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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Ethiopians’

Israeli-Ethiopian Youth Celebrate Their Heritage

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

The Malkat Shva Ethiopian Cultural Center was established in order to create an environment where young Ethiopian Israelis will be able to explore their culture via dance, music, and theater. According to Tracey Shipley, project coordinator at the Malkat Shva Ethiopian Cultural Center,

I created the project as a way in which to excite Ethiopian Israeli teens and children about their heritage, helping them to feel a sense of pride over who they are as Ethiopian Israelis. I also hoped that through their performances they can show Native Israelis the beauty of their culture and what they ‘bring to the table’ as immigrants to Israel.

Discussing the participants who come to the program, Shipley said,

They learn how to dance, play instruments and act in a way that reflects their heritage and culture. They learn to love their culture and to appreciate it and are full of pride when performing it to excited audiences who have never encountered their culture. One Ethiopian Israeli teen while watching his friends perform through Malkat Shva told me he never realized how beautiful his culture truly was. Through the songs they sing and the theater in particular they express their personal experiences as Ethiopian Jews in Israel and bring their narrative to others in a creative way.

Photo credit: The Malkat Shva Ethiopian Cultural Center.

The  Center has recently expanded their activities for youngsters. Presently, over 100 young Ethiopian Israelis living in two different neighborhoods in Jerusalem are active in the program. Yet, the Malkat Shva Ethiopian Cultural Center hopes to expand their activities even further. Shipley reported,

We are teaching traditional Ethiopian dance, musical instruments and theater in Amharit. This summer we will also be teaching traditional fine arts and singing to young Ethiopian Israeli children at a summer camp, God willing, if we raise the funds needed.

The Malkat Shva Ethiopian Cultural Center was launched in collaboration with Kidum Noar, the Jerusalem municipal organization concerned with at-risk youth, and the Theater division of the Jerusalem Arts Department.

TESTIMONIALS FROM YOUNG ETHIOPIAN ISRAELIS

Photo credit: The Malkat Shva Ethiopian Cultural Center.

Ethiopian youngsters have reacted positively to their experience performing with Malkat Shva Ethiopian Cultural Center, which now plays a central role in their lives.

Raphael Gasasa a participant in the program shared,

I am 18 years old. I left Ethiopia at the age of 8. I was born in the village called Tsikot and moved to the city of Addis Ababa at the age of 3. We all moved besides my father who refused to leave Ethiopia. I have been participating in the Malkat Shva program for Ethiopian culture for 3 years. The program helped me to increase my self esteem and gave me pride as an Ethiopian living in Israel. I am no longer shy to get on stage and learned how to bring aspects of myself to audiences through drama, dance and music.

Yitzchak Damesia another attendee said,

I left Ethiopia for Israel at the age of two, and I’ve been living in Jerusalem ever since. I started acting at the age of 10 (my mom claims that I started a lot earlier) mostly in school and community plays, and my dream was to be a professional actor. I got a step closer when I joined the Malkat Shva Center and learned theater from a real actor (Beyene Getahun -future colleague). More importantly then that I got to see other sides of my culture which I seemed to forget, through Ethiopian dancing and singing and for that I’m grateful.

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Report: Coerced Contraception of Ethiopian Olim (Video)

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Israeli and Jewish aid officials are denying an Israeli TV report alleging that Ethiopian immigrant women have been coerced into taking contraceptive shots.

The report, which aired Saturday night on Israeli Educational Television, charged that coercive contraception is behind a 50 percent decline in the Ethiopian birth rate in Israel over the last decade.

Ethiopian women interviewed in the program, called “Vacuum” and hosted by Gal Gabbai, said they were coerced into receiving injections of Depo-Provera, a long-acting birth control drug, both at Jewish-run health clinics in Ethiopia and after their move to Israel.

Rachel Mangoli, executive director of the WIZO chapter in Katz Village, told the TV show that she realized something was amiss when during a full year in her Ethiopian program just one Ethiopian baby was born.

“I went to the health clinic and I was told that Ethiopian immigrants were given the contraception because they couldn’t be relied upon to take the pills every day,” Mangoli said.

In the report, a woman identified as S. said she was told at the Jewish aid compound in Gondar, Ethiopia, “If you don’t get the shot, we won’t give you a ticket.”

She recalled, “I didn’t want to take it. They wanted me to take it. But I didn’t know it was a contraceptive,” she said. “I thought it was an immunization.”

