Engaged Anthropology Grant: Na’amah Razon

Photo from the symposium "Trauma, Health and History: Perspectives on the Bedouin Community" held at Ben Gurion University. Photo courtesy of Sharon Benheim

While a doctoral student at the University of California, San Francisco, Na’amah Razon received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2011 to aid research on “Mediating Citizenship: The Role of Health Professionals in Israel’s National Health Reform,” supervised by Dr. Sharon Kaufman. In 2015 Dr. Razon received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “The Impact of Military Rule and Language on Healthcare Provision in Southern Israel”.

Engagement 1: Military Rule Workshop

In collaboration with Prof. Nadav Davidovich, chair of the Department of Health Systems Management, I helped develop a workshop for healthcare practitioners and local academics to address the southern military rule and its legacy. Early in the planning stages of the workshop we decided that a discussion of the military rule needed to be framed within the larger context of history, memory, and trauma. We were able to collaborate with the Center for Conflict Resolution and the Health, Humanism, and Society Center to develop an interdisciplinary workshop to address these topics and potential directions forward. While we initially proposed a two-day workshop, because the Israeli University’s semester schedule, we were only able to hold a one-day workshop.

The workshop was very well attended with approximately 35 participants, including a number of local experts whose work focuses on the Bedouin community and health inequality in southern Israel. One of the strengths of the workshop was its interdisciplinary engagement as we brought together participants from the medical school, departments of anthropology, public health, political science, law, and politics and government.

Workshop Flyer

The workshop was organized into two parts. The morning had three lectures (Prof. Michal Alberstein on transitional justice, Dr. Nihaya Daoud on the historical and continued health inequalities among the Palestinian Arab population Israel, and my own work on the military rule in the Negev/Naqab). The discussant, Dr. Mansour Nasasra, from the Department of Politics and Government, is an expert on the military rule and provided critical comments on the long term reverberations of the military rule on the Bedouin community.

The discussion that ensued was rich and difficult. One participant drew the comparison to South Africa, Rwanda, and other sites of trauma and reconciliation and asked the key question: “How do we move forward when there is still not acknowledgement of past wrongs?” This question organized much of the discussion that followed—around anger by the Bedouin community and continued challenges of trust and access specifically in the realm of health. Prof. Alberstein suggested that in situations when a full recognition of past wrongs is not possible, as in this case, creating acts of justice may still be possible. It is this notion of acts of justice that participants began to address and hopefully we spur continued dialogue and work. Dr. Nasasra and I hope to put together an article specifically addressing the military rule and the healthcare system as there is minimal published work on this ear. The second component of the workshop was a lecture on trauma by Prof. Sandro Galea of Boston University. He provided critical evidence of the long term consequences of trauma and how trauma follows landscape of inequality and across generations. He provided important comparative framework for thinking through how experiences such as the military rule impact the health of Bedouins who lived through this period and how this trauma moves and impacts the health and health of multiple generations.

Engagement 2: Arabic Language Services

I was able to meet with the pediatric team members I worked with at Southern Hospital to disseminate information on the results of my research on communication, translation, and language in the hospital setting. I prepared for them a summary of my research findings as well as a summary document regarding the importance and challenges of language services. Importantly, they noted that the make-up of staff in the hospital has changed over the past five years. Due to a number of programs encouraging Bedouins to enter health professions there is a growing number of Arabic speaking staff (especially nurses and social workers) which has helped this problem. Nonetheless, there continues to be no translation services available in the hospital, and staff members were not aware of the Ministry of Health programs that provide phone translation services. It will be important for future work to document the make-up of Arabic speaking healthcare professionals and brainstorm methods of continued documentation of the challenges of language in the hospital.

My discussions with policy makers were more optimistic. Officials in the Ministry of Health’s division on health inequality have been very active about improving cultural and linguistic access. They opened an Arabic phone translation services to Ministry of Health hospitals and a number of clinics. Unfortunately, because Southern Hospital is owned by one of the Health Funds (Clalit) they have not provided this service there. They appreciated the findings regarding the problem of language services in southern Israel and have held cultural competence training at the hospital.

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