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12.10.2023 | כז תשרי התשפד

BIU Emergency Interpreting Services

Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies provides over-the-phone interpretation services to the public and professionals for war-related emergency needs

שירותי התרגום

The war in Israel has generated diverse emergency needs for thousands of people. For non-Hebrew speakers, the challenge is greater, as in such situations it is critical to provide accurate details or receive reliable information and instructions. Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies has set up the first telephone translation system for emergency services in Israel to address these needs.

The hotline number is *9392 extension 4, operating Sunday – Thursday 09:00 – 17:00.

The hotline is operated by volunteers who are professional interpreters and graduates of the department. Teams in the areas of welfare, rescue, assistance to families of victims, first responders and others can call the service and request an oral translation into the required language. The languages supported include Arabic, Russian, Ukrainian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Amharic and Tigrinya (the last two in collaboration with the Tenne Health Association).

The primary target audience of the translation system is Hebrew-speaking professionals who assist foreign language speakers in their work. For example, a paramedic treating a wounded Ukrainian-speaking person who calls the hotline will be asked what type of service she provides and what translation language is required, and will then be swiftly transferred to the appropriate interpreter. The paramedic will use the phone’s speaker, and communicate with the patient through the interpreter.

Dr. Michael Schuster of BIU’s Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies, who initiated the project, explains that in situations of distress, speaking with service providers in the native language is a basic, essential need. While in other countries this type of accessibility is the norm, in Israel, the service did not exist at all except for in certain healthcare services. So far, some foreign language speakers have been able to get by with the help of staff members found on the spot who speak their language or with the help of family members who accompanied them. However, in view of the difficult situation Israel is now facing, this support is not necessarily available.

Bar-Ilan University is now working to fill the void with the help of the graduates of the Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies, who have happily accepted the project, and department lecturer Dr. Tanya Voinova, who is responsible for their recruitment and placement. The department lecturers have provided the team of interpreters with a dedicated dictionary of terms for emergency situations in Israel. The translation was performed objectively and professionally, according to a standard code of ethics, and the service is provided free of charge while maintaining the anonymity of the applicants.