Report – Condemned to Unemployment: East Jerusalem Women Struggle for Integration into the Labor Market

Silwan’s public transport ceases at 6:30 p.m. In another interview, the employer told her to be in Mamilla (WJ) in half an hour; however, although the distance is not great, the organization of EJ public transport forced her again to take a taxi at NIS 40 in each direction. For lack of money, she had to postpone another interview until her husband got paid for his previous month’s work.

An important point here is that the public transport system is not sufficiently accessed by EJ residents. For example, many EJ women who turned to us for help in reaching work were not aware of the “Rav-Kav” card, which would reduce travel cost, even if not for the whole journey. In the last three years there has been an information campaign about the “Rav-Kav” and the public transport system. One of the administrators told us in April that the campaign would soon be intensified, and so it was in WJ, but it did not cross the boundary into EJ.

It is also important to note that two of the main stops of the light rail in EJ, Shuafat and A-Sahl, have not been functioning properly since July 2014: they have neither benches nor shelters, nor is it possible to buy tickets at these stops, so the only way to get on the train would be with a “Rav-Kav” card which, as we have seen, is not accessible in EJ.

The Shuafat light rail stop is close to the house of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped and brutally murdered in July, 2014 by Jewish zealots. In the violence that followed, the facilities at the stop were sabotaged. According to the Israel Tax Authority, over a year ago advance payments were made to the light rail company for repair of the damaged stations, but the case is under continuing negotiation.[19] According to a spokesman for “Rav-Kav”, there are signs at the stops directing people to shops that sell the “Rav-Kav” card.[20] When we went there we found, after some searching, very few signs, none prominently sited. Several had handwritten messages naming a shop, but when we went to it we found that they did not sell or top up the “Rav-Kav.”

WAC’S efforts to help EJ women improve their access to work places proceeds along two axes:

(1) On the spot advice about reaching interview locations.

(2) Training Rights Propagators, recruited from among the jobseekers at the Employment Bureau. We teach these women how to best use public transport and the “Rav-Kav” card. We join them at the Light Rail Citypass Center for a meeting with a service representative and the issuance of a card, so that they will be able to pass on the knowledge to other women.

6)        The Language Barrier

Without mastering Hebrew there is no access to the Israeli employment market, even for positions that don’t require professional qualifications. WAC often encounters women jobseekers who have been referred by the EB to employment agencies as cleaners but who are turned back if they don’t speak Hebrew. As we detailed above, only about half of EJ women have completed 12 years of schooling, and this is one of the consequences.

For example, P.H. was referred by the EB to “Solutions Applied Ltd.” Because she couldn’t speak Hebrew and the interviewer couldn’t speak Arabic, she turned to WAC to bridge the language gap. In a telephone conversation, the company representative made it clear that the positions offered – factory work, or work that includes interacting with members of the public (cashier, steward, sales person) – require the ability to speak and read Hebrew.

WAC helps on a daily basis with translation and mediation with employers, sometimes even with tasks at work. Regretfully, the EB does not provide support in such cases. There are even cases where it categorises the rejection of a job seeker for insufficient Hebrew as a placement refusal on her part, which means a denial of her basic income support for two months.

Rania Julani, whose story we presented previously, and who graduated in accountancy at the Rian Center, also encountered the language barrier. During her course work she did learn Hebrew, but at such a basic level that it was insufficient to pursue her chosen career, even when the EB directed her toward a job that would have suited it.

Insufficient Hebrew also hinders women when they are out and about, making it difficult to reach their workplace. We know of many instances when women took a taxi to a job interview because they had no way of asking how to get there. As we described in the previous section, WAC helps to solve this issue.

At a meeting of the Jerusalem Municipality’s Committee for the Economic and Employment Development of East Jerusalem (12 July, 2016), it was claimed that in recent years the municipality had allocated budgets for Hebrew lessons in EJ schools, and that in 2016, eighteen groups

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