Protests put spotlight on Ethiopian Jews’
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.