you here and here the importance of learning the ‘other’s’ language. Hebrew-speakers learning Arabic, Arabic-speakers learning Hebrew. Our MiniActive volunteers have been studying Hebrew for the past two years, and haven’t stopped singing the praises of the course.

Studying Hebrew with Medabrot Ivrit (illustration)

Studying Hebrew with Medabrot Ivrit (illustration)

Given this success, answering a request from Palestinian social workers, from different branches of the municipal welfare office in East Jerusalem, to offer courses in Hebrew. These courses are important for them professionally in their interactions with their colleagues and the overall welfare system. Like the courses for the MiniActive women, these courses were also given by the Medabrot Ivrit (Speaking Hebrew) volunteer-based group.

Thirty-four women participated in 2 courses, 2 levels of Hebrew. The women met for 3 hours each time, for 28 meetings. They ran from 9 March to 6 July.

There are a number of success stories from this course. One social worker, who’s been working in the municipal system for 10 years, told her class how she was able to write a report in Hebrew by herself for the first time. This is one example of how these classes are enabling Palestinian women – especially professionals – to be more independent, and to be able to communicate better and more effectively with the Hebrew-speaking system. It is part of our efforts to make Jerusalem culturally competent – enabling all populations to better access – and demand when necessary – the rights that are guaranteed them by law.

The Jerusalem Foundation was a full partner to this effort, in connecting, designing, and eventually in providing the required funds.

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Santé Israël – Leading Francophone Public Health Awareness in Jerusalem

There are many French-speaking associations and professionals to help the Francophone immigrants in the city. However, only one – Santé Israël – has a comprehensive view of all health-care issues, and how they specifically affect Jerusalem’s French-speaking population.

French speaking health care fair at Ginot Ha'Ir Community Council

French speaking health care fair at Ginot Ha’Ir Community Council

For this reason, Santé Israël, together with the Ginot Ha’Ir Community Center, the Municipal Absorption Authority, and others, held a “Health in French” happening at the Ginot Ha’ir Community Center on May 22.

Proper brushing - very important!

Proper brushing – very important!

The event presented a number of associations and professionals for French-speaking immigrants, as well as activities for all ages. Magen David Adom was there with an ambulance, distributing information and presenting a first aid seminar. The different HMO’s were there, presenting the different services they offer for French speakers. Representatives of the municipal health services such as a local well-baby clinic and dental clinic, French-speaking opticians, the French Pharmacy, and a range of alternative therapy practitioners were also on hand to demonstrate their techniques. Representatives of immigrant organizations were there as well for further assistance. The children enjoyed jumpy castles, large bubbles and games run by the Jerusalem Lions football club.

Magen David Adom - in French too!

Magen David Adom – in French too!

Some 50 members of the Pharmadom Foundation came to the fair as part of their annual visit to Israel. They met and mingled with the professionals as well as with participants.

In preparation for the event, Santé Israël Director, Marie Avigad, was interviewed on the Radio Studio Qualita. Here she spoke about the work of Santé Israël, and the upcoming event:

 

Here’s the post (in French) about the event:

Many thanks to the to the Pharmadom Foundation and the Rashi Foundation for their continuing support of Santé Israël.

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Cultural Competency in Rights Realization Citywide

Why do Arab residents from East Jerusalem utilize volunteer rights centers in West Jerusalem? What’s the difference between a Haredi person’s usage of B’Ezrat Hashem (With God’s help) or Bli Neder (God willing)? And how would you deal with these questions if faced with a real-life situation?

Listening to a very interesting lecture

Listening to a very interesting lecture

Some 30 volunteers who work in the Municipality’s rights realization centers from throughout the city participated in introduction to cultural competency workshops resented by our Director of the Cultural Competency Desk, Orna Shani, on April 30.  This workshop focused not on the specific answers to these questions, but rather on how to handle the range of cultures and ethnicities that are served by the municipal rights centers. Rights centers are operated by the municipal welfare department, part of the Social Services Division of the Jerusalem Municipality that is undergoing a process of becoming culturally competent. You can read more about this process here and here.

The volunteers learned about the principles of cultural competency, about different meanings of common phrases that often seem to mean the same thing, about what to do when a volunteer has pre-conceived notions about a particular group of people, the different types of requests from different types of people, and more. All in a process to help more of Jerusalem’s diverse populations gain access to rights guaranteed them by law.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of Cultural Competency in Jerusalem.

 

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Cultural Competency in the Workplace: Health Care

We’ve mentioned here the many ways we develop cultural competency in the health care system – from the perspective of the national and local authorities (Ministry of Health, municipalities) to HMO’s, individual clinics and hospitals, schools of nursing and medicine, and more.

