In his August 2013 op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, “The last hope,” Ethiopian- Israeli activist Asher Elias argued that for many Ethiopian Jews, Israel is a “world of poverty, marginalization and discrimination.”
In launching our new roundtable initiative, the Ministry of Aliya and Immigrant Absorption is for the first time giving the wider community of citizens and civil society groups a voice in shaping their own integration process. We do this in the hope that we will soon see the dawn of an Israel where every group feels themselves to be an integral and respected part of our vibrant and diverse Israeli society.
On Sunday, February 9, the government approved a groundbreaking new roundtable initiative to completely overhaul our integration policy for the Ethiopian Jewish community. The ministry is creating a new, transparent policy that will directly address the concerns of the Ethiopian Jewish community. Thirty years after the beginning of Operation Moses there are still Ethiopian Jews born and raised in Israel who do not feel like an equal part of Israeli society.
This issue needs to be addressed definitively and comprehensively for the benefit of all Israeli society.
The goal of this new roundtable initiative is to bring the parties actually affected by integration policy into the planning process in order to create an effective and thorough strategy. The initiative will begin with a full day of roundtables where everyone involved in the process will come together to discuss the central issues of the integration of the Ethiopian Jewish community with anyone who wishes to participate.
FOLLOWING THIS main session, seven of the 12 ministries involved in the initiative will lead individual roundtables with representatives present from every ministry involved and of the municipalities.
These will be well-advertised so that anyone who wishes to give their input, including all civil society groups, can attend and have their voices heard. In addition, we have set up a website for those who are unable to attend the roundtables in person, www.newway.gov.il, where anyone can participate in forum discussions on key issues and questions. All activity on the web forum will be compiled and delivered to the roundtables, for them to discuss and incorporate into their decisions.
Already, the ministry has met with major donors, foundations and Jewish federations from North America to discuss this initiative. The representatives at the meeting praised the idea, calling it a special process that strengthens the relationship between civil organizations and the government.
The inter-ministerial roundtable will bring the Ministries of Education, Housing, Economy, Public Safety, Defense, Welfare, and Health together to ensure a coordinated and detailed strategy that will address every aspect of the absorption and integration process. Every issue and concern is on the table, ready to be discussed, analyzed and resolved. The resulting policy will include the voices of all Israelis who wish to be heard, from every background, and will address every facet of the integration process.
By working together with our citizens, the ministry will create a balanced, thorough and effective policy that reflects the concerns of Israelis and civil society groups from all parts of Israeli society, especially the Ethiopian Jewish community itself.
However, a new integration policy is only the pathway to achieving our true goal: the successful integration of the Ethiopian Jewish community into Israeli society. In launching this roundtable initiative, the Ministry of Aliya and Immigrant Absorption is thinking about how we can create a better Israel. An Israel where a child born to Ethiopian Israeli parents will feel like an equal Israeli citizen, with the same opportunities and responsibilities.
The author is Israel’s minister of immigration and absorption.