Propaganda vs. Reality: Ethiopian-Israelis Get The Short End Of The Stick

Two Ethiopian-Israelis spoke at Queens College last week, discussing issues of race and discrimination in Israel.

Jewish students at Queens College learned yesterday that Ethiopian Jews living in Israel are not much different from themselves – other than the color of their skin.
Law students Aviva Cohen and Nevo Vandimo, along with lawyer Abaynesh Tessema, spoke with Queens students yesterday as part of a U.S. tour in celebration of Black History Month.
The three Israeli-Ethiopians spoke during an hour-long meeting with nearly 100 students at the Queens College Hillel, or Jewish students’ club.
Their audience was fascinated to learn that black Jews interacted easily with white Jews in Israel, and asked a flurry of questions, mostly on perspectives of race.
“In Israel, race is not the issue, but you do have discrimination on the basis of political power and economic power,” said Tessema, 24, who migrated with her family to Israel in 1990 and who practices civil and family law in Jerusalem.

But today’s Reuters tells a very different story.

Some 60 percent [of Ethiopians] are considered to be living in poverty compared to 20 percent of the general population, according to figures from Meyers-JDC-Brookdale, a prominent Israeli social research institute.
[…] As Ethiopians came with little more than the clothes on their backs and could neither read nor write any language, their difficulty adapting was hardly a surprise.
But Ethiopian immigrant leaders express disappointment that many of their Israeli-born children with fluent Hebrew have fared no better and complain that the real problem is discrimination by white Israelis.
“These aren’t isolated incidents, it’s pure discrimination,” said Batia Eyob, director of an immigrant advocacy group that has documented a rise in anti-Ethiopian behaviour in the past five years.
Ethiopians complain of problems finding employers to hire them, but say the discrimination starts at school.
igures show a dropout rate among Ethiopians of 23 percent by the age of 17 compared to 15 percent for other Israelis. Ethiopian youngsters say they find themselves the butt of racial slurs from some teachers as well as pupils.
Asher Balata, 18, said he hit his school principal “because he called me a nigger” and ended up expelled just months before high school graduation.

Full story.

25 thoughts on “Propaganda vs. Reality: Ethiopian-Israelis Get The Short End Of The Stick

  1. This is sort of facile reasoning. The Falashas came in during the early 90s, and this second generation is coming of age during the worst economic period in the last couple of decades… like any other immigrant group, they’e getting the short end of the stick. I’d make the argument regarding race if the numbers were compared to, say… Russian immigrants, and the percentages didn’t bare out.

  2. “figures show a dropout rate among Ethiopians of 23 percent by the age of 17 compared to 15 percent for other Israelis.”
    An 8% drop out difference is just about the same black/white dropout gap that exists in america. And israel is only about half a century old.
    Even up to the 1970s the US had a dropout rate gap that exceeded 20%.
    The same is true with poverty. In both U.S. and israel, 3 times as many black live in poverty than do whites. (similar gaps exist in almost all developed countries of the world. Its almost redundant to point out that such gaps also exist in israel.
    I could suggest another possible explanation, other than discrimination, why this gap is almost identical throughout the world. However, Lawrence summers has already proved that this would not be a wise choice.

  3. If there’s no racism in Israel, why did it seem so much easier for 300,000 Russian Christians to immigrate to Israel, yet a few thousand Falash Mura have had such a hard time? And for that matter, why are fewer questions asked about the Russians than the Bene Menashe from the Burmese-Indian border, the “lost tribe” who take their Jewishness more seriously than most Ashkenazim?

  4. xisnotx – what the fucka re you talking about? The Israelis brought the Falushas in. And the Russians emmigrated en masse for economic reasons – it wasn’t any easier for them to get in than anyone else.
    And Israelis are racist as hell – I wouldn’t argue otherwise. The whole Middle East is racist as shit. But the numbers don’t impress me because there’s no relative comparison: they basically show an acute example (the Ethiopians) and the entire rest of the country, without any comparative immigrant acclimative data. So it’s not that useful to me.
    But sure. ISRAEL HATES BLACK PEOPLE. So much in fact, that it imported them.

