Social rights group: Schools don't teach Ethiopian aliyah
'Tebeka' calls for more focus on Ethiopian Jewry's history, culture and contribution to modern Israeli history.
By RUTH EGLASH
There needs to be more focus on Ethiopian Jewry's history, culture and contribution to modern Israeli history, according to the non-profit Ethiopian social rights group Tebeka, which means "advocates for justice" in Amharic.
Speaking ahead of the national ceremony to commemorate Ethiopian aliya and to remember those who died making their way to Israel, which will be held at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl cemetery on Thursday morning, the organization noted that the government has made little effort to make such an event part of the national consciousness.
Official estimates put at more than 4,000 the number of people who perished during the lengthy and sometimes difficult journey from Ethiopia to Israel, collectively know as Operation Moses (1984-5).
"While we welcome the government's efforts to hold an official ceremony remembering these people and honoring our community, at the same time we are very disappointed that after 30-years of ongoing aliya from Ethiopia, very little attempt has been made to tell our story or include it as part of the formal educational curriculum," said Tebeka's director, Yitzhak Desse.
According to Tebeka, most Israelis know little about the 110,000-strong community's rich and vibrant history or about its struggles to get to Israel, first via Sudan in the early 1980s and later on Operation Solomon in 1991.
"Our community has a wealthy history that has helped to enrich the modern state of Israel," commented David Mahret, Manager of the Steering Center for Ethiopian Immigrants in the Education system (www.kidum-edu.org.il), which provides materials and training on Ethiopian history and culture to roughly 50,000 students - both Ethiopian and not - in the education system.
Learning about Ethiopian Jewish history and traditions would also help to change common perceptions towards the community, Mahret added.
"Our community is often viewed as poor or weak by native Israelis but the more they learn about our past and our customs the more they will realize how much we have to offer," he continued.
A Tebeka spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post that it had already raised the issue several with the previous education minister and officials in the ministry, but to no avail.
In response, the ministry claimed not to have received a request from Tebeka but added that among the additions to next year's history syllabus is a section dealing with multiculturalism and the contribution of Israeli immigrants to the melting pot.
"In that capacity there is a direct look at the impact of immigrants, especially those from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, on Israeli society," said the ministry.
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