Govt. approves recognition of Ethiopian religious leaders

The decision to reconize the Kessim as religious leaders will regulate their status as part of the system of religious services.

February 19, 2018 16:15
2 minute read.
Govt. approves recognition of Ethiopian religious leaders

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting Ethiopian community leaders. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)


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The Ministerial Committee on the Integration of Israeli Citizens of Ethiopian Origin, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, approved a decision to regulate for the first time all religious services for citizens of Ethiopian origin.

“This arrangement should have happened a long time ago, and I am glad that we have the opportunity to do it now,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the committee meeting on Monday. “This moves me, it is close to my heart and therefore the status that we are marking today is also historical. We will continue this important journey for all of us, our brothers and sisters.”

The decision includes the historic recognition of the kessim, Ethiopian Jewish religious leaders, regulating their status as part of the system of religious services and constitutes recognition of their ancient and unique heritage.

The decision also includes a detailed outline for the integration of Ethiopian rabbis as representatives in religious councils, with the aim of optimizing their integration into the religious services system and improving the religious services provided to Ethiopian-Israelis.

“The heritage of Israel is a mosaic of many communities. This community has a special status precisely because it has preserved the heritage of Israel with complete detachment,” Netanyahu said.

The ministerial committee was formed in 2015 following protests by Ethiopian-Israelis against discrimination in the wake of a video the circulated nationally, where police were seen attacking and beating an Ethiopian IDF soldier without provocation.

The committee has since overseen all activities relating to the government’s 71 point plan to integrate Ethiopian immigrants at an estimated cost of NIS 165 million per year, not including additional funds for housing.

To date, the committee announced it had implemented 93% of the recommendations, which have been carried out with the collaboration of 10 government ministries.

Points in the plan include increasing the percentage of Ethiopian-Israelis eligible for matriculation certificates, increasing the scope of gifted and outstanding students and placing them in appropriate education programs, increasing the number of officers in the army and in the police force, integrating academics into higher paying jobs in the private sector and subsidizing vouchers for extracurricular activities for children.

Housing Minister Yoav Galant also presented to the committee a report on the successful implementation of the NIS 120 million assistance program for mortgages for families and couples of Ethiopian origin as well as the plan for urban renewal.

Since 2017, the first year of the program, some 184 families have taken advantage of the incentive and have purchased homes in cities across the country, Galant said.

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