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« Holy Warriors | Main | Paula Slier: ‘You Have Shamed Me SABJD’ »

August 22, 2007




Nice piece.

A few comments. Your final point re: single state - even mentioning the idea is giving legitimacy to such an anarcist idea.

The story of the Ethiopian Jew, to me, illustrates perfectly the need for bleeding heart liberals to be modulated by heartless conservatives - and for the latter to be 'humanised' by the former. The Ethiopians are our brothers and were suffering - they needed to be brought home. But bringing such a large population of relativley under-educated people was bound to create social disruptions, both to them and the communities they live in.

When faced with such dilemas it is important to not be overrun by emotions and run head-on into a dangerous future. On the other hand it is perhaps even more vital that technical considerations do not stop one form doing the right thing.

The Ethiopian population is an inspiration and have seen more than their fair share of difficulties. Whilst they were given tremendous support both socially and financially, such support is far less than a stable family environment and strong education background gives. Consequently Ethiopian communities are often far poorer than those of more established Israeli, or western oleh communities. They are improving but full recovery will probably take a generation.

Israel has shown tremendous balance of character in moth going to fetch our brothers, regardless of the complications, whilst at the same time focusing on solutions to these problems.


Nice comment Brett. I take your point.

The social challenges both internal and external are heart breaking.

In Ethiopia the father of the household is a powerful man but in Israel he loses his power. He sees his wife working often bringing home more money than he does. He struggles to pick up Hebrew and needs his young kids to help him go to the bank and do the groceries because the kids pick it up quickly. The kids then think that they are the powerful ones and lose respect for the father.

This is a point that was stressed at the absorption centre in Lod - that they try to press the point to the kids that their parents will still be their 'bosses' no matter what.

The Blacklisted Dictator

Loved the photos of the kids. Did you take them? If so, please add some


I was pondering that perhaps there's a general lack of cultural tolerance, in particular amongst some Israeli social workers and other professionals involved in the absorbtion process, that leads to turmoil in the ethiopian social fabric. Indeed it is my impression that in some sense "Israel" has similar ideas of pluralism and cultural tolerance as Europe which is unlike that taught in SA.

In SA we're accustomed to dealing with, and sensitivity towards, social structures and values completely unlike our own, and in particular "tribal african" cultures. Many of these important values and structures are placed under pressure in "modern" Israel, and the impact of the absorbtion process and social workers (as an example) is often negative.

It's also very sad that, much like large parts of the yemenite community were, the ethiopians are expected to join the melting pot and "become" Israeli, thus losing their particular cultural, (and religious) heritage. I think that a similar trend is evident in Sephardic Jewry trending towards certain ashkenazi practices.

In my opinion, it's a result of a subtle form of bigotry exhibited by many sectors who feel they have a monopoly on truth - and it's a disgrace.


Hillel, now you have really opened up a can of worms... It goes to the heart of the Labour Zionist project. the point was to destroy the Diaspora Jew and replace him with a Israeli Zionist. In order to achieve social cohesion difference was not tolerated.


Great point. And great response from Mike.

The absorption center actually also stressed Hillel's point to us in that they now try to help the Ethiopians retain their Ethiopian traditions. It's easier now though because they have experienced absorbed Ethiopian Olim, fluent in Amharic who help.


Hillel, you touched on a very topical point - What is an Israeli.

This country was built initially by a majority Sphardi and in particular Moroccan population with an Ashkenazi 'elite'. It bread a specific type of person, in personality, tradition and perhaps even appearance. This collection of traits has come to be known as the typical Israeli. But this is changing. The aliyah of the past 20 years has been radically different to that of the previous 50. Instead of Sphardi Moroccans, Persians and Iraqis there were Europians, Americans, South Africans and oh, about 1 million Russians. To this add the Ethiopians and a bunch of South Americans and the globe is concentrated in a land mass the size of the Kruger. The painfully ignorant American in Rechavia or snobby Frenchman in Baka, will soon be no longer the minority and I don't believe the dark guy named Tzachi, wearing a white vest and selling falafel, still has the monopoly on the term 'Israeli'.

I hate to us the melting pot cliche but Israel is exactly that and Ethiopian culture has as much legitimacy as part of Israel as any Morrocan, Lithuanian or (I hate to admit it) French community can claim.

And before some happy-clapper liberal nerd decides to lambaste my xenophobia in this post - I was cynicism, relax.


I think my concern is a little more for the traditions, הלכה (halacha) and (mesora) מסורה than it is for the "culture" per se.

While Israel doesn't need foreign nations cultures, as you rightly point out there's no reason for Moroccan, French or American culture to have any legitimacy in Israel, the traditions of those particular Jewish communities are being lossed and that's the shame.

Brett, in your post you might want to not have forgotten the first few Russian olim, not to mention the lithuanian and chasidic influences from the time of the Gaon ... your xenophobia, like your spelling/malapropisms needs a little work ;-)


Hillel, if thats the game you want to play:

You left out an apostrophe in line 3.
You left out the word 'not' in line 4, which made you your sentence contradictory.

I wrote my post at 3am, whats your excuse?


Britt tirn too te post on diginirating in2 mudslining

(And indeed I did not leave out the "not", my point is the wider cultures shouldn't be brought over, but the traditions and mesora should) But two lines later should read "lost" and not lossed, well spotted.

Good shabbos all!


I have always wanted to help the falasha. Is there an organization I can donate to?


Hi Naarski,
I will put up details of an absorption centre in Lod that you can get in touch with for donations tomorrow.

By the way, Falasha means foreigners. It is derogatory because that is what the Christian Ethiopians called them, ostracising them from the greater community.

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