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June 05, 1992 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-06-05

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On Their Own

Continued from preceding page




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FRIDAY, JUNE 5, 1992

tween the Jewish Agency's
initial lump sum grants and
year-long subsistence pay-
ments, and the National In-
surance Institute's (Israel's
Social Security) child allow-
ances, Ethiopian families
have enough to live mod-
estly. At Magalim, most
have new TVs, and many
also have new VCRs and
washing machines. After the
Agency's aid runs out, those
without jobs will get wel-
fare, and live poorly.
The government is offer-
ing them new apartments
for an average of $100 a
month. The American Asso-
ciation for Ethiopian Jewry
will provide the down pay-
ments, with 98 percent mort-
gages, most of which becomes
a grant.
Mr. Mograbi urged the
Ethiopians to buy now.
"Use this opportunity be-
fore the elections (June 23). I
don't know what's going to
happen afterward, whether
the terms will change or the
mortgages will be canceled."

Mr. Mograbi told the im-
migrants the mortgage
payments could be taken out
of their National Insurance
Institute aid, the amount of
which depends on the num-
ber of their children. Pri-
vately he said, "Those who
have a large number of chil-
dren will buy, those with few
children will be stuck here."
About one-third of the
Operation Solomon im-
migrants would love to be
stuck in the caravan parks;
they are currently stuck in
cheap-to-middling hotels,
also paid for by the Jewish
Agency, and are waiting to
move into the Magalims of

Moshe Batar, Negev coor-
dinator for the United Ethi-
opian Jewish Organization,
said, "If the Ethiopians re-
main in the caravan parks
for long, it will turn into a
tragedy for generations."
Avi Bitow, the organiza-
tion's national coordinator,
has been even more blunt,
saying that if the Ethiopians
are left to waste away on
welfare in these parks, they
will turn into the "Sowetos
of Israel."
There are another 1,000 or
so known Jews of Ethiopia
still in that country, most of
them waiting in Addis
Ababa to be flown to Israel.
They should be here within
about two months, said
Yossi Shturm, spokesman
for the Jewish Agency's
Immigration and Absorp-
tion Department. But the
Jews of Operation Solomon
have another 100-500 im-
mediate family members in

Ethiopia who are converts
to Christianity, and the gov-
ernment has not decided
whether to bring them here
or not.
The absence of these fami-
ly members, Jewish and
Christian, weighs heavily on
some of the people of
Magalim. Berijun Owagene
has his wife and seven chil-
dren with him, and 17
brothers and sisters
throughout Israel. His fa-
ther, though, is left in Addis
Ababa. He says it's because
his father converted. "I
can't study, I can't work, I
can't think about anything
but him," Owagene said.
The men speak of their
disappointment. "Our ex-
pectations were very high,"
said Almayo Kalu, 40, a fa-
ther of three. "We didn't

"I was a
teacher for 12
years. I was
promised a job and
salary here, and an
apartment, and
now I've got
nothing. I can
barely feed my

Almayo Kalu - -

think we'd get caught with
so many problems — the
language, which is very hard
to learn, and work, which is
hard to find. We have to
thank the government, and
the Jewish Agency for their
help, but there are a lot of
problems. I was a mathe-
matics teacher for 12 years,
and I taught at the Israeli
compound in Addis. I was
promised a job and salary
here, and an apartment, and
now I've got nothing. I can
barely feed my family."
They say they want to
work, and want to make a go
of it as Israelis, but ac-
knowledge their nearly ab-
ject dependence. Out of per-
haps a dozen Ethiopians I
talked to, only Sisae Mar-
cus, 37, a father of two and a
former truck driver, could
express himself in Hebrew.
His eloquence was startling.
"We came to Israel a year
ago, and now we can speak a
little, we can write a little.
But we have a lot more to
learn. Like parents have to
take care of their children,
all Jews have to take care of
our problems. It's hard for
us to make it without help.
We don't know the language
well enough. There's hardly
any work. I don't think I'll
be able to find a job. We're
like infants here." 0


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