Cultural Differences May Affect Your Medical Care in Israel


There are many cultural differences between Israel and other countries.  Anyone who has had any business interaction here will vouch for that! But did you know that culture also affects your health care? We are not only talking about a language barrier. A visitor to Israel who ends up in the emergency room will undergo an overwhelming, disorienting, truly foreign experience.

The three ways cultural differences may affect your healthcare in Israel:  

1.Chutzpah- Israeli chutzpah is world famous. It is how the commandos raided Entebbe and freed the hijacked passengers 40 years ago this week. It is also why other people in an emergency room will think their problem is more important than yours and try to cut ahead of you in line.  They are not trying to be rude, they just want to get the job done (a doctor to examine them). 

2.Family- Family ties in the Israeli culture run deep. This is a cross-cultural phenomenon among the sub-cultures in Israel. No one comes to the ER or a hospital room alone.  Children, cousins, neighbors, friends, parents, aunts, uncles… each patient can be accompanied by many people.  When ALL of these people use their Chutzpah (often all at the same time)… you can be sure that they will get attention! 

3.Protexia- every tourist needs to learn this word. Israeli society runs on protexia. Protexia loosely means “protection” as in - connections that you have.  Israel is a small country, and there are probably 3 degrees of separation (not six) between most of the population. Here in Israel protexia can be ANYONE: family, comrades who served with you in the army, your cousin’s best friend, or even the people you bought your apartment from (true story).*

If you, a tourist or a new immigrant to Israel, enters the ER or hospital… and you do not have either chutzpah, extended family, or protexia, you may be in for a long wait, you may not receive the best medical care available, and you will experience heightened anxiety.   If admitted to the hospital for a longer stay, it will grow even more frustrating.  Israeli doctors and nurses are excellent… but Israel’s hospitals are the most overcrowded in the developed world (source: Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development). Nurses are very overworked and may have little patience or English to explain your situation. It will be challenging to understand what is going on, to communicate to your doctor back home, or even to understand the medication you are being given.

Let EMA Care use a little bit of chutzpah and an endless supply of protexia, to be like your family.  We will do our best to assure you optimal care.

*As a new immigrant, a colleague burned her arm badly and rushed to the hospital.  She didn’t know where to turn, so she called the previous owner of her new home, knowing that he was a physician. He came immediately, bypassed the ER, and took very good care of her.  That is protexia!

EMA Care provides medical concierge, case management, and patient advocacy services to tourists, students and residents of Israel. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation. 


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