May 29, 2015: On Ethiopian Israelis

Readers respond to the latest "Jerusalem Post Magazine" article.

Envelope (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
On Ethiopian Israelis
With regard to your series on Ethiopian Israelis (“Snapshots: A look at the Ethiopian-Israeli community,” May 15), I work with many Ethiopians, both as patients and as members of health service teams. While not denying for a moment that there are racists in the Israeli population, that much of the police force has poor personal and professional standards, that the religious and governmental sectors have displayed their usual level of ignorance, insensitivity and cruelty, and that mistakes were made in absorbing the immigrants (as occurred with every immigrant wave), I do not accept that “Israel is racist,” nor that it has an exceptional problem with racism.
The reality is much more complex. While Ethiopians are distinct (as are many other sectors of the population) and therefore might ascribe every bureaucratic idiocy, stupidity or plain unpleasantness to racism, they in fact experience much of the same difficulties as immigrants (and even veteran citizens and residents) of every hue. We should not forget that there has never been another example of a predominantly white/European country going to Africa to liberate black people and bring them home to full freedom and citizenship.
Israel has a much better record in pro-action than many other so-called enlightened democracies.
I would urge Israelis of all backgrounds to battle against all manifestations of racism, but not to lose proportion and blandly accept inaccurate generalizations.
The writer is head of the Department of Pediatrics at Ziv Medical Center.
In reading “The community leaders,” (May 15), I was upset to see that the Chantal Karei community center was not even mentioned. The center is located in the heart of the Ethiopian-Israeli community in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood, and almost every child and adult who frequents it is of Ethiopian origin.
Barak Alzam, its director, and Shimi Hadad, the youth programming coordinator, have opened their doors, arms and hearts to these kids for years. The youngsters receive educational and entertainment activities from the moment they arrive after school, along with camps and field trips, at little to no cost to their families. Shimi treats every child with the utmost respect and gives them the tough love they might need. Barak not only works around the clock to ensure Shimi has the support to run his programs, he is maintenance man and field trip supervisor as well.
Any organization that needs a home to help the kids in the community is welcome to use the building at little to no cost, as are Ethiopian Israelis in need of a place to celebrate joyous occasions. It’s people like Barak and Shimi who are the heavy lifters.
They never ask for recognition, but they deserve it the most!
The writer is a teen and young adult counselor.
Entirely the point In “Not Baltimore, but real cause for concern” (Police and Thieves, May 8), Ben Hartman makes some important points about police brutality and its connection to pure, simple racism. I take great exception, however, to his last two paragraphs. He claims that when Israelis of Ethiopian lineage are beaten up by police in Israel, it is beside the point that they served in the IDF and were self-sacrificing patriots. Really? While no person of color should be beaten, if merely on humanitarian grounds, it makes a world of difference to know that the young man is a trustworthy, contributing citizen.
This person’s behavior and life choices tell us who he is. To compare an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier to a Freddie Gray is absurd. Freddie Gray deserved to have his day in court, but he did not deserve respect. Perhaps Mr. Hartman can come up with a different word to express the correct belief that all human beings be treated humanely – though not necessarily with respect. Respect is earned. Oh, by the way, I made aliya from Baltimore.
Beit Shemesh
Jewish Namibia
Your article “The keeper of the flame” (Jewish World, May 8) brought back memories of our visit to Namibia two years ago, when we spent Simhat Torah in Windhoek. Although the synagogue was open, there was only a minyan on the evening of Simhat Torah. Zvi Gorevitch conducted the service most admirably. There were about 50 people, including two members of the Ovambo tribe who were going through the conversion process. After the service there was a kosher meal of chopped liver and other meat, which had been flown in from Johannesburg for the occasion. About 500 km. south of Windhoek, in Keetmanshoop, we found what had been a synagogue until 1953. There are still Stars of David on the outside and interior of the building, which is now used by the national dairy as a milk depot.
A community’s remnants
Regarding “Cruising through the Aegean Sea, Part II: Rhodes, Chios, Mykonos and Delos” (Travel, May 8), I respectfully disagree with some of Irving Spitz’s conclusions about the Jewish presence on the island of Delos. When we visited Delos, my friend and I trekked through the overgrown bushes and vegetation to get to the far side of the island to view the remains of the synagogue there. What Mr. Spitz describes as a “water reservoir” is clearly a mikve; it has steps leading down into the pool and remnants of a piping system that brought in fresh water. Although we were not able to measure the volume of water to see if it met halachic standards, to our eyes it seemed to be about the same size as the many mikvaot I have seen over the years. I took photos and shared them with my rabbi to show him this ancient mikve.
The seat that is a throne with a footstool, as described by Mr. Spitz, was clearly the kiseh hanassi (seat of the president); it faced in the direction of Jerusalem. There were several wall carvings in Greek relating to the rededication of the synagogue and some of its sections, bearing the names of donors and dedications. Archeologists on the island verified them as being dated from between the second and third centuries CE.
Our conclusion was that this was a large, impressive, two-story synagogue based upon the location of a number of beautiful columns lying nearby and inside. It bore witness to a well-to-do Jewish community on Delos. The location, at the edge of the sea, probably means that over time, water currents will cause the erosion of these remnants of a once-proud synagogue.
Welcome initiative
Avi Katz (“Pocket-changing the world,” Cover, May 1) deserves our heartfelt thanks for acting like a mensch in business – in particular, with his ambitious plans to revolutionize supermarkets. Too many times, the Israeli public has been taken for freiers (suckers) by the major supermarkets, many owned by banks or wealthy individuals whose aim is to deceive the public into purchasing good at exceptionally high prices while pocketing ill-gotten gains. Three-for-two offers, first one full-price and the next for half-price, some products on special, but not all – what is going on? The consumer appears not to care because she is confused as to the true price.
Recently, the dairy industry was liberalized to permit the import of foreign products – which, it was claimed, would act as competition to local producers and force down prices. Instead, we find high-priced foreign imports and local products increasing in price, while there is zero inflation. Turkish coffee in a standard 100-gram packet suddenly disappears, to be replaced by a new 85-gram packet, then by a special offer, then by a new 125-gram packet, deliberately bamboozling the public on unit price.
We should welcome and support Avi Katz’s initiative.