Ethiopian immigrants seek Health Ministry help for aliya trauma

Many of the 8,000 immigrants of all ages lost relatives or suffered greatly before the aliya effort was accomplished.

November 22, 2016 18:47
1 minute read.
Ethiopian olim arrive in Israel

Ethiopian olim arrive in Israel. (photo credit: TAMARA ZIEVE)

Families of Ethiopian Jews who died in the Operation Moses aliya campaign from Sudan should receive state-funded psychological treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee said on Monday.

Committee Chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) said the widows, widowers and orphans of the campaign, which ran from November 1984 to January 1985, are not recognized by law as “martyrs” and thus do not get any special benefits. Many of the 8,000 immigrants of all ages lost relatives who suffered greatly before the aliya effort was accomplished.

Neguise said emotional help is needed for some 4,000 survivors who suffer from various degrees of depression.

Uri Rada, chairman of the voluntary organization in memory of the Ethiopian Jews who died along the way to Israel, said the suicide and murder rates among these immigrants are relatively high. By contrast, suicide and murder were almost unknown among the Jewish community in Ethiopia, he said.

The committee heard testimony from a number of former immigrants who saw their parents, children and grandchildren die violently at the hands of Ethiopian and Sudanese policemen and soldiers. One woman described burying a child under a pile of rocks while on their trek to reach Israeli help in Sudan, after which she saw a dog digging up the body and eating from it.

Ziva Mekonen-Dago, an activist for the Ethiopian community, called on the government to recognize Jews from all the waves of Ethiopian aliya as survivors who may have undergone great trauma.

Dr. Nimrod Grisaro, deputy head of the Beersheba Mental Health Center, said the state has recognized the suffering of immigrants from countries of persecution by setting up monuments, but does not give the survivors psychological help. One of the immigrants said that of 1,500 people who applied for recognition as “martyrs” only eight were approved.

The Foreign Affairs and Defense ministries said the matter is not relevant to them, while the National Insurance Institute said it refers survivors to committees only after getting recognition from the Prisoners of Zion Authority in the Absorption Ministry.

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