The Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel
The Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel

Mass protests by members of Israel’s Ethiopian community raged on for hours into the night simultaneously in locations throughout Israel on Tuesday evening, following the funeral of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah, who was shot dead by an off-duty policeman in a Haifa suburb on Sunday.

Many major roads and highways were blocked as protesters took to the streets in the north, south and center of the country. Police used crowd dispersal methods in many of the demonstrations that turned violent. Some 50,000 people were stuck in traffic across Israel due to the protests.

This day of rage and violent demonstrations by the Ethiopian community in Israel, might result in the fact that we could easily forget that never in human history has there been a similar act of benevolence towards a whole community by a developed nation. Since the 1980’s, despite the immense dangers, the religious obstacles, the logistical impossibilities, the cultural barriers; Israel has brought tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews from one of the most underdeveloped countries on the globe to the shores of the Promised Land.

These seemingly distant strangers in every way, different even in the color of their skin, have over the past 30 plus years been brought to Israel, not to be forced into servitude as in other periods of human history when blacks where shipped to faraway lands only to become slaves. In fact, there are no other examples of similar acts of kindness in human history that can compare to what Israel has done for the far away Jews of Ethiopia by bringing them, over 130,000 in number today, back to their ancestral homeland, Israel.

Yet, over the past 48 hours, much of the world’s attention on Israel has focused on the demonstrations held by a relatively small group of Ethiopian Jews living in Israel. The reporting by the international media, abetted by local left wing activists, has resulted in the following narrative being portrayed as a factual backdrop to these events:

“Longstanding Israeli policy is notoriously racist – worse than South African apartheid according to observers familiar with both systems. Palestinians face ruthless persecution in a nation affording rights to privileged Jews alone. They have virtually none whatever. Ethiopian Jews fare no better – unwanted because they’re black. Citizenship doesn’t matter. Persecuting them is standard Israeli practice.”

This unholy alliance of some of the Ethiopian community leaders and left wing radicals threatens to undermine the notable progress that the Ethiopian community has made over the past 30 plus years, successfully integrating into Israeli society.

Over this period, Israeli governments, the Jewish Agency, the Federation system, and many tens of NGO’s have funded hundreds of programs for every age group within the Ethiopian Jewish community with only one goal, making their integration into Israeli society accessible and possible. Despite the gaps in education, technology, culture, and vocational skills only a generation ago, their integration into Israeli society is in actuality a real success story. The messages and prepared statements that are conveyed by many of these self-appointed Ethiopian community leaders are nothing more than a conglomeration of anti-white racism and the anti-Zionist ideology of left wing organizations that promote the de-legitimation of the State of Israel.

The defamation of the State of Israel and Israeli society cannot be based on random examples of discrimination and prejudice against Ethiopian Israelis. There is no institutionalized discrimination and racism in Israel, and claiming so is not only a moral disgrace but intellectually dishonest.

In fact, it was just over 50 years ago, to the embarrassment of American society, that Blacks could not sit freely in a public bus in the south. Blacks were prevented from entering restaurants and cafes, and segregated to live beyond the railroad tracks. Public schools and Universities prohibited black enrollment until integration was forced upon thousands of American communities by the Supreme Court.

So for those of you who don’t know, this is racism, this is discrimination, and none of this exists even remotely in Israel. Yet these self-appointed Ethiopian community leaders have wholly embraced the ideology of victimhood. If an Ethiopian husband murders his Ethiopian wife, a not uncommon tragedy in Ethiopia and in their first years in Israel, who’s to blame? It must be their white social workers who evidently were not empathetic enough. Too many Ethiopian children fail to perform well on standardized national tests? This couldn’t be because their parents or communities are unable to assist them. It must be because white racists have designed the tests to be culturally biased. Of course these claims blaming Israeli society are politically biased narratives simply made up to serve the overall accusations that defame the State of Israel.

Turning to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics in 2011/12 and in the transition to 2012/13, we can select a few examples of the real and complex reality that portrays the Ethiopian community in Israel.

The percentage of pupils of Ethiopian origin who dropped out was slightly lower than that of the general population of pupils in Hebrew education: Approximately 1.6% of approximately 35,000 pupils of Ethiopian origin who began to study in grades 1-12 in schools under Ministry of Education supervision in the school year of 2011/12 dropped out during that year or in transition to 2012/13, compared with 1.88% among the general Hebrew education.

The percentage of women among students of Ethiopian origin who are studying for a first degree was higher than the percentage of women among the general population of students for a first degree – 66.8% versus 56.5%, respectively.

The average monthly household expenditure in households of Ethiopian origin was NIS 9,539 compared with NIS 14,272 among the general population households.

As for the I.D.F.; 90% of Ethiopian-Israeli combat soldiers complete their service, as opposed to 70% of other combat soldiers. 30% of Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers serve in combat positions, and are likely to complete their full military service 

So, despite the orchestrated and unsuccessful attempts over the past 48 hours to portray Israel as a racist nation, Israel remains true to the noble efforts that brought the whole Ethiopian Jewish community to Israel and to the immense efforts to assist this very special community. Israel brought these good people, out of a genuine desire to enable our Jewish brothers and sisters of Ethiopia to return to their homeland and rejoin the Jewish nation in Zion. As always, this union is not always completely smooth and harmonious.

We must continue and fight against the phenomena of discrimination and prejudice, yet reject the false and vicious slandering of the State of Israel by self-appointed Ethiopian community leaders aided and abetted and, of course, funded by left wing radical organizations and ideologies who have no desire to encourage the momentous efforts by Israeli society to fully integrate the Ethiopian community in all of its complexities, but instead use the Ethiopian community to defame the State of Israel.  

The writer, a 25-year veteran of the I.D.F Medical Corp., served as a field mental health officer. Prior to retiring in 2005, served as the Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Community Resilience programs to communities in the North and South of Israel. Is a former strategic advisor on Public Diplomacy for the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria.

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