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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday established an interministerial committee to research the reasons why the integration of Ethiopians into Israeli society is failing and to draft solutions to improve the situation.
The committee, to be headed by Director General of the Prime Minister's Office Ra'anan Dinur, is to comprise the director generals of the Immigrant and Absorption, Finance, Social Affairs, Labor, Trade and Industry, Housing and Construction and Education Ministries, as well as representatives from the National Insurance Institute, the Jewish Agency, the Joint Distribution Committee and several Ethiopian organizations.
Olmert's decision to establish the special committee came during a meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora in which Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim presented the government with some of the main issues facing the 104,000-strong community, including some solutions.
Shiri Krispin, Boim's spokeswoman, said the decision by the PM to establish a mixed committee was a positive step.
"The increase in budgets cannot come from the Immigration and Absorption Ministry alone," she said. "We will hopefully see the results within the next two months."
Before the meeting, Boim told The Jerusalem Post that the suggestions were part of an overall plan by the Immigration and Absorption Ministry designed to strengthen the Ethiopian community in Israel.
"It is a wide-ranging program that will include subsidized academic education, an investment in social welfare programs, employment programs and a large budget for improving integration," he said.
Danny Admasu, director of the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ), said following the meeting that he had mixed feelings about the outcome of Monday's meeting.
He said he was disappointed that the committee had focused solely on the issue of mortgage grants, "when we highlighted to ministers at least five other main points for discussion."
However, Admasu added: "I am happy that a definite date was set for the committee to return its findings."
The new committee is scheduled to present its findings to Olmert on May 16, which, Admasu pointed out, is both Jerusalem Day and remembrance day for Ethiopian immigrants who lost their lives in the Sudan trying to reach Israel.
"It is also important that the government gives its attention to other issues facing the absorption of Ethiopian immigrants," continued Admasu, highlighting education, employment and their identity as Jews.
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