The Menomadin Foundation Unveils Plan to Strengthen Israeli Welfare System to Address War’s Ramifications

The Menomadin Team
March 27, 2024

In a respectable ceremony and an intimate friendly gathering, Menomadin’s Founder and President Haim Taib, submitted the plan Welfare in the Wake of War to the Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs, Ya’akov Margi. Even at these times of emergency, Minister Margi has taken the time to visit Menomadins’ offices, “a testimony to the importance the Minister places on this plan,” said Taib, genuinely moved. “This is an extensive practical plan that will allow the welfare system to effectively tackle the challenges following October 7th,” said Taib, and Minister Margi assured, “we will study the plan and collaborate with you to assimilate it for the benefit of Israel’s citizens.” Minister Margi thanked Taib for his will and initiative. “It is not something to take for granted,” restated the Minister, whose office has a key role in the ability of Israeli society to successfully persevere in the many years of recovery and rehabilitation ahead.

Alongside Taib and Minister Margi, also present at the event were Menomadin’s CEO Dr. Merav Galili, and the foundation’s academic partners to the initiative from the School of Social Work and Social Welfare, Dean Prof. Asher Ben-Arieh, and the plan’s editors, Prof. Michal Almog-Bar, Prof. Mimi Eizenstadt, and Prof. John Gal. Dr. Galili opened the event by emphasizing the ongoing and hope-inspiring cooperation with the Ministry of Welfare. “The plan is another chapter of the national roadmap The Right to Good Welfare, that we submitted in 2022 to the previous minister. The fact that two of this strategic plan’s chapters are now being assessed attests to the professional conduct and impartiality of the minister and his staff.

Haim Taib and Minister Ya’akov Margi with plan editors: Prof. Asher Ben-Arie, Prof. Johnny Gal, Prof. Michal Bar-Almog, and Prof. Mini Eisenstadt.

Haim Taib and Minister Ya’akov Margi with plan editors: Prof. Asher Ben-Arie, Prof. Johnny Gal, Prof. Michal Bar-Almog, and Prof. Mini Eisenstadt.

Struggling Welfare Meets Unprecedented Calamity and War

Prof. Alomg-Bar shared how the initiative was born: “A month or so after the war began, all of us at the School of Social Work’s faculty, were already engaged in different activities with our colleagues in the Ministry of Welfare. Facing the many and immense needs, we thought that we could bring our academic knowledge into practice, and suggested our friends in the School of Social Work to write short, applicable chapters including practical recommendations. That is the project’s essence.”

The plan “Welfare in the Wake of War” numbers 143 pages, a total of 18 chapters divided into three sections. The first section focuses on systemic challenges, such as welfare in the local municipality, women and gender, civil society activity, exhaustion of rights in wartime, mental health services, and other panoramic issues. The second section concerns specific populations affected by the war, including women and children, people with disabilities, the elderly, refugees and homeless people, trauma survivors, the injured, the hostages, and their families. The third section deals with social work practice and training in light of the war, emphasizing community and occupational social work and the practical training of social work students.

Each of the 18 chapters covers a specific field of the welfare system’s activity, presents actions taken in this field since October 7th , outlines the current and anticipated challenges, and offers practical recommendations for coping and emergency preparedness. “These recommendations are concrete, and for the most part easy to apply,” says Prof. Almog-Bar. A good example is the ministry’s already ongoing actions to develop trauma-targeted service and training. “The need to address trauma has substantially entered our life since October 7th.” All chapters come together to provide a fundamental framework that can lead to change in the day after the war in almost all of the Ministry of Welfare’s fields of responsibility.

Protecting Our Children and Youth 

Of all the plans’ chapters, we wish to briefly present the one concerning children and youth. In chapter 9, Dr. Hanita Kosher and Prof. Asher Ben-Arieh focused on at-risk children and youth who, with all the people of Israel, experienced unprecedented mass trauma. They started with a description of the Child Welfare System’s extraordinary mobilization to care for the children and families that suffered acute injury: 21 children who lost both of their parents in the attack, 40 children who were kidnapped to Gaza – most of whom returned from captivity – and the children of 130,000 evicted families from both ends of the country, children from the Gaza Envelope that have spent desperate hours in their safe rooms and did not get physically injured, children whose family members were injured and those who were exposed to atrocities in the media. They joined the 400,000 children and youth that have already been in the system prior to the war, bringing the total to an astounding 13.1% of all Israeli children.

