Since the mass migration of Ethiopian Jews, or Beta Israel, to the nation of Israel in the 1980s, racism in Israel has been a pervasive part of life for many of these refugees. Israel was founded upon the old racist practices of European nations against the Jewish peoples. Spain expelled the Jews in the 15th century, Russia issued Pogroms that killed countless Jewish citizens, and Nazi Germany exterminated over six million Jews throughout Europe. The founding of the nation in the 1950s finally gave the Jewish people a homeland where they could escape the persecution that dotted their troubled history.
Ethiopian Jews have not received the same experience as their European Jewish counterparts. The idea is not alien to the Israeli people. The Jerusalem Post released a report where over 95 % of the populace believe at least one population group in Israel is subject to some form of racism. The Ethiopian populace has been the most drastically affected, with over 79% of those surveyed replying “that Ethiopians suffered from racist attitudes.” What exactly is happening to Ethiopian-Israelis?
Jobs discrimination has become a pervasive problem. Unemployment amongst “Ethiopian men in Israel ranges from 27% to 66%.” Jobs are typically not given to Ethiopians, as many employers refuse to give them jobs. This has created a dire situation for the community as whole, with over 72% of the 100,000 Ethiopian residents living “under the poverty line.” The communities where Ethiopians live are also noted for their poor schooling, with illiteracy remaining high amongst the populace.
The Brookdale Institute of the Joint Distribution Committee released damning information about the education system that has failed many Ethiopian youths, detailing that the “school dropout rate among Ethiopian immigrants is double what it is among the general Israeli population.” This lack of educational opportunity has allowed inequalities between Ethiopians and their European Israeli counterparts to continue, and has created an economic gap that may not be easily combated. This is a sad reality, as many of these Ethiopians came to Israel to escape the hardships that plagued Ethiopia in the late 1980s, particularly poverty, famine and a politically unstable society.
Racism in itself has grown out of general unsupported fears about Africans. The Health Ministry in Israel has directives that prevent them from receiving Ethiopian blood donations out of “fear of spreading HIV.” The directive does not just prevent the common Ethiopian populace from donating blood; Knesset, or the Israeli Parliament, Member Pnina Tamano-Shata was barred from donating blood as well. The reason she was given was that she has the “special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood.” It was a stark reminder that Israel does not readily accept Ethiopians, and many of their beliefs about Ethiopians are based on racist ideologies about Africans.
– Joseph Abay