  5. uh. comparing any country’s racial history to that of the U.S. is gonna make the other country look good by comparison. unless that country is south africa. and even then… over two hundred years of slavery, followed by a hundred years of jim crow, followed by tacit and covert discrimination. sure, let’s compare israel to that and then say how great it’s doing. what moral standards.

  6. The fact that people tend to focus more upon Ethiopian Jews’ difficulties acclamating to Israeli society rather than their really incredible triumphs is troubling. I tend to think I witness far more discriminatory behavior towards Jews (or non-Jews) from Russia living in Israel than any Ethiopians. This is the sort of issue that liberal American Jews will overlook because the black/white issue is wholly relatable to their own lives as Jews-turned White Americans…
    It seems to me that to say that racism against Ethiopians is a problem further clouds the fact that their integration, both linguistically, culturally, and religiously – into Israeli society is absolutely amazing.

  7. I completley agree with Eli. It’s kind of an American conceit that everything very eassily breakss down into issues of ‘race.’ Which again, is not to portray Israel as some sort of post-ethnic happyland; but I think the issues arre quite different.

  8. Black Jews? I never heard of such nonsense. Just the idea makes me laugh. Everyone knows that almost all Jews are Yeedishehs. You know, the ones who eat pickled herring and gefilte fish, who look like Woody Allen and Alan Dershowitz, whose grandparents came from Russia and Poland, where 99.999999% of all Jews came from.

  9. Ach Moishelle. You are confusing “all Jews” with “the Jewschool blogging team”. Careful to look!

  10. Comparing drop out rates to the general population is unfair given where the Falashas came from and how far they’ve travelled. Look at the rates for new immigrants from lesser developped countries and you’ll see that the Falashah experience is not much different than that of other new immigrants from say North Africa. Russian immigrants came into Israel already educated and well versed in the ways of the West. That makes integration less difficult.
    As far as Israel goes, Ethiopian Jews are just no longer a novelty. You see them everywhere and they seem like they are integrating nicely. Obviously there are issues, but its not quite as awful or even dramatic as has been suggested.

  11. You can’t compare black/white racism in the US to Israel. The situations are just way too different. I am fairly curious about these numbers regarding poverty and education though. Being recent immigrants is a factor, but more statistical stuff is needed to make a judgment.
    I am NOT saying racism doesn’t exist in Israel against the Ethiopian Jews; I’m just waiting to see what more trends there are statistically (ie employment, etc).

  12. Is there any validity to the idea that Talmud is not recognized by Ethiopeans because they actually separated before it was developed, and that therefore there are issues between Orthodox Ashkenazim for whom Talmud is everything and these others? And why is there no relation to Sephardim-Ashkenazim relations, which would seem a slightly more natural comparison than the USA? Haaretz had a piece a while ago on yekkes (that is, of German descent) who don’t (*err, won’t) speak Hebrew, they insist on Yiddish.

  13. I’ll bet it is the Soviet Jews that are the biggest discriminators against the black Jews. The very idea of Jews discriminating against other Jews because of color makes me want to cry. This is disgusting. Someone should push for stronger hate legislation in Israel. Jews Unite!

  14. Re: TNWAS — Ethiopian Jews, at least now, certainly do accept the Talmud, albeit with some reservations similar to those of the Yemenites as their history of interaction with broader Jewish communities has been very limited. This shouldn’t be an issue in any case; the Karaites are a Jewish sect which disputes the validity of Talmud and the Law of Return continues to apply to them, although they go so far as to forbid intermarriage with ‘Rabbinic’ Jews.

  15. The situation of Ethiopian Jews in Israel is both a triumph and a disappointment. The two stories are not contradictory, and it is inappropriate to label the first one as “propaganda.”
    Can Israel do better with respect to the Ethiopian community? Of course it can. Does that change the fact that it has been a success story? Of course not.

