Protesting against discrimination in Jerusalem 390.
(photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
Leaders of Israel’s 120,000-strong Ethiopian community downplayed the
government’s approval of a social welfare plan on Sunday, calling it
paternalistic and insufficient to resolve lingering socioeconomic
“It’s just cosmetics,” Michal Avera Samuel, Director of FIDEL –
Association for Education and Social Integration of Ethiopian Jews in Israel –
told The Jerusalem Post.
“We are very angry about this and it just shows
how the government plans to continue to make the same mistakes it did in the
past,” Avera Samuel said.
According a statement from the Prime Minister’s
Office, the new plan will sharply increase the number of housing grants
allocated to new Ethiopian immigrants, as well as create a new employment
service dedicated to placing Ethiopians in jobs that match their education and
The government will fund 30 new civil service positions in
order to boost the presence of Ethiopians in the public sector and will appoint
two new kessim – or spiritual leaders – to work with the community.
new plan also features a comprehensive outreach program in an attempt to tackle
racism against the Ethiopian community. According to local media reports,
discrimination and hostility have reached a record high.
Minister’s Office statement stipulated that the new plan will intertwine with a
five-year plan established in 2008. The previous program was aimed at improving
the absorption of the Ethiopian community.
But according to Avera Samuel
and other Ethiopian-Israeli leaders, the previous plan never fulfilled its goals
after the government slashed its initial budget and incorporated it into the
previous immigrant absorption programs in each government ministry.
five-year plan is not even working properly and yet the government just wants to
take something that is not working and revive it,” Avera Samuel stated. She
joined the heads of other Ethiopian NGOs and kessim in sending a letter to Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other government ministers last week, urging
them to delay approving the latest plan.
“We are very angry about what
has happened,” she said.
“The prime minister promised to include us in
the decision-making process and not to continue on with the failed programs that
have been used in the past.”
According to Avera Samuel, the
Ethiopian-Israeli community would like to see a more holistic and comprehensive
approach to immigrant absorption. The government has yet to respond to
the letter, she said.
Over the past few months, following media reports
of several racist incidents against Ethiopian Jews, the prime minister met
regularly with many senior leaders and activists from the Ethiopian- Israeli
In announcing the new plan, Netanyahu said that his goal was
to address all the issues raised at these meetings.
“I have personally
met with members of the Ethiopian community from kessim
to young people and I
understand the deep problems facing the community,” Netanyahu said in a
“Today we are presenting a comprehensive program to improve
the immigration and absorption of Ethiopian immigrants.”
minister said that in addition to the new plan, the government would no longer
carry out a policy of school segregation between Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian
students. He pledged to increase efforts at integrating new immigrants into the
mainstream of Israeli society.
“We want to bring a message to the Israeli
people, there is no room for racism here,” Netanyahu said, mentioning that
Ethiopian Jews play a pivotal role in Israeli and Jewish
Following Sunday’s announcement, Ethiopian MK Shlomo Molla said
the new plan lacked creativity and failed to solve the intractable problems of
institutionalized discrimination facing the community.
there is nothing new that will serve all those young people who protested
against discrimination and social problems a few months ago,” Molla said.