Government unveils NIS 800m. plan for Ethiopian immigrants

Some activists concerned funding may be delayed until aliya complete.

October 11, 2007 23:09
2 minute read.
Government unveils NIS 800m. plan for Ethiopian immigrants

ethiopians sigd 224.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

The government is preparing to launch a far-reaching, wide-scale initiative aimed at providing emergency education, employment and social welfare relief to Israel's Ethiopian immigrant community, The Jerusalem Post has learned. According to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, the plan, which will cost the government an estimated NIS 800 million, will be the one of the most comprehensive programs ever to address the major issues facing the 110,000-strong population. "It is the biggest absorption program ever designed," an Immigrant Absorption Ministry spokeswoman said Thursday. She refused to divulge further information about the project until it is receives governmental approval. The plan was initially presented by former immigrant absorption minister Ze'ev Boim in March. It was expanded by a special interministerial committee that joined forces with Ethiopian leaders to tackle the community's growing poverty, education problems, unemployment and other absorption issues. The plan calls for larger Immigrant Absorption Ministry mortgage subsidies and more financial aid to help second-generation Ethiopian couples buy homes, a point many community leaders believe has led to the community's poverty and developing slums. "I believe that this is the first time the Israeli government has included Ethiopian leaders in making decisions for their community," said Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews director Danny Admasu, who participated in the interministerial committee. "They finally allowed us to talk freely about our problems and it felt good to know that they understood there is a real problem here." "It was the first time the prime minister admitted that Israel has not been doing its job properly and that in the last 59 years, the country still has not learned how to make life easier for new immigrants," he said. But Admasu expressed concern that the program might not come to fruition. Since reaching its conclusion in July, he said, the interministerial committee had decided to postpone implementation of the plan until after all aliya from Ethiopia is complete. "There is no connection between absorption and aliya," Admasu said. "Both things are very important, and if they want to open a new committee about the Falash Mura aliya issue, that is fine; we will help out, but these are two different things." Israeli government officials working in Addis Ababa have said in recent months that immigration of the remaining Falash Mura - Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors were forced to convert to Christianity - will be complete by next summer. However, that prediction has been criticized by several international Jewish organizations and individuals working with the community in Ethiopia. They maintain that Ethiopian aliya is far from complete. The Immigrant Absorption Ministry spokeswoman denied that implementation of the program was based on the completion of Falash Mura aliya. She said the plan was awaiting approval from various governmental bodies before being activated sometime in 2008. According to the Prime Minister's Office, the plan will most likely be presented to the Ministerial Committee on Aliya and Absorption in December, then go to the Knesset for approval and be activated at the beginning of 2008.

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