Ethiopian-Israelis at a demonstration against racism 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
After two mass anti-racism rallies, a hearing in the Knesset and an intensive
media-awareness campaign, young Ethiopian-Israelis are turning their focus to
Diaspora Jews in the hope that those who helped facilitate their aliya will now
also help in the fight against racism here.
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“We believe that American
Jews have the power to put pressure on the government here and help us to change
the situation,” Gadi Yevarkan, director of the Center for Social Equality for
the Ethiopian Jews, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“We know that
we are here because of generous donations from the Jews in the Diaspora and we
will never forget their assistance – but first we want them to know that the
funds they have donated are not reaching the Ethiopian community, and we want to
ask them for their help in making a real change,” he said.
one of a growing number of young Ethiopian-Israelis who has become active in
recent weeks galvanizing members of the community to fight ongoing
discriminatory practices and racism against their community.
Considered the second generation of Ethiopian immigrants –
they either arrived here as young children or were born in Israel – their ire
was sparked recently by a news report that some residents of Kiryat Malachi
signed an agreement not to sell or rent their apartments’ to families of
Since that story, several other incidents have come to
light, including a news report this week of a school-bus driver telling
Ethiopian school children to rid themselves of their terrible smell.
are looking for the support of US Jews to rally on behalf of the Ethiopian
community here,” explained Binyamin Aklom, an activist who often speaks to
groups of American Jews, and over the past few days has been reaching out to his
contacts in numerous Jewish organizations in the US to raise awareness to what
has been happening here.
“We know that the Ethiopian community does not
have a strong political voice and we are looking to Jews in the Diaspora to help
us in this battle, not only financially,” said Aklom, who is hoping to organize
a march in New York that will show solidarity with
Aklom said that as well as pressuring the Israeli
government to take up the battle against discrimination, US Jewry in particular
could draw on its own experiences fighting racism to help the black Jews in
“This is a chance for US Jews to show that they rally against
racism and to really speak out on our behalf,” he said.
Aklom and other activists told the Post
this week that there needs to be more
transparency with funds raised specifically to aid in the community’s
immigration and absorption process.
A report released this week by the
Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry showed that 61.4 percent of the 116,000-
strong immigrant community have open files with social services, and even among
the second generation the chances of them having met with a social worker is
twice as high as those outside the community.
“We know there are generous
donations and we want to see the money being better invested,” said Aklom,
explaining that even the operating costs of hundreds of nonprofits working to
help the community is draining the funds, meaning that the money is not getting
to the people in need.
“We would like to see the funding better organized
and make sure that it is really reaching the people,” he said.
Yerday, spokeswoman of the Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews, also emphasized
the need for more transparency.
“Right now, much of the money being
donated to the Ethiopian community is disappearing, because it is just not
possible that with all this money being donated to various nonprofits there are
still so may Ethiopian families that are struggling,” she said.
that money was reaching the immigrants directly, then many of them would not
still be living in poverty,” Yerday said.