Lea Habif (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)


Topic: “Burn it to the ground and build it from scratch”: Gender, Racism, and Trauma among Mizrachi women, consumers of welfare and mental health services

Thematic area: Political dimension in/of social work

Language: English 


My doctoral research aims to shed light on racism and trauma as reflected in the experiences of Mizrachi women, consumers of welfare and mental health services in Israel. In recent years, a rapidly growing body of research on Race-Based Traumatic Stress (RBTS) has emerged, showing that continuous long-term experiences of racism are traumatic and lead to PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) responses.

In Israel, Mizrachi communities, i.e., Jewish Israelis of African or Asian descent, experienced severe types of institutional racism during the first years after the establishment of the state. One of the most traumatic institutional racism directly involved social workers’ intervention and was known as “the abduction of Yemenite children affair.”

Over the last 72 years, the Mizrachi communities have remained largely weakened and exposed to acts of racism. Mizrachi women from lower socio-economical strata are an extremely vulnerable group among the Mizrachi communities due to the intersectionality of oppression they experience in everyday life. They constitute Israel’s primary consumers of welfare and mental health services and, simultaneously, are the most ignored group when it comes to culturally sensitive and trauma-affirming types of intervention.

My research included semi-structured in-depth interviews with Mizrachi women of various age groups who are current or former consumers of welfare and mental health services.