Last week, activists from NIF grantee Tag Meir handed out flowers at maternity wards in hospitals across the country. They weren’t just being friendly: this action followed a report on Israeli Radio demonstrating that, when requested, certain hospitals have been separating Jewish and Arab mothers in maternity wards. Other hospitals have reportedly segregated maternity wards even without specific requests.
As if this evidence of blatant segregation was not enough, it was followed by controversial comments from Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, who said: “My wife is truly no racist, but after giving birth she wants to rest rather than having a hafla [party] like the Arabs have after their births…It’s natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie down [in a bed] next to a woman who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby twenty years from now…Arabs are my enemies and that’s why I don’t enjoy being next to them.”
The controversy has galvanized Israeli progressives. Zazim – Community Action, a new online organizing platform incubated by New Israel Fund, sprang into action and garnered thousands of signatures on a petition to hospital administrators to end the practice.
Meanwhile, Tag Meir activists fanned out across the country, visiting hospitals in Kfar Saba, Hadera, Tzfat, Tiberias, and Jerusalem. One Tag Meir activist, who visited Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat, said: “We were happy to find doctors and nurses for whom the notion of segregation was repugnant. Jews and Arabs lay side by side…receiving excellent care from the medical team.”