Protests put spot­light on Ethiopian Jews’

Lesotho Times - - International -

on noth­ing but skin colour,” said Me­hereta Baruch-ron, a Tel Aviv deputy mayor of Ethiopian de­scent, who added that po­lice did not be­lieve she was a city of­fi­cial and blocked her from join­ing the protest. “We have had enough. It is time to do some­thing.”

Job Goshen, an Ethiopian Is­raeli so­cial worker who works as a job coun­sel­lor, said the prob­lems stem from decades of well-in­ten­tioned but flawed poli­cies.

He said that while the gov­ern­ment en­cour­ages Ethiopi­ans to en­ter the labour force, it also im­poses un­nec­es­sary job re­quire­ments that make it dif­fi­cult for them to get hired. He said a truck driver’s li­cense, for in­stance, re­quires a com­put­erised “the­ory” test that poorly ed­u­cated Ethiopi­ans strug­gle to pass.

“Most of the older Ethiopi­ans don’t have the ed­u­ca­tion. But they have other abil­i­ties that are not taken into ac­count,” he said. “As a re­sult, they are stuck in the same jobs — ser­vices, se­cu­rity, clean­ing — and they don’t get ahead.”

Younger Ethiopi­ans are bet­ter equipped for the work world, he said, but also face their own unique chal­lenges, es­pe­cially af­ter com­plet­ing com­pul­sory mil­i­tary ser­vice.

Un­like their other Jewish coun­ter­parts, Ethiopi­ans do not have par­ents and sib­lings who can steer them to­ward uni­ver­sity stud­ies or good jobs af­ter leav­ing the army. Many come from large or bro­ken homes and must sup­port their par­ents or younger sib­lings. Mr Goshen said that while he has not ex­pe­ri­enced overt racism, his friends, rel­a­tives and clients all have.

Fix­ing th­ese prob­lems will be a long process that will re­quire the gov­ern­ment and the com­mu­nity to work to­gether.

“It has to come from both sides,” he said. “The gov­ern­ment can’t im­pose a so­lu­tion. It has to con­sult with us.”

Shlomo Molla, a for­mer law­maker of Ethiopian ori­gin, said hope for change lies with the gen­er­a­tion born in Is­rael and less in­tim­i­dated by the estab­lish­ment.

“I call upon th­ese young peo­ple to con­tinue res­o­lutely, so that per­haps they might suc­ceed where my gen­er­a­tion failed,” he wrote in the Maariv daily. “The next stage of this battle should be civil dis­obe­di­ence. We should stop en­list­ing in the army, not join the po­lice, and stop pay­ing taxes, be­cause if the state doesn’t take its cit­i­zens into ac­count, the cit­i­zens are also per­mit­ted not to take the state into ac­count.”

Stephane Du­jar­ric, the spokesman for the U.N. sec­re­tary-gen­eral, told re­porters Mon­day that “the fight ver­sus racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion is a uni­ver­sal one. Ob­vi­ously, peo­ple have a right to demon­strate peace­fully, and we en­cour­age the Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties to deal with the is­sues.”

The images of black Is­raelis clash­ing with po­lice have drawn com­par­isons to the un­rest in the U.S. fol­low­ing deadly al­ter­ca­tions be­tween po­lice and black men or boys.

But Fen­tahun Assefa-dawit, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the ad­vo­cacy group Te­beka, said there were few similarities. He said Ethiopian-is­raelis have a dif­fer­ent set of is­sues re­lated to in­te­gra­tion into Is­rael’s mod­ern, fast-paced so­ci­ety — as op­posed to main­tain­ing a dis­tinct sub­cul­ture.

He called on Ne­tanyahu to make Ethiopian ab­sorp­tion a keystone of his new ad­min­is­tra­tion, which is ex­pected to take of­fice in the com­ing days.

“Be­fore it is too late, we call on the prime min­is­ter to take the mat­ter into his own hands,” he said. “In four years, I would want to see this prime min­is­ter say ‘I’m glad I did’ in­stead of ‘I wish I had.’“— AP

Jewish ethiopi­ans retreat af­ter clash­ing with is­raeli riot po­lice on sun­day dur­ing a protest against racism and po­lice bru­tal­ity in Tel Aviv, is­rael.

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