The Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, under the leadership of Hadash MK Aida Touma-Suleiman (Joint List), held a discussion on Wednesday, January 26, on sexual harassment at Magen David Adom (MDA), in the wake of recent exposés on Channel 1 of reported sexual harassment and rape of teenage girl volunteers working in MDA ambulances and other facilities.
During the discussion MDA director-general Eli Bin promised to appoint an employee in each of the organization’s 10 regions to accept and deal with such complaints. The 85-year-old first aid, ambulance and blood-supply organization currently has only one such official in the entire country. Bin also pledged to carry out the necessary organizational changes within two months and to report on those changes to the committee within 90 days.
The Channel 1 investigation by reporter Yifat Glick, highlighted a rape victim who had not previously told her story, as one of numerous instances of abuse. “I volunteered in the Carmel region of MDA when I was 15. What I went through was shown in the broadcast. The director of the region forced me to sign a letter full of falsehoods. Until now, MDA has ignored most of the cases and I have no doubt you know about many cases of harassment and have covered it up to protect the employees. But today, you’ll have no choice and won’t be able to ignore them anymore,” the victim told Bin and the others present at the meeting. MDA has many teenage girl volunteers, some of them religious, who work in close quarters, under pressure, taking instructions from professionals. Glick told the committee that she had heard of MDA reporting 20 complaints, but that after the broadcast, she herself received complaints at various levels of severity from 25 victims.
Committee chairman MK Aida Touma-Sliman charged the Health Ministry with “delaying for four years the filing of changes that could have prevented the occurrences. It’s sad that only this morning did we learn that directives to make the changes have just been signed in the ministry.”