We continue to introduce  concepts of cultural competency wherever we can. This includes the Change Agents course of the Israeli Forum for Employment Diversity, which consists of businesses and non-profits that are working to further diversity in the workplace. This includes increasing the integration of populations with disabilities as well as a range of cultures and ethnicities.

Orna Shani, Desk Director, lecturing

Orna Shani, Desk Director, lecturing

We’ve been giving lectures to the Forum for some years now. Cultural Competency Desk Director Orna Shani recently lectured to a course for diversity managers from health care organizations, hospitals and HMO’s, from throughout the country. The main goal of these diversity managers is to integrate populations with special needs into the work force.

Of the 25 participants, only 5 had heard about cultural competency before. Our discussion included language accessibility, on the connection between diversity and employment, the current situation and the desired situation.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of cultural competency since its beginning.

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2017-06-30T15:25:41+00:00 May 18th, 2017|Blog, Cultural Competence, Cultural Competence in Health Services|

ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital – Still a Model for Fully Integrated Cultural Competency

Ten years ago we began working with the ALYN Hospital, helping to turn their facility into the first fully culturally competent health care institution in the country. Today, cultural competency is a relatively common concept not only in the health care field, but also in welfare, academia, community work, and even the Israel Police.

Opening of Alyn Muslim Prayer Room

Opening of Alyn Muslim Prayer Room

The Israel Religious Action Center was so impressed of the success of ALYN, that it recently made this video, briefly explaining the process that the hospital went through. Indeed, when organizations ask us of a good example in the field of cultural competence, we often send them to Dr. Maurit Beeri, ALYN hospital director, to get her insights on the process and the excellent outcomes they have.

We’re proud to be part of this process. Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, our long-time partner in cultural competency.

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The Little Prince – Dutifully Making Sure Jerusalem is Clean

“It’s an issue of discipline,” the little prince explained afterward. “After we finish the morning washing up, we must dutifully make sure that the planet is clean.”

This passage comes from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Svetlana Fedotenko, founder of the Gonenim Music Center and a former participant in our leadership training seminar, who died last year, had been inspired by this passage, and dreamt for a long time to create a project that will put residents in charge of keeping our streets clean. (Click here for more about Svetlana).

We, too, were inspired by Svetlana’s dream, and last week we took some steps to make that dream come true.

Meeting for the Little Prince

Meeting for the Little Prince

We have seen how, of all subjects, garbage can be a unifying factor. We saw it when our MiniActive project banded together to fight for improved sanitation in East Jerusalem. We’ve seen it in the French Hill  – Issawiya area, where Israeli and Palestinian residents banded together to successfully fight the placement of a landfill in their backyards. We saw in city hall, how the one issue that brought secular and Haredi city council members together was the subject of garbage collection. (Below is more information about the French Hill – Issawiya situation)

We had the first organizing meeting last week. More than 25 active residents and community leaders – astoundingly, 1/3 Arab, 1/3 Haredi and 1/3 secular/religious (Don’t remember a time when that EVER happened on its own!) – met at the JICC. We heard about the current awful situation – in collection, in enforcement, in recycling, in teaching toward cleanliness and in teaching toward reduction of waste. We heard about fantastic initiatives that are already taking place, and concluded that such initiatives, together with mutual learning and assistance, can really change the city.

Another picture

Another picture

The group is already beginning to act, and we believe that in another month we’ll be able to invite anyone for whom this subject is close to his heart – residents, professional, community center, educational framework, environmental groups, NGO’s – to join this initiatives. In honor of Svetlana, we’re calling the program The Little Prince.

We’ll be waiting for you, after the morning washing up…

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Continuing Cultural Competency Training at the Municipal Welfare Department

As difficult as it is, one of our overarching goals is to make Jerusalem a culturally competent city. This also includes, of course, entire Jerusalem Municipality culturally competent. You can read here about our initial training for workers in the welfare department. We’ve just finished a Training the Trainers course for 10 Welfare Department workers, who join the 15  graduates of the first cohort, which took place in November – December of 2016. This 4-session course enabled participants to conduct cultural competency workshops for the entire Welfare Department.

Community Service Department

Community Service Department

Participants learned how to lead cultural competency training, including, of course, the main principles of cultural competency. We covered a number of cultural and ethnicity-based issues that welfare department professionals encounter on a regular basis. Through discussions and special videos that we developed for the course, we introduced a number of case studies. Participants then learned from these case studies and evaluated them so they could use them in their work.

They will also be in charge of assimilating these principles throughout the year.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continuing support of the cultural competency project in Jerusalem.
And here’s the post in Hebrew of the first meeting:

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