In his response to Israel’s “scandal du jour,” Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich said that there was nothing racist about requests by expectant Jewish women and new mothers, not to be placed in maternity ward rooms with Arab women. “My wife, for example, is not a racist, but after she has a baby she wants to rest in peace and quiet, not have to face the huge parties Arab families have in maternity wards,” Smotrich wrote on social media Tuesday.
Smotrich was responding to a report on Israel Radio earlier Tuesday that documented “separation” of Arab and Jewish women in maternity wards in many hospitals in Israel. As part of the marketing efforts of hospitals to convince expectant mothers to use their facilities – and with the maternity department considered the most lucrative in a hospital, according to industry experts – hospitals go out of their way to accommodate special requests by mothers-to-be, and among the most popular is apparently a request that they not be placed in a room where an Arab mother is staying.
The report stated that some hospitals did this as a matter of course, without even asking, while in others, requests were accommodated with no questions asked. The report said that such “separation” was illegal according to Health Ministry rules, although there did not seem to be any actual violations of the law.
The report presented recordings of phone calls with hospital staff confirming the policy, but in statements the “guilty” hospitals disputed the report. In a statement, Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital said that “in general we do not separate people in our rooms on the basis of national origin, religion, demographics, or other criteria. Maternity ward assignments are based on availability of beds, and requests are considered on an individual basis.” Shaare Tzedek Hospital said in a statement that “we have no stated policy, and our approach is not to separate populations. If there are specific requests we evaluate them in each case.” Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava said that “there is no policy of separation based on population in any department. We at Meir Hospital are proud of our commitment to coexistence in the day-to-day operation of the hospital, both among patients and staff.”
According to the hospitals, most separation requests come from Jews; Arab mothers rarely request that they be housed only with their own compatriots.