(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The government will approve a plan in January to invest an additional billion shekels in absorption of Ethiopian immigrants, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced at the cabinet Sunday, just days after newspaper reports of the segregation of a handful of Ethiopian children in a school and pre-school in Petah Tikva caused a public uproar.
"These reports add to the general feeling of distress of the Ethiopian children, in particular, and of the Ethiopian population in Israeli society, in general," Olmert said of the reports at the opening of the cabinet meeting. "I cannot say that this sense of distress is completely detached from some sort of vexing reality that exists regarding this population."
At the same time, Olmert said it would be unfair to say that the problem only exists in Petah Tikva, "and that everything is fine everywhere else. There are problems. There is distress, a sense of injustice [felt] by many Ethiopian Jews that is not detached from the reality in which they live. In the end, we must change it and we have the obligation to do so."
Olmert said the plan to assist the immigrants at a number of different levels will be financed by the government in cooperation with the Jewish Agency. The plan itself is still being developed.
Olmert said he would become personally involved in the issue, and would meet in the coming weeks with the leaders of the Ethiopian immigrant community to discuss the problems.
The Public Council for Ethiopian Jews, meanwhile, called on the prime minister Sunday to prove that he was really willing to push for full equality for Ethiopian immigrants by lifting the quota on bringing to Israel those with Jewish links remaining in Ethiopia.
"We request that the government deal with aliya from Ethiopia in a similar way to how it deals with Jews from the former Soviet Union," the Council aid in a statement. "The current direction of the government to wind down the aliya of the remaining Ethiopian Jews is worrying and unjust, as well as not Jewish in spirit or humanitarian in general."
The Council said it wanted to remind Olmert of government promises from 2003 to bring all the remaining Jews in Ethiopia to Israel.
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