Another Ethiopian interviewed for the program, Amawaish Alane, said, “We said we won’t accept the shot. They told us, ‘You won’t immigrate to Israel. You also won’t come into this clinic. You won’t get help and medical treatment.’ ”

“We had no choice,” Alane said. “That’s why we took the shot. We could only get out with their permission.”

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which runs the health clinics in Ethiopia for prospective immigrants to Israel, says it offers contraception among its array of services but that it is purely voluntary.

“At no time did JDC coerce anyone into engaging at family planning at its clinics. Those options were totally voluntary and offered to women who requested it,” a JDC spokesman in New York said. “They chose the form of contraceptive based on being fully informed of all the options available to them.”

Dr. Rick Hodes, the medical director of JDC’s operations in Ethiopia, said injectable contraceptives are the option of choice in Ethiopia. “They are easy, culturally preferred, and offer the ability to be on birth control without a woman informing her husband, which is an issue here,” Hodes told JTA. “Our clinic offers both birth control pills and injectable contraception. If a woman prefers another method of contraception, such as implantable or tubal ligation, we send them to facilities down the road in the city of Gondar for this.”

The TV program alleged that coercive contraceptive tactics continued once the Ethiopians immigrated to Israel, where health clinics have been administering the contraceptive shots. The shots, which must be taken every three months, normally are given to women who cannot be relied upon to take daily pills, such as the mentally ill, according to health experts cited in the program.

The TV show sent a hidden camera into an Israeli health clinic, where an employee told the undercover reporter that Ethiopian women are given the contraceptive shots “because they forget,” “explanations are difficult for them,” and “they essentially don’t understand anything.”

The Israeli Health Ministry has denied any systematic suppression of Ethiopian pregnancy or coerced contraception.

Education The Only Antidote To Israel’s Racial Tensions

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

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.

71 Olim From Ethiopia Land in Israel

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

71 Ethiopians made Aliyah on Thursday, accompanied by leaders from the Jewish Federations of North America.

Upon their arrival, the new immigrants were taken to an absorption center in Kiryat Gat where they will live while integrating into Israel.

Decades After Immigrating, Ethiopians Decry Continuing Discrimination

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Thousands marched through Jerusalem on Wednesday to protest discrimination against Ethiopian immigrants, concluding a week of protests sparked by revelations that residents of Kiryat Malachi were refusing to sell or rent apartments to Ethiopian citizens.

Joined by white Israelis and representatives of several rights organizations, the crowds of mostly younger Ethiopian immigrants and children of immigrants marched to the gate of the Knesset, where so many go to air their grievances. Carrying signs calling for an end to discrimination, they decried the social and economic hardships that continue to plague the Ethiopian community, even two decades after their stunning rescue and relocation to Israel. Large sections of the 120,000-strong Ethiopian community lag behind the national average in education and employment, and domestic abuse cases – including dozens of incidents of husbands murdering their wives – have plagued the community.

Successive governments have devoted large sums to housing benefits and a range of other social welfare benefits for Ethiopian immigrants, but advocates say even more is needed for a community that has experienced such a deep culture shock in moving from rural Africa to modern Israel.

Many openly suggest that both the public and private sectors would do more to help the immigrants if they were white, claiming prejudices against the Ethiopians’ skin color and widespread suspicion of the authenticity of the their Jewishness prevent progress.

Thousands of the immigrants were made to undergo a conversion process, to remove such doubts. But religious and racial tensions remain, contributing to the community’s difficulties in integrating with the rest of Israeli society.

Immigrant Absorption Minister: ‘Ethiopian Immigrants Should Be Grateful To Israel’

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Immigrant Absorption Minister and Yisrael Beitenu MK Sofa Landver said on Wednesday that Ethiopian immigration representatives in the Knesset should be grateful to Israel.

Landver made the comments during an emergency session held by the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs to investigate the issue of discrimination against Ethiopians in Kiryat Malachi. She was responding to an Ethiopian representative, Gadi Desta, who told the MKs that “apartheid” was taking place.

The emergency session was convened against the backdrop of a news report that local homeowners’ committees in Kiryat Malachi consistently refuse to sell or rent property to Ethiopians.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/immigrant-absorption-minister-ethiopian-immigrants-should-be-grateful-to-state/2012/01/11/

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