web analytics
October 26, 2014 / 2 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Education The Only Antidote To Israel’s Racial Tensions


Rosen-021712

Over the past several weeks, protests have spread throughout Israel calling for a response to racism targeting the country’s Ethiopian community. Sparked by a Channel 2 story on discrimination in Kiryat Malachi, citizens have taken to the streets to show their outrage at the status quo. Though the despicable slurs and actions that triggered these protests are blatant examples of these grievances, they conceal a deeper issue.

Beyond more overt examples, Ethiopian Israelis frequently have a harder time finding a job. They are perceived as a poor, underprivileged community and face the stigma of lacking the capability to contribute equally, even if this myth is belied by reality.

Perhaps even more difficult is the challenge of looking for housing. Homeowners are less likely to rent or sell to Ethiopians, whether as a result of exaggerated stereotypes or outright racism. While some of this is blatant bigotry, the rest is symptomatic of a deeper and far more widespread prejudice – indirect or concealed racism.

This sentiment is dramatized even in circles that would never admit to harboring prejudice. Well-intentioned statements about constructive activity, such as “I volunteer with Ethiopians” or “I donate to Ethiopians,” cast them on the other side of an imaginary but very real fence.

The primary vehicle to overcoming these obstacles is exposing reality through education, gaining knowledge of the range of personal stories.

The lack of education becomes abundantly clear when we consider the breadth of the average Israeli’s knowledge of the Ethiopian Aliyah consists of an ability to name Operations Moses and Solomon and to recite the lyrics to “Hayareach Mashgiach Me’al“, set to music by Shlomo Gronich. At best, this speaks of a widespread ignorance of the Ethiopian communal experience, and at worst to an active attempt to sideline a narrative that is deemed less important.

How many of us know that more than 4,000 Ethiopian Jews lost their lives on the way to Israel? How many know that nearly every family lost at least one loved one? How many know it was not only the Mossad that worked to save the Ethiopian Jews, but an enormous amount of activism from local members of the Ethiopian Jewish community as well?

Emphasizing these truths is critical to developing a true sense of equality, where the imposed image of the Ethiopian charity case is banished for good.

An even stronger tool than speaking of the wider community, however, is exposing Israeli society to the personal accounts of these same Ethiopian immigrants. Each Ethiopian family has its own story of aliyah, uplifting and inspiring for its own reasons. But hearing these stories and gaining entrance to them is something that takes initiative from the public – to ask, to take interest and to invite speakers to schools and communities.

At the same time, it asks the Ethiopian community to share it experiences, which often are buried deep inside. Yet it is precisely this process of mutual effort that offers the potential to reach the equally powerful goal of mutual respect.

One coordinated effort that strives to create tolerance on the basis of these stories is Project Abrah, which sheds light on the stories of Prisoners of Zion – individuals jailed in Ethiopia or neighboring countries as a result of their Zionist activity. As opposed to similar activists coming from Eastern Europe, these individuals, so influential in the modern Zionist project, have been largely unheralded for their actions.

In Project Abrah, both Israeli Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian youth work together to make films on the little known stories of these remarkable individuals. The films emphasize the struggles, sacrifices and ultimate successes of the Ethiopian aliyah, and those people who were instrumental in its achievements.

For Israeli Ethiopians, it is a way to promote intergenerational dialogue, and to utilize the heroic actions of their own community as a foundation for developing communal pride.

For non-Ethiopians, it is a means to understand the community, break down walls and shatter stigmas.  By listening to the stories of others, they begin to internalize the legacy of this community. This, in turn, impacts their interaction with the wider Ethiopian population, changing a relationship based on distance and preconceptions to one of mutual respect and admiration.

As participant Ettie Shimshilashvili from Beersheba said: “I was amazed to find out that people who I see on the bus, around the neighborhood, buying produce at the local market, and parents of my schoolmates are heroes who are responsible for bringing their fellow Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The project made me feel more comfortable speaking with my Ethiopian schoolmates and helped me understand our community better.”

Education – with emphasis on programs that involve personal stories – is the key to bridging cultural gaps in Israeli society. In this way, someone who began as an “other” becomes “another” – a fellow member of a wonderfully diverse community.

About the Author: Yael Rosen is the coordinator for ATZUM's Project Abrah (www.atzum.org), an oral history film project that bridges the generation gap in Israel’s Ethiopian community and educates the public about the Ethiopian aliyah experience by shedding light on the heroic struggle of Ethiopian Prisoners of Zion.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Education The Only Antidote To Israel’s Racial Tensions”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Terrorists attack Israeli soldiers with a Molotov cocktail in Arab village near Ramallah.
Palestinian Authority-American Shot Dead while Trying to Kill Jews
Latest Indepth Stories
British Flag

{Originally posted on author’s site, Liberty Unyielding} Never let a crisis go to waste. That’s the mantra – and a new development in Britain demonstrates how the Western left lives by it, and contributes thereby to the destruction of Western culture. Alert readers will remember the so-called “Trojan Horse plot” in Birmingham, first reported in […]

quiet

Introverts are more likely to pause, view the world from a distance, and think how to make it better

Lewis-102414-Nachal-Hareidi

I couldn’t see why I was different from Israeli boys my age. I too wanted to defend our country.

Eller-102414-Cart

I had to hire a babysitter so that I could go shopping or have someone come with me to push Caroline in her wheelchair.

Widespread agreement in Israel opposing Palestinian diplomatic warfare, commonly called “lawfare.”

Arab terrorism against Jews and the State of Israel is not something we should be “calm” about.

The Israeli left, led by tenured academics, endorses pretty much anything harmful to its own country

We were devastated: The exploitation of our father’s murder as a vehicle for political commentary.

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Torah scroll which my family donated will ride aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

More Articles from Yael Rosen
Rosen-021712

Over the past several weeks, protests have spread throughout Israel calling for a response to racism targeting the country’s Ethiopian community. Sparked by a Channel 2 story on discrimination in Kiryat Malachi, citizens have taken to the streets to show their outrage at the status quo.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/education-the-only-antidote-to-israels-racial-tensions/2012/02/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: