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Spokesman for the Ministry of Social Affairs admitted to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that there were not enough Ethiopian social workers available to help deal with the growing number of problems within the community, including a suicide-murder over the weekend.
"There are certain communities in which we train social workers to work with the Ethiopian communities," said Nahum Ido, spokesman for the ministry. "And we have many Ethiopian advisors to train our staff but there are not enough Ethiopian social workers."
Ido's comments came as Ilu Beju and his wife Atelu were being buried in Or Yehuda. Beju, 46, stabbed his wife to death Friday night, after the couple argued over Ilu's drinking problem, and then killed himself. The couple's seven children, ranging two through 16, witnessed the event.
Esti Eshel, the Or Yehuda social worker responsible for the case, agreed that her staff did not have enough training in dealing with such cases in the Ethiopian community and she therefore asked the Jewish Agency of Israel to give the city's social welfare service an emergency grant of NIS 10,000 to help provide the couple's children with an Amharic-speaking social worker.
Jewish Agency spokesman Michael Jankelowitz said that agency chairman Ze'ev Bialski had approved the request even though the family had already left the immigration framework.
"The NIS 10,000 will go to the immediate needs of the children over the Pessah holiday," said Jankelowitz.
Police echoed the charge that social workers lacked experience in dealing with the problems of Ethiopian immigrants. Spokeswoman Shira Liberman said that there was no special department for dealing with this population.
"We treat them just like every other community. There is no department for Iraqi Jews or Russians for example, she said, adding that police officers were taught the rudimentary basics of each community's culture and traditions.
Avraham Neguise, the director of the Ethiopian advocacy group South Wing to Zion, said the responsibility for easing the transition of Ethiopian immigrants into Israeli society was that of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.
"Families should not be made to leave absorption centers before they are ready," said Neguise. "The absorption ministry throws the responsibility to the city council and the city council puts the responsibility onto the Absorption Ministry. The result is many families falling beneath the cracks." Neguise said that he was well aware of the specific problems facing the Ethiopian community in Or Yehuda and pointed to a recent incident where families were forced to leave an absorption center halfway through the school year. Tamar Abramovitz, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, responded that the country had a large budget specifically for Ethiopian immigration. She claimed that the families receive constant visits from the ministry to help them settle.
She highlighted a new ministry project - an Amharic-language television program on Channel 2 Friday afternoons as a way to provide Ethiopian immigrants with invaluable information about immigration issues.
"Following the show there is a telephone hotline where immigrants can speak to social workers," she said.