(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Government officials launched a campaign Monday to improve the image of Ethiopians at an event marking 30 years of aliya from the east African country.
The campaign, which also seeks to better integrate the Ethiopian population into Israeli society, will feature a series of television and newspaper ads of Ethiopian "success stories." More specifically, the initiative aims to help Ethiopians find jobs and recruit volunteers to help with the integration process.
"The campaign is not supposed to provide an immediate solution but is part of the process. We decided to create a situation where Israeli society will be more open and give more opportunities to Ethiopian immigrants," said Immigration Absorption Minister Tzipi Livni.
Livni's ministry and the Jewish Agency are splitting the cost of the NIS 1.3 million project, though the BBDO advertising company designed the ads for free and much of the television time and newspaper space will be provided without cost.
Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski explained, "The debt of Israeli society to the immigration of 100,000 people [from Ethiopia] doesn't end when they reach the country."
Idzik Dessie, who heads the Tebeka Center for Legal Aid and Advocacy for Ethiopian Jews, welcomed the campaign. He said members of the Ethiopian community needed to see positive role models.
"The image of success is the most important thing," he said. "Until now the picture [of the Ethiopian community] that has been shown has been negative."
He added, however, that the campaign "is not enough."
He said that Ethiopians need to be in positions of influence in business, academia, and other sectors of the society. According to Dessie, 60 percent of Ethiopians with academic degrees are unable to find posts in their professions, and must work as security guards and in other blue collar jobs.