ethiopian child298 88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Despite a growing number of social welfare cases and incidents of domestic abuse among Ethiopian immigrant families, the Jewish Agency for Israel has no plans to increase the number of social workers active in its absorption centers countrywide, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Dr. Mira Keidar, JAFI's Director of Social Welfare, told the Post Monday that the current quota stands at one social worker for every 300 people in the majority of absorption centers, including those that do not house Ethiopian immigrants. The social workers are employed jointly by JAFA, which provides them with culture sensitivity training, and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.
"I would be happy to have more social workers but [budget wise] it is not possible," said Keidar, adding that her department has instead adopted a more holistic approach to dealing with the Ethiopian immigrant community's needs rather than the classic social worker services.
"We have to provide the community with tools to help ease the transition from the third world to here," she said, highlighting that JAFI facilitates programs in several of its centers teaching the new immigrants how to deal with disagreements within the family unit and how to avoid confrontation or violence.
Despite JAFI's emphasis on programs for the new immigrants, those who work within the community believe that the growing cases of violence are directly linked to the lack of professional staff, such as social workers, offering direct services.
Three months ago, it was revealed at a meeting of the Knesset's Immigrant, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee that the country's largest absorption center in Mevasseret Zion, which houses at full capacity 1,300 Ethiopian immigrants, has only four social workers and only one of those is of Ethiopian descent.
"Four social workers for 1,300 people is simply negligence on the part of the Jewish Agency," commented Avi Masfin, spokesman of the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jewish (IAEJ), an advocacy group that highlights issues within the community.
According to official figures, more than two-thirds of the Ethiopian community has active files with the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services.
"I believe that for such a needy community, even more assistance should be given to them," added Masfin. "If there are so few social workers, how can they treat all the people that need help?"
Danny Sagi, a volunteer who has undertaken to raise awareness of what he calls a lack of resources and low living standards at the Mevasseret Zion absorption center, said that the center lacks professional staff to deal with the community's needs.
"There are many volunteers who are active there but there is certainly not enough professional staff working," said Sagi, who claims that those who do work with the immigrants receive a minimum wage.
He said that his research indicated there had been several cases of domestic violence within the absorption center and local Mevasseret Zion residents believe that it is not a question of whether there will be an incident here but more a question of when.
Masfin added that the root of such domestic violence lies in the fact that Ethiopia is traditionally a patriarchal society and when the families arrive in Israel, many of the men are unable to find employment and fail to integrate into the modern society.
"The Ethiopian man can do whatever he wants back in his home country but he comes here and sees that his wife and children are moving forward, leaving him behind. His pride is hurt," he said.
In the last year-and-a-half, six Ethiopian immigrant women have been murdered by their husbands. On Saturday, Tzakula Tzakul, 45, from Rishon Lezion was stabbed to death by her husband, Shifrao, as their 11 children watched. In September, new immigrant Kanu Gesasah and her nine-year-old daughter were thrown out the fifth floor window at the absorption center in Nahariyha by her husband.