The Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality discussed on Monday the welfare services provided to Bedouin Arab women in the Negev. ”We are dealing with an Arab population which is on the fringes of the fringes of Israelis society – geographically, socially and economically. This is the most neglected and most discriminated against population, despite all the achievements of these women over the past few years,” said MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), who heads the committee.

Miriam Ben-Atar of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services said, ”We have nine departments that treat 15,000 Bedouin families. There is a shortage of quality manpower.” She added that during the past few years that government has allocated some NIS 30 million towards the development of programs for Bedouin women in the south.

In response, MK Touma-Sliman said ”you present programs, but it is unclear how many people participate in them. Who measures their efficiency? Bedouin women cannot reach the places where the services are provided because there is no public transportation, not even at the entrance to the villages. How can people get help if they do not know when the service is scheduled to arrive at an unrecognized community?”

Head of the Committee on the Status of Women: ”State not taking responsibility for the welfare and well-being of Bedouin women”

MK Touma-Sliman

Khaled Azbarga, district supervisor at the Welfare Ministry, informed the committee that empowerment centers have been opened ”in all of the communities.” He said families who take part in the programs receive constant guidance, ”and we see a positive change.”

MK Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) said ”there is in fact a manpower shortage, but during my tenure as Minister of Welfare and Social Services, four trucks were purchased in order to provide services [for Bedouins]. This is the only program that has 30% of its budget designated for the Arab sector.”

MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) said ”social services in Arab communities are not suitable for 2016. The state of the Arab woman, particularly in unrecognized villages that do not have infrastructure or schools, is difficult. Today, a branch of the National Insurance Institute opened in Tayibe following instructions from the only minister who addressed the petitions on this matter – Meir Cohen.”

Hagai Moyal, the Welfare and Social Services Ministry`s national supervisor for domestic violence, said the ministry plans to launch domestic violence training programs that will be available in the Negev. This year, all of the Ministry`s department heads who deal with families will be trained to treat domestic violence in the Bedouin community, he added.

Julie Kate of the Yachdav non-profit organization said there is an increase in the number of domestic violence incidents within the Bedouin community, and the level of violence has also gone up. ”Women come to us with burned feet from the scorching road and with a dead baby in their bellies. Until now, shelters have taken in these women until things calmed down, at which point the sheikhs were contacted in order to return the women to a safe place,” she said.

Amal Alansasra of the Sidreh non-profit organization told the committee that 75 percent of Bedouin women are exposed to all types of violence and live beneath the poverty line.

MK Talab Abu Arar (Joint List) said ”social services are like oxygen for these women. If their homes are destroyed, and they are abandoned near the razed homes along with their children, isn`t their need for social services obvious?”

Shifa Alsana, head of the welfare department in the Bedouin town of Lakiya, said ”we organize training programs for teenage girls on the subject of violence, we opened `warm homes` for teenage boys and girls in distress, we have a program aimed at eradicating violence and another training program for mediators who live in the community.”

Joint List MK Masud Ganaim told the meeting that ”if the State does not recognize a person`s right to the land, it should at least recognize a person`s rights as a human being. Even if the State has plans to transfer [the Bedouins] to another location, they should still receive the most basic needs.”

Committee chairwoman Touma-Sliman concluded the meeting and said: ”Violence and problems related to the status of women exist everywhere in the world. The difference lies in society`s approach to the issue and the State`s treatment of it. When a problem stems from a very tight connection to the gender issue – and the violence problem is a product of the patriarchal manner in which society was established – we cannot use the tools themselves to solve the problem.”

”I heard from the Welfare Ministry that new programs have been launched, and I welcome this, but we are dealing with a very complex problem and with women who are denied their rights; women who live in recognized and unrecognized villages. The State does not take responsibility for the welfare and well-being of these women,” she said.