The first Ethiopian female IDF doctor, fighting for Ethiopian rights

#19: Dr. Hadas Malada-Matzri

Hadas Malada-Matsree (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hadas Malada-Matsree
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The first Ethiopian-Israeli female doctor in the IDF, Dr. Hadas Malada-Matzri was one of the most forcefully outspoken activists this past July when thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis hit the streets in uncharacteristic rage after the deadly shooting of 18-year-old Solomon Tekah.
The media attention the riots generated opened up a platform for members of the community to speak out on the challenges they have endured as black immigrants to Israel.
Malada-Matzri took to social media and talked about being called “kushit” by her classmates and of patients, including a pilot with a rank of colonel, refusing to be treated by her. A female soldier said she didn’t want to go to the “smelly Ethiopian doctor.”
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Malada-Matzri also told of the time that she took two of her young children to an appointment at the mother-child health clinic in Ofakim and was subjected to stone-throwing and name-calling by children at a nearby school.
But Malada-Matzri has not let racism stop her from being successful or from speaking out on behalf of her people.
She immigrated to Israel in 1988 at the age of four as part of the Operation Solomon rescue mission. At that time, she was suffering from malnutrition and malaria. She spent her first six months in Israel in rehabilitation and has said in interviews that this experience is what led her to become a doctor.
Her family settled in Beer Sheva, where Malada-Matzri went to school and excelled. Toward the end of her high school career, she was identified by the IDF’s Human Resource Department and placed in the IDF’s academic reserves program, where she majored in medicine.
Malada-Matzri graduated from medical school at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev. She served as a Medical Officer with the rank of a Captain in the Israeli Air Force at the Hatzerim Base for five years.
Today, she specializes in family medicine and works in Clalit Health Service’s southern region.
Malada-Matzri is well-known for her work in fighting the Ministry of Health’s ban on blood donated by Ethiopian-Israelis. She is also an active volunteer in programs that help teach and train Ethiopian students.
“I understood that there are all kinds of improper practices in the health system when it comes to our community, and that if we don’t come from the bottom-up to change them, then they won’t change,” said Malada-Matzri in an interview with New Israel Fund.
She credits her family with her success. “My 10 siblings and I got daily talks about how important education was,” she said. “My mother showed up to school meetings, even when she didn’t understand a word.”
She also noted that “My parents modeled social action for us. It came naturally to us.”