Heroes of Health: New Report Examines Israel's Healthcare Sy...

Heroes of Health: New Report Examines Israel's Healthcare System as Model of Jewish-Arab Coexistence

March 17, 2017

In a report released on March 14th, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) examines Israel's health care system as a model of Jewish-Arab Coexistence. Whereas Arab citizens of Israel are generally overrepresented in low-wage and low-quality employment, and the majority of Jewish and Arab citizens have few opportunities for meaningful interactions, the health care system stands out for both its extensive integration of Arab professionals and for the strong working relationships among Jewish and Arab colleagues. The report was presented to the Knesset caucuses on Public Health and on Equality in Health. 

In 2015, Arab citizens (nearly 21% of the population) accounted for 11% of Israel's doctors, 14% of nurses, and 38% of pharmacists. In Israel's health care eductational institutions, Arab citizens accounted for 16% of medical, 42% of nursing, and 43% of pharmaceutical students. In contrast, only 3 to 5% of Israel's advanced professions (i.e.  high tech, financial, communication, scientific, design and technical services) were filled by Arab citizens.

While the health care system is not without any challenges associated with Arab professional integration (for example, Arab citizens are hardly represented at the top three levels of senior hospital staff) the successes in health care far exceed those in other industries. Moreover, "working relations between Arabs and Jews in the healthcare system appear to be dramatically better than those in the Israeli public domain or in other places of work."

In 2015, Arab citizens accounted for 11% of Israel's doctors, 14% of nurses, and 38% of pharmacists. In the academia, Arab citizens accounted for 16% of medical, 42% of nursing, and 43% of pharmaceutical students.

The IRAC report identifies factors that made successful professional integration in health care possible and makes recommendations for replicable frameworks in other fields. According to its findings, health professions are attractive to Arab citizens as a stable source of employment, income as well as status within both Arab and Jewish societies. It is also a proven field, in that Arabs chosing the field have relatives or acquaintances in the profession.

The strong Jewish-Arab relationships found in health care institutions, the report finds, can be attributed to a number of factors. Among them, an intensive period of study, long hours and demanding work forge relationships and cooperation. A strong sense of purpose grounded in medical ethics overshadows cultural differences. In addition, by and large, hospitals are perceived as institutions that apply "uniform, scientific, and egalitarian standards, which allow for promotion and success based on skill and talent, knowledge supported by professional certificates and experience." In some places, especially medical schools, initiative is also taken to encourage and strengthen contacts between Jews and Arabs. In hospitals, management generally sets a tone of shared purpose and discourages political discussion--especially in times of crisis. 

"The guidelines are very simple: we are here to treat people and to save lives, no matter who comes in" - Professor Rafael Beyar, Director of Rambam Medical Center

The report provides extensive insight into interviews conducted with Jewish and Arab staff, academics and policy makers to illustrate how realities in Israeli society, and the health care system specifically, affect the capacity for daily and longstanding cooperation among health care workers. Drawing on these accounts, the report says in summartion that: "Opening the door to Arab workers is only the first step towards integration – in order to get them inside they must be offered appropriate and equal pay, a sense of belonging, and encouraged to get to know workers from different backgrounds. At the same time, an effort must be made to broaden the range of jobs perceived as 'respectable' and worthwhile in Arab society." 

The report concludes with detailed recommendations for a society-wide framework that would advance professional integration of Arab citizens. In short, the framework requires (i) creating greater private sector incentives, (ii) affirmative action for higher education, (iii) identifying professions where a similarly strong sense of purpose can surmount cultural differences (i.e. rescue services), (iv) changes in police-minority relations, (v) establishing voluntary standards and a pledge for respectful discourse in the workplace, (vi) forumulating an adoptable commitment to equal employment and non-discrimination, (vii) respect for religious diversity and holidays, (viii) special volunteer frameworks for young men and women from Arab society, and (ix) Integrating Arab teachers in Jewish schools. 

View the full report to read about Arab employment in general and participation in health care professions, the realities of Jewish and Arab cooperation and relations in the health care system, analyses of what about these realities enables successful cooperation, and finally, the detailed recommendations for a national frameowrk for advancing Arab professional integration.

Access the full report here:
Heroes of Health: Israel's Health Care System as a Model of Jewish-Arab Coexistence


More Stories

The American Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest NJ, a Task Force member, expressed in a press release  ...
  On May 19th, 35 members of JDC's international board participated on a Task Force-facilitated visit to  Tira ...