Maternity wards let Jewish woman ask for bed without Arab roommate — report

Workers at 5 Israeli hospitals illegally agree to request by undercover reporter; Health Ministry says room allocation should be only on medical basis

Illustrative photo of a nursery in a Jerusalem hospital's maternity ward. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a nursery in a Jerusalem hospital's maternity ward. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Several Israeli hospitals ignore anti-discrimination laws and grant Jewish patients’ requests not to share a room with Arab mothers after giving birth, a television news report said Monday.

An undercover Channel 13 news reporter dressed as a pregnant, Modern Orthodox Jewish mother and visited or called maternity wards in hospitals throughout the country to see if they would illegally honor her request not to share a room with an Arab woman.

The study found that maternity ward staff at five hospitals accepted the discriminatory request and said they would make an effort to put the Jewish mother in a room with only Jews, while other hospitals rejected the demand outright.

Five hospitals agreed to the request: Netanya’s Laniado Hospital, Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot and Bnei Brak’s Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center.

In contrast, Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center, Sheba Tel Hashomer in Ramat Gan and Kfar Saba’s Meir Hospital all rejected the request.

Israel Channel 13 news reporter Lior Veroslavksi disguised as a pregnant, modern Orthodox Jewish mother. (Channel 13 screenshot)

Hadas Holzstein Tamir, an attorney who heads the Class Actions Clinic at the Tel Aviv University law faculty, castigated the five hospitals, saying, “Separation is discrimination.”

The report did not investigate any other scenarios in which a new mother would request not to share a room with another woman on the basis of any other religion or race.

Holzstein Tamir said despite hospitals wanting patients to come back in the future to the same facility, they had to tell patients that it is illegal to demand a separate room just “because the roommate sharing the room is Jewish or Arab.”

All five hospitals that agreed to the request responded to the report, saying they did not discriminate, but Kaplan admitted it “takes into consideration the personal requests of the mothers as far as possible.”

Wolfson categorically denied the news report, saying the attempt “to discredit the equal treatment we give to women is surprising and rejected out of hand.”

The Health Ministry also responded, saying its “position is that treatment should be given regardless of the identity of the mother and the placement of rooms should be done according to medical considerations.”

A similar investigation three years ago by Israel Radio showed that several hospitals practiced de facto segregation of maternity rooms — placing Jews with Jews and Arabs with Arabs despite such segregation being prohibited by law.

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