By Rolene Marks
There is nothing like a major global crisis to test the mettle of even the strongest people. During this Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen global leaders either flying – or flailing. It has tested our own personal strength and endurance. Non-Profits and social welfare organisations have been called to step up stronger than they ever have. One organization has more than risen to the challenge and has proven yet again why it is the backbone of Israel as the country navigates its way through this corona crisis – WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation).
Celebrating its centennial in July, WIZO has for the last century been a bastion of support since its founding and today is no different! WIZO is working on several fronts to make sure that Israel’s citizens of all ages are well taken care of and protected – especially the most vulnerable. The Covid-19 is unprecedented in modern history and requires new, creative ways of doing things – while maintaining optimal safety and health guidelines.
WIZO has worked closely with the authorities to ensure the best possible solutions in the most efficient time.
Helping Combat Gender Based Violence (GBV):
As the global community battles the Covid-19 virus that has killed so many, ravaging economies as it continues its spread, so another silent and potentially deadly phenomenon grows – domestic violence.
There are many vulnerable women and children trapped at home in lockdown with someone who could be or is abusive. This is not a situation that is unique to Israel, but it is making headlines. Since the start of the pandemic, 5 women in Israel have been killed. These are just the statistics that we know of – many cases, physical or emotional, are not often reported.
“We aren’t prepared for the tsunami that’s going to happen; we’re talking about an extreme situation that we’ve never seen before,” says Rivka Neuman, Head of the Advancement for the Status of Women division at WIZO, which operates shelters and hotline. “We are seeing normative families reporting violence for the first time, and a worsening of the situation in families that have been in the cycle of violence.”
WIZO runs hotlines, including two for men with the hope of breaking the cycle of violence. The organisation recently opened a third shelter where women and their children can be removed from danger and protected while having to undergo the quarantine that is expected.
WIZO’s hotlines are operating at capacity and the men’s hotline is no different. Established six years ago, the hotline provides counseling for men who are in distress and allows them to have an initial, accessible dialogue about the difficult feelings they have. The line provides mediating facilities along with continuous professional care. Manned exclusively by male volunteers who have been trained by professionals, men are able to call while remaining anonymous.
“We are trying to change the public discourse in Israel and to implore men who are in the cycle of domestic violence, whether they are abusive or abused, not to remain alone with their pain and suffering, to call and receive assistance in order to escape the violence cycle, “says Avi Mor, Coordinator of the WIZO Men’s Hotline.
With news about rising domestic violence around the world making headlines almost daily, WIZO once again proves its mettle at the vanguard of fighting this growing scourge.
Taking Care Of Children Of Frontline Workers
Israel’s frontline workers are protecting lives around the clock – but who is looking after their children? WIZO is ensuring that our medical professionals and many others who are performing vital services have peace of mind while they work.
WIZO was the only organization that was given permission to keep day care centres open at four hospitals – Hadassah, Ichilov, Assaf HaRofeh and Barzilai. This is testament to the trust that the government and the citizens of Israel have in WIZO.
Children of healthcare workers who normally do not attend these particular day centres were able to attend and their parents were able to focus on the task at hands while knowing their children were in the best possible care.
Protecting Our Elderly
Making sure our savim (grandfathers) and savtot (grandmothers) are safe!
Looking after the most vulnerable in society is one the things that WIZO does best! When it was announced that extra measures would have to be taken to protect Saba and Savta (grandpa and grandma), WIZO immediately mobilized. The big concerns apart from potentially contracting the virus, was the emotional and psychological toll being separated from family, especially grandchildren.
In WIZO’s Parents Home in Tel Aviv, every precaution that ensured the most sensitive emotional support was deployed. One of the greatest concerns was how to hold the traditional Pesach seder. Many were dreading this holiday where families traditionally gather; but the staff found a solution which brought residents together while keeping with social distancing laws. Each resident had their own table and was able to happily participate. This was repeated for Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), allowing for happy residents to participate in a sing a long and truly make the best of celebrating during lock down.
Residents were so happy with their care, that they awarded their caregivers with this beautiful award:
We, the residents of the WIZO Parents’ Home in Tel Aviv,
Hereby award a Medal of Honour
to all those involved in the management of this residence during the Corona crisis.
We declare the WIZO Parents’ Home in Tel Aviv to be a shining example to be followed for all facilities and organizations responsible for the care of seniors, both independent living and those requiring nursing care.
This Medal of Honour recognizes the dedicated and thorough care and treatment provided by the staff to the residents from the outbreak of the Corona crisis till now. The staff has taken excellent care of all the residents and does not compromise on the health and comfort of those in their care.
We are deeply appreciative of the endless devotion of the staff of the Parents Home, led by Chairperson Riki Cohen and Director Yair Efrati, and proud to have such a wonderful, professional and caring institution carry the WIZO name and tradition.
May you continue to care for Israel’s seniors for years to come in health and happiness.
WIZO is delighted to report that Covid-19 tests were carried out on all residents and staff and there are no infections. WIZO’s Parents Home is Corona free!
This is just a snapshot of the work that WIZO is doing. There is also legal aid, especially for women in the workplace and the protection of their rights, protecting our students in a variety of schools, many of whom come from difficult situations at home, counselling for parents and a host of other supportive services.
All around the world, WIZO’s venerable global army of volunteers; are working around the clock to make sure that all of this work is supported. Our Chaverot have been champions – holding events via Zoom (or “WIZOoming” as we call it) to make sure that not only do we stay in touch; but hold activities to support our cause. The Corona virus has challenged us to be as creative as we can and in this uncertain economic time, where non-profit organisations have been particularly hard hit, creativity is a necessity.
In the last 100 years, WIZO as a global organization has endured wars, fascism, communism, Apartheid and now a global pandemic. While we know that this too shall pass, the commitment and dedication of WIZO leadership, staff and volunteers, both in Israel and globally, is the secret to our resilience and is the reason why when it comes to a crisis – you will find WIZO on the frontline.