Friday, February 10, 2012

More Ethiopian Jews arrive in Israel

1And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
Deuteronomy 30:1-5

As reported by Ynet News, February 5, 2012:

Seventy-one olim from Ethiopia arrived in Israel on Thursday accompanied by lay leaders from the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).

Included in the delegation are 20 lay leaders from UJA-Federation of New York headed by Alisa Doctoroff, Chair of the Board, UJA-Federation, and John Ruskay, executive vice president & CEO of UJA-Federation.

The olim arrived in Tel Aviv at 2:30 am and were chaperoned to their absorption center in Kiryat Gat, where they will begin their absorption process in Israel.

The mission traveled to Ethiopia to meet the remaining members of the community and visit the Jewish Community Center and school in Gondar before escorting the olim to Israel.

In Israel, the delegation plans to engage in discussions on the future of Ethiopian olim with Jewish Agency and JDC representatives. They also plan to celebrate early Tu B’Shvat festivities.

The UJA-Federation generously donates over $3 million annually to Ethiopian aliyah and absorption in Israel, as well as medical and educational services for those still in Ethiopia. At the moment, there are more than 6,000 Ethiopian Jews (Falash Mura) seeking to make aliyah to Israel.

“Seeing first-hand the hardships that the Jews of Ethiopia face, and joining them as they come home to Israel, truly illustrates why making the dream of aliyah a reality is such an important part of our work,” said John S. Ruskay.

“But our obligations go much deeper than simply bringing them to Israel. We believe it is our responsibility to give the Jews of Ethiopia the tools to succeed once they arrive.

"Multiple UJA-Federation initiatives, done with our overseas agencies, help ensure these new olim are able to put down roots in Israel and lead full and productive lives.”

However, it seems that Ethiopian Jews who are already in Israel aren't necessarily happy with the way they're regarded by the Israeli government, as stated by Efrat Yerday in Ynet News, January 18, 2012:

The Knesset Committee on Aliyah and Absorption recently held an urgent meeting where the absorption minister declared that Ethiopian Israelis should be thanking the State of Israel. This outburst is a telling indication of the minister’s perception about the government’s and citizens’ obligations and duties to their country.

The notion that Ethiopian olim should thank the government is a patronizing attitude coming from someone who herself is a new immigrant. It also took the minister of absorption about a week to officially condemn the racism exposed in Kiryat Malachi; moreover, she did it only when the situation got out of control.

The minister’s patronizing attitude towards Ethiopian Israelis apparently trickles down to her Ministry. Just look at the official guidelines adapted solely for Ethiopian immigrants, whereby government housing grants are permitted to Ethiopian Israelis only on condition that their apartments are purchased on designated, predetermined streets and addresses (in impoverished and weak neighborhoods, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty.)

As spokeswoman for the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ), I often encounter obstacles in our work with the Ministry of Absorption. For example, our ongoing challenge in grasping the Ministry of Absorption’s procedures that would allow immigrants to receive housing grants have been met with a closed door at the Ministry’s offices...

...The absorption minister loves to emphasize at every opportunity that we are supposed to be thrilled by her visit to Ethiopia - as if it was a personal visit paid from her own pocket. At the same time, she emphasizes that the distance between Ethiopia and Israel is 300 years - implying that Ethiopia, and thus Ethiopian immigrants - are backward and caught in the past.

In light of the above, the minister of absorption can’t possibly faithfully represent Ethiopian Israeli immigrants whom she is supposed to serve.
See also 20 years ago: Thousands of Ethiopian Jews are airlifted to Israel

December 17, 2015 update: As reported by JNi.Media, November 16, 2015:

The Netanyahu cabinet on Sunday approved unanimously to fly to Israel the remaining Falash Mura who are still in transit camps in Ethiopia. Then those camps will be shut down and there will be no more organized aliyah from Ethiopia to Israel.

Falash Mura is the name given to Ethiopian and Eritrean Jews who converted to Christianity under pressure from the missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries. The term refers both to Jews who did not adhere to Jewish law, and Jews who converted to Christianity, either voluntarily or by force.

Beta Israel (Hebrew: House of Israel or Community of Israel) are Jews who lived in North and North-Western Ethiopia, in more than 500 small villages. They renewed contacts with other Jewish communities in the later 20th century, and following halachic and constitutional considerations, Israel decided in 1977 that the Israeli Law of Return applied to them. The Israeli and American governments launched operations to transport the Ethiopian Jews to Israel from 1979 to the 1990s.

Today, Ethiopian Jewry is still not fully integrated into Israeli society. They remain on a lower economic and educational level than average Israelis, and marriages between Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian Jews are not common. According to a 2009 study, 90% of Ethiopian-Israelis are married to other Ethiopian-Israelis. As many as 57% of Israelis consider a daughter marrying an Ethiopian unacceptable and 39% consider a son marrying an Ethiopian unacceptable. A 2011 study showed that only 13% of high school students of Ethiopian origin felt “fully Israeli.” (Wikipedia)

In May 2015, Israeli Ethiopians demonstrated in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem against racism, after a video was released, showing an Israeli Ethiopian soldier being brutally beaten up by two Israeli police.

However, according to Ha’aretz, 90 percent of the younger generation of Ethiopians in Israel have high-school education, almost the same percentage as the Jewish population in general (93 percent). The rate of matriculation is “only” 53 percent, but that is almost four times the figure for the first generation (16 percent). And 20 percent of second-generation Ethiopian Israelis have higher education (a number becoming doctors), almost four times the rate of the first generation (5.7 percent). Employment among Ethiopians has jumped from 50 to 72 percent in 12 years, with women rising from 35% to 65%. And the percentage of Ethiopian Israelis working in janitorial services has fallen to only 5 percent.

Seven Ethiopian-Israeli have gone on to become Knesset MKs, and Ethiopian Jews have risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the IDF.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: “Today we have taken an important decision, to bring to Israel within the next five years the last of the communities with links to Israel waiting in Addis Ababa and Gonder.” The PM noted that this is an important move for Ethiopian families in Israel who have been split up.

The newcomers would have to undergo a conversion, as well as be taught Jewish values and the history of the Zionist movement.

Chairman of the Committee for Immigration Absorption and Diaspora, MK Avraham Negusa (an Ethiopian-Israeli), who has been in the forefront of the fight to bring remaining Jews of Ethiopia for the past 25 years, congratulated Netanyahu and Interior Minister Silvan Shalom on today’s decision.

“This is a great day for the Jewish people,” Negusa said. “For thousands of years Ethiopian Jewry prayed to return to Israel and waited for nearly a decade torn from their families. Today their prayers were answered.”

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