The authors expect a future surge in calls to the Child Welfare System, similar to that observed after the COVID-19 crisis, and due to parallel risk factors, such as school absenteeism, decline in families’ economic status, and an increase in domestic violence and divorce. Even the system workload, now caring for the population’s emergency needs, is a risk factor. Moreover, we are likely to see trauma’s implications in the future, including an increase in the prevalence of depression and anxiety, aggressive behavior, substance abuse, and other adverse reactions. The authors note that in the wake of the mass trauma we have experienced, it is probable that even now there are children and families not previously known to the welfare services that are experiencing risk and are in need of intervention as a result of the war, alongside trauma survivors from before October 7th, whose wellbeing is more fragile and susceptible to deterioration.

The Child Welfare System, like the Israeli welfare system at large, reaches wartime starved for funding, workers, and slots. One of the hurdles in staffing the existing positions is wages, but work conditions such as caseloads also make it hard to recruit workers, exacerbating burnout and turnover. “We are facing a reality in which merely adding resources, an approach which was suitable for October 6th, is no longer sufficient,” said Prof. Ben-Arieh. The recommendations in this chapter include creating staffing incentives, such as scholarships for social work students and compensations for long-term workers. After staffing the existing positions, we have to increase the number of slots for the expected rise in demand. Furthermore, training trauma specialists and establishing trauma treatment centers in the community is of utmost necessity, and as mentioned by Prof. Almog-Bar, the ministry is already taking action in this area.

Minister Ya'akov Margi: “We will study the plan and collaborate with you to assimilate it for the benefit of Israel’s citizens.”

Minister Ya’akov Margi: “We will study the plan and collaborate with you to assimilate it for the benefit of Israel’s citizens.”

Three-Way Commitment to Implementation

All speakers at the event reiterated that they are committed to the Israeli society and, subsequently, to implementing the plan’s recommendations. This is already evident: “In some cases, we have to reinvent the wheel,” said Prof. Ben-Arieh, who shared how the plan led his co-writer, Dr. Kosher, to collaborate with a colleague from Jerusalem’s Department of Welfare to develop a protocol addressing children of evicted families. This protocol will determine “how to move a child from Kiryat Shmona to Jerusalem, which treatment to provide them with when there is no timeframe, and when the moment we are all waiting for comes and the child returns from Jerusalem back to Kiryat Shmona, how they would be reabsorbed in their home town.” The need for information and learning and the unprecedented scopes of demands that the ministry is being confronted with and has to provide solutions for are posing a massive challenge. “We want to do our part,” said Prof. Almog-Bar and pledged that the academia would not stay out of touch.

According to Minister Margi, the Ministry of Welfare’s is always in a state of “emergency as a routine,” but testified that with the onset of the war, “we found out that everything we were used to, knew, and were familiar with is no longer relevant. We have learned on the fly and did not rely solely on our wits; we ordered reports, studies, instructions,” said the minister and added that the outline plan for treating the returned hostage children is a prominent example of that. This outline, spearheaded in part by Prof. Ben-Arieh, had gained a lot of interest in Israel and abroad because it is the first and unique of its kind. It was the model for the writing of the entire plan.

Taib emphasized the unique importance of this chapter now being added to The Right to Good Welfare plan, in light of October 7th and the grave ramification of the trauma and the war on every Israeli, including the southern and northern citizens, massacre survivors, hostages, reserve soldiers, and families of fallen soldiers. “I hope and believe that thanks to this comprehensive and profound plan, which was written by the top researchers in the field and led by the Menomadin Foundation that specializes in building national roadmaps, we will be able to strengthen the Israeli welfare system – now and in the long term,” said Taib.

“Here, around our table, are seated together representatives from the civil sector, academia, and government ministries. This is an exceptionally fruitful combination, the triangle that will lead the State of Israel to healing and take it to the next stage,” concluded Dr. Galili with hopeful words.

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