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July 10, 1987 - Image 29

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-07-10

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Ethiopian Jews in Israel. This protest against authorities expressed dissatisfaction with the "patronizing" attitudes of some Jewish Agency and Absorption Ministry staffers.

pian youth so that they would have the
same opportunities as their Israeli counter-
parts. They could easily find manual jobs,
it was suggested, which was the attitude
adopted in the 1950s in regard to many
'Middle Eastern immigrant youth.
But the department rejected this advice
and embarked on an effort to bring the
Ethiopians up to the level of other Israelis,
learning from experience and revising its
approach as needed. Regarding the out-
come of these efforts, the department
director-general, Eli Amir, commented:
"With all that we are doing, they probably
won't reach the level of Israeli pupils.
Perhaps our expectations are too high. But
lack of expectations is also a problem —
we just can't write them off because of
their background. We have to provide them
with the means to develop their potential."
Amir was an immigrant youth from Iraq
in the early 1950s, and he was one of the
few given a chance to develop his potential.
"I don't want one of the Ethiopians com-
ing to me in another 10 years and saying
that Eli Amir made me a carpenter when
I could have finished high school."
Vocational training for men with families
to support — or for women raising children
without the help of parents or husbands
who died or disappeared on the way to
Israel — is a different story. The first

attempts at vocational training for Ethio-
pian adults with little or no education,
which were carried out by the Agency
Aliya Department, had developed many
problems by the time of Operation Moses.
In addition, many adults did not learn
enough Hebrew in the absorption center
courses to move smoothly into the job
Since then the Absorption Ministry in
cooperation with Amishav — an agency
helping to resettle Ethiopians funded by
the UJA — developed a program for on-
the-job training that seems to show greater
promise. A major pitfall here, however, is
that the training received by many of the
1,500 people in the program does not lead
to a vocational certificate, which limits
their future job mobility.
In the crush of mass immigration in the
1950s it was very difficult to seek out
young people from backward countries
with good educational potential. In addi-
tion, the authorities tended to lump most
immigrants from non-western countries
together and direct them to manual jobs.
With the Ethiopians, however, efforts have
been made to find hundreds of talented
young people and enable them to study in
the university or in training courses for
nursing, community work or other

In their attempts to plan for the absorp-
tion of the Ethiopians, the authorities have
found that not everything can be sorted
out into neat categories. For example, the
authorities have been trying to match
available housing, job opportunities and
appropriate schools when arranging for the
permanent settlement of Ethiopian fam-
ilies. But sometimes two of these needs can
be matched but not the third. And in the
end, a family may decide that they want
to settle in a certain place because it is
warmer there or because a close relative
lives there. "How do you make policy for
these type of situations?" asks one
perplexed official.

Religious Confusion:
Are Their Customs Obsolete?
At first glance, one might think that
with the religious integration of the Ethio-
pians, there would be less of a tendency to
repeat the mistakes of the 1950s. After all,
the Israeli authorities have long given up
the aggressive melting-pot policies of
decades past in which many religious im-
migrants were pressured to give up their
traditions and to adopt a secular way of
life. And apart from some secularized
Ethiopians who had shed their traditions
when they moved away from their villages,
most came to Israel deeply committed to



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