Israelis of Ethiopian origin demonstrated against police racism and brutality, May 3, after a video showing a policeman beating a soldier from the community went viral.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
There was good news and bad news in the Elem report presented to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday by Elem President Nava Barak and Elem Chairman Shlomo Yanai.
The good news was that a NIS22 million government grant will be used to build shelters in cities and towns in which there are sizable numbers of homeless youth to ensure that every young person at risk will have a haven of some kind. The shelters will be open 24/7.
The bad news is that 75 per cent of youth, across all segments of society, said they had experienced discrimination and racism because of their origins or physical appearance.
This figure shoots up to 98% among Ethiopian youngsters who said they experienced racist discrimination on the street, at the hands of the police and in the classroom from teachers and students alike.
The report, State of Youth in 2016, aims to present an overall picture of youth at risk in Israel by the nonprofit organization which helps this underprivileged group.
The statistics are based on data gathered on 20,000 youth who sought the organization’s help in 2015 across 80 projects in over 40 municipalities.
It is akin to holding up a mirror to Israeli society, Yanai said.
Each year Elem assists some 2,400 Ethiopian youth, representing 12% of all youth helped by the organization.
Another major finding in the report is that 80 per cent of youth at risk have a desperate need for alcohol, and figures for alcohol consumption by youth at risk have shot up by 10 per cent over those of last year.
Youth in distress or those who feel isolated and alone get drunk at least three times a week, Yanai told the president.
According to the report, more and more youth today have a tendency to drink in bomb shelters, abandoned buildings or private houses. As such, this exposes the youth to dangerous situations such as sexual exploitation of girls and experimentation with drugs.
Yanai and Barak were accompanied by Elem personnel as well as by several young people whose lives had been radically transformed due to their association with Elem which has been functioning in Israel for 34 years, and provides mentoring, vocational training and other forms of assistance.
Many come from extremely difficult backgrounds said Barak but was happy to report that “they are not in that place anymore.” With Elem’s help, they have developed self-esteem, have made friends and have been encouraged to work as volunteers in Elem and other organizations, and in many cases have realized ambitions to join the army.
Bat El 21 and a half who grew up in an unsavory neighborhood in Beit Shemesh, and who now lives in Tel Adashim, having chosen after army service not to go back to Beit Shemesh, said that it had been her strong desire to do something meaningful in the army, and she had actually become a commander.
Nadine, 17 and a half originally from Or Yehuda, but now living in Tel Aviv, had also wanted to do something meaningful in the army, but her profile was too low. But she takes comfort in the fact that she will be able to serve in the IDF, and she is grateful for all that Elem has done for her.
Rivlin told her that every assignment in the army is meaningful.
Barak emphasized that Elem cares for all youth regardless of race or religion, and introduced Rivlin to Ayman, a 14 year old Beduin boy who though fairly fluent in Hebrew chose to speak English, saying that he’d been thrown out of school a year and a half ago, and had spent listless hours at home doing nothing until he came into contact with Elem which had set him back on track.
He is now at school, and enjoys it, and has made many friends.
Rivlin said that while it was important that Elem and other organizations are looking out for the welfare of youngsters, and improving the quality of their lives, this is really the responsibility of the state.
Though pleased that youngsters in seemingly hopeless situations are being given the tools with which to rearrange their lives, Rivlin also lamented the fact that so many youngsters feel threatened and discriminated against.
“Society must give them all the essentials that they need,” he said.
Somewhere between 10 % to 15% of total Israeli youth are at risk, said Yanai, and in its outreach efforts, Elem has not yet succeeded in making contact with all of them, he added.