Tuesday, November 20


Intissar* is 20 years old. When she's in a good mood, there's a big smile on her round face. But she's hardly ever happy.
She's been homeless for most of the last two years. Living on the streets, occasionally staying with families who feel sorry for her and try to help her.
Intissar has no family. Her father died, 2 years and 2 months ago, as she told me yesterday, Intissar has a very good memory for dates. Her mother suffers from mental retardation and lives in a special home by court order. She cannot take care of Intissar, who herself is lightly retarded as well. Intissar suffers from a personality disorder and is supposed to take psychiatric medicine.
Due to her many suicide attempts, the doctor doesn't want to give Intissar all her of medicine in one go. But there's no one who can take the responsibility of giving her her daily dose. As a result, Intissar suffers badly and occasionally becomes very violent. Which makes it even more difficult (for help providers) to assist her as they are the first Intissar selects as victims. In a simple sense Intissar is right about that selection: no one has really helped her (although, to be honest, people have tried over the last 2 years), so she is right to feel very frustrated.

Intissar receives monthly social security payments, which she spends on cigarettes and candies, two things she cannot live without. She spends the monthly money she receives (1800 NIS, about 420$) ) very quickly, within a few days. After that she has to survive the rest of the month on nothing...
Intissar doesn't have the skills for living a normal life independently. She she's left to suffer on Jaffa's streets.
Until about a year ago, Intissar who grew up in total institutions (for people mental retardation), was recognised as a woman with mental retardation. In spite of professional recommendations and psychological testing, Intissar was declared "not retarded" by a committee. As a result she lost her right to a large number of services for mentally challenged people. She was also declared, by implication, mentally competent to independently live her own life. The only problem: she doesn't have the skills to do so.
And there is no one in her family to assist her. Her sisters are all minors, living in boarding schools and with foster families.
Over the last 2 years Intissar was out on the streets for most of the time. She also spent a few days in a mental hospital, from which she was released as she is not mentally ill, in a regular hospital (both after suicide attempts), a hostel for mentally ill people (from which she was kicked out after 2 months, after she attacked someone of the staff) , in prison after she was arrested, for violence.
Yes, Intissar has problems and sometimes her behaviour is VERY problematic.
However, the prolonged total lack of care is responsible for most of that behaviour. She's frustrated, helpless and very very angry.
Over the last year or so, 5 cars and a business have been registered in her name by people wishing to abuse her. They do so by not paying taxes and insurance, driving on toll road nr. 6, not paying parking tickets etc. One of the cars was caught smuggling workers from the occupied territories. The police questioned Intissar and that is how we found out about the cars. The problem is that the social security payments may be stopped as a result of those cars and the business.
Truthfully, some people have tried to assist her. But there is no one, except the official welfare system, who cab take the responsibility for Intissar. And they simply refuse to do so, stating she is just like any other young woman. She should take a job, rent a room and help herself.
They forget, that she IS mentally challenged and doesn't have the skills to do so unaided.
Intissar is a big woman. She's very strong. And very angry.

I contacted BiZhut, the Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities. Their spokesperson tried to interest the media in Intissar's story. But there was little interest. It appears they know of no other way to assist her.

One day things could go very wrong, someone might be seriously hurt and Intissar might find herself in prison. This did can be prevented.
If social services will do their job. If...

* Not her real name, the story is true however.


ee said...


I would never judge someone in that position, especially if she's been diagnosed as needing medication. But to be quite fair, I'd be scared to treat her...
Perhaps if the authorities had done their job in time, she wouldn't have become violent in the first place.
Still, I can understand your average social worker being scared of her.

yudit said...

I do NOT judge Intissar at all, i judge the authorities who all find it very easy to get rid of her.
Intissar is very helpless, and no one seems to care very much.
It's cold and raining, and she has no adequate housing of any kind.
I believe society has a great responsibility towards her. She is unable to get the help she needs.

ee said...

You missed my point.
I did not say you were judging her. I meant that I was not. Although I understand how someone could become frustrated by lack of care, and act out in extreme ways, I would be scared to treat her - as sorry for her as I am.

Tsedek said...

the institutions that are so-called wellfare institutions and take such pride in being there to help people are actually hermetically coated with burocracy and 'rules' that can be used to deny responsibility at their wish. I know a human being is nothing to them. It is NOT about the people, it is all about their own prestige and pocket-filling.

C'est la vie in Israel...

When you need someone the doors are closed. Only when you have to pay out of your shabby wages they will get to you even if that means puting you out in the streets.