By DONNY WEBERUpdated: FEBRUARY 5, 2018 11:28
There is much being written by the national and international media, buoyed by their politics and agenda, and a message being pushed by NGO’s, outside governments, and various agencies, politicians, partisan players, and “those with a principled agenda” as regards the “plight” of the Ethiopian community in Israel: the State is racist.Yes. There are major political, social, and especially economic issues and struggles amongst the majority of more than 140,000 Ethiopians in Israel. Issues of race, culture, and disadvantage are also at the forefront of recent demonstrations and clashes with law enforcement.But Israel can boast of an Ethiopian success that not even Ethiopia match. Israel can boast of a success with a non-native population far exceeding its native population--within literally months of its founding.And yet, Israel never had separate drinking fountains, or schools, or train cars, or education systems. Israel has not had a racial or religious based banishment of people from government or public service. Israel does not permit discrimination in employment or hiring practices. Israel did not have slavery and can look at it’s magical history in welcoming--literally-- a “melting pot” of people from every single country in the world.Yet, sordid characters are claiming apartheid.And I want to say clearly, concisely, directly: this ain’t your poppa’s South Africa, this ain’t your momma’s Klu Klux Klan American South!!If you want to see such turn to ISIS, turn to Islamic ruled or western manipulated nationd in Africa or Asia. Israel is a bastion of freedom, democracy, self determination and goodness. And like every other nation it grapples with it’s flaws and its deficiencies.But Israel doesn’t just grapple with it’s flaws. It welcomes them. It knows bringing in millions of Jews from around the world, many refugees, many poor, many not knowing even basic aspects of their Jewish origins or faith will be difficult and expensive and put pressure on social structures and economic sustenance. But Israel does it anyway and sees it through.Of these naysayers, how many even ask: “Why are Ethiopians living in Israel?”Here is why:In 1991 the Israeli government planned a covert Israeli military operation to airlift Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The transport of 14,325 Ethiopian Jews over 36 hours of non-stop flights was codenamed Operation Solomon.Why did this operation occur and why covertly?In 1991, the sitting Ethiopian government of Mengistu Haile Mariam was close to being toppled with the military successes of Eritrean and Tigrean rebels threatening Ethiopia with dangerous political destabilization. Israel and a host of Jewish welfare organizations were concerned about the well-being of the Ethiopian Jews, known as Beta Israel.The Mengistu regime made emigration difficult for Ethiopian Jews and his intentions were to permit such only in exchange for weaponry. The regime's dwindling power presented an opportunity.The operation was kept secret by military censorship. Many of the immigrants came with nothing except their clothes and cooking instruments and several pregnant women gave birth on the plane.Operation Solomon cost Israel $26 million(in 1991) to pay off the dictator-led government, Several years prior, Israel rescued some 8000 Ethiopians to escape a looming famine raging across Africa in a clandestine airlift dubbed Operation Moses. Additionally, Operation Joshua and Operation Sheba were the 1985 removal of 494 Ethiopian Jews from refugee camps in Sudan.
Ethiopians have succeeded here in Israel despite many challenges in acclimation to language, culture, education, expectation, and economics. Almost every oleh(immigrant) experiences any variety of challenges in this country and while I might not have experienced racism, I have experienced extreme discrimination in a variety of settings--including professionally-- regarding my country of origin. Even, here. Even in Israel. Even as a Jew.There are dozens upon dozens of Ethiopian notables in Israel who have achieved admirable success in a society that has offered them opportunity, education, support, and applause:Knesset Members: Adisu Massala(the first Ethiopian-Israeli to serve in the Knesset), Shlomo Molla, Rabbi Mazor Bahaina Aleli Admasu, Pnina Tamano-Shata, Shimon Solomon Avraham Negussie. These representatives served across the political spectrum and across all demographicsActivists: intellectual Taamrat Emmanuel, educator and aliyah activist, Yona Bogale, aliyah activists, Fareda Aklum and Baruch Tegegn; Gadi Yavarkan, Daniel Uria, and author and journalist, Tsega Melaku.Distinguished Military officers: Issachar Makonnen, Tzion Shenkor, Avraham Yitzhak, Hadas Malada-Mitzri.
(Tzion Shenkor, Distinguished IDF Officer)
Cultural figures range from actors Meskie Shibru-Sivan, Tehila Yeshayahu-Adgeh and Sirak M. Sabahat to musicians Abatte Barihun and Hagit Yaso to writers Omri Teg'Amlak Avera to Asefu Baro to a myriad of powerful and prominent journalists to fashionistas Esti Mamo, Yityish Titi Aynaw, and world-renowned designer Avi Yitzhak.
Israel’s Ethiopian community is correct to fight for more and for better. The media is right to report Israel news and current events. But those who report on the present and the demand to be able to celebrate a better future have a responsibility to provide context for the present failures and to celebrate Israel’s past and present ‘Ethiopian success’.
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