  16. The Yekkes in Israel – those who are still alive (because yekkishness didn’t usually last more than a generation in Erets Yisroel) – largely did NOT refuse to speak Hebrew, and they definitely did not speak YIDDISH…maybe German (Hochdeutsch!) but a real yekke would rather speak Hebrew than Yiddish.

  17. Israel, like any modern society, surely does have racism, but it would seem to be fairly pervasive in the culture. Just be a blond Jew. A black Jew. A Jew with decidely “non-Jewish” names (both first and last names for the best biggot-results in Israeli’s beaucracy). A Russian Jew (and blond — for an added bonus of discrimination).
    The list goes on.
    Increasingly, for Jews and Israeli Jews alike, we’re victims of our (now) self-imposed ghettos of this or that homogenous trait.
    It’s an easy, peaceful and non-challenging way to live, but is ultimately divisive to the community (note singular) and corrosive to some fairly core ideals to the whole idea behind modern “Israel”.
    [email protected]

  18. Wow, I can’t believe I’m reading such statements as Moishelle’s, who said:
    >>>>>”Black Jews? I never heard of such nonsense. Just the idea makes me laugh. Everyone knows that almost all Jews are Yeedishehs.”
    I had hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and homosexuals in my shul as a child. They were all accepted as equals because Judaism is not a race, it is a religion and a culture. Comments like Moishelle’s encourage ashkenazi Jews to feel and act superior to other Jews. This is a divisive way of looking at our people that promotes xenophobic elitism.
    Please respect our Ethiopian brothers in the future dear Moishele and recognize that we were all created in the image of HaShem.

  19. “Comments like Moishelle’s encourage ashkenazi Jews to feel and act superior to other Jews. This is a divisive way of looking at our people that promotes xenophobic elitism.”
    What superior? It’s just a statement of how things really are, that’s all.
    Listen, did anyone ever really believe for one minute that Sammy Davis Jr. could ever really be Jewish?
    Could anyone in their right mind ever doubt for even one minute that George’s mother on Seinfeld was not Jewish?
    Yeah, yeah, yeah…”Judaism is not a race.” Blah blah blah. You can say whatever you want, but everyone knows that it is a race and it does not include shfotzehs or goyim. It includes only white, gefilte fish eating yeedishehs whose grandparents came from the shtetlach of eastern europe. This includes: Woody Allen, Alan Dershowitz, Kyle’s mom on South Park, George’s mother on Seinfeld, Barbra Streisand, and many, many others (but sorry, no shfotzehs).

  20. Sarcasm? Was it sarcasm when the Israeli rabbinate, upon seeing the first Ethiopian shfotzehs to arrive in Israel, clutched their long white beards in shock, horror and amazement, as they issued the following proclamation (and I quote):
    “Vott’s dis? Shfotzehs claiming to be Jews? Vee nevah hoyd uh dis befaw. Vee-uh not used tuh dis sawt uh ting. Vee-uh only used tuh white Jews, you know, from Russia and Poland. But listen, if deez shfotzehs vonna be considered Jews, foyst day gotta go true de mikvah, so dat day can be cleansed.”
    There must have been some good reason why no other group to immigrate to Israel has been subject to such a requirement.

  21. it’s Rooselin and Poilin, moishelleh. and I think the mikvah had something to do with the fact that they hadn’t gotten their copies of the Talmud, explaining the conventions on conversion, marriage, divorce…etc. established and accepted by the rest of the Jewish collective.

  22. I personally am saddened when we, as Jews, divide ourselves like the rest of the world into castes of races and national origin. We, as Jews, all have the same DNA. That, DNA, defines and determines one’s race, not the streets of Addis Adaba or the ghettoes of Warsaw. We all are descendants of Isaac, and are all one people, the Jewish people. Why can we not gather together under the name of our patriarch, Israel, and leave the racial issues to the rest of the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.