Would you believe that the East Jerusalem branch of the National Insurance Institute (NII) is becoming culturally competent? Yes, this is the same Israeli bureaucratic welfare institution that’s gotten a bad name for its being cumbersome and unwelcoming, especially for the city’s Arabic speakers. Being an Israeli institution in East Jerusalem these days, especially if people are looking to you for support, is also rather difficult.
This is where we salute the branch’s workers, especially the upper management, who recognized the complexity of this situation, and sought to better accommodate the public they serve. Several months ago we were approached by the director of the East Jerusalem branch to develop a system of cultural competency. This is the first cultural competency work that has been done in any NII branch throughout Israel.
Over the past year we’ve been meeting with and observing different staff members, adapting our training modules to the particular model of the NII. Last week (January 27) we had our first training session with the workers. Much of the session focused on social-political tensions in interactions with clients. Many of the workers were happy to have gained tools to enable them to do their jobs better.
This session was the first, and we’ll continue to follow up and mentor the management and workers. One of the subjects of future workshops will be ‘Linguistic Simplification,’ which means to simplify the often jargon-laden text of NII forms into simpler language that non-native speakers can understand. In fact, the West Jerusalem branch liked the idea too, and soon we’ll be giving a workshop on Linguistic Simplification for the West Jerusalem branch as well!
Stay tuned for further updates from the National Insurance Institute – Jerusalem.