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Ethiopian immigrants in Israel: experience and prospects

Author(s): Steven Kaplan and Hagar Salamon
Date: 20 January 1998

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 In 1977 all but approximately 100 Beta Israel (Falasha) lived in Ethiopia. Today, as a result of immigration and natural growth, only a handful remain in Africa.

Providing educational frameworks for the immigrants has proven to be one of the most complex challenges facing successive Israeli governments. Moreover, age, illness and childcare responsibilities mean that Ethiopians are less likely to be in the labour force than other Israelis. Their demographic profile produces serious economic distress when combined with high unemployment and low wages. A lack of skills means those seeking work are often unsuccessful.

 The Ethiopians' social system and cultural heritage is threatened. Their patterns of family life have been transformed and there have been changes in the social status of both women and children. Simultaneously, their distinctive religious practice, use of Ethiopian languages and oral communal heritage have been seriously weakened in the encounter with Israeli Jewish life. Although instances of institutionalized racism are comparatively few, prejudice and ignorance have had a serious impact on the Ethiopians' full integration.

israel aliyah identity welfare zionism discrimination ethiopianjews