They say that they are direct descendants from the family of Abraham. They were recognized in 1975 by Jewish authorities as “jews.” So why does the Jewish community not recognized Ethiopian Jews as Jews?
In 1984, almost 12,000 Ethiopian were airlifted from their home in Ethiopia to live in Israel. In 1991, 14,ooo more followed. Given the name “Falashas,” which literally means “immigrant” in Hebrew, Ethiopian Jews did not fit in with the culture or people of Israel upon arrival. In fact, they still don’t fit in.
Falasha Jews are black.
They have been forced to refer to themselves as “Black Hebrews” because many Jewish people do not accept that Falashas are Jews.
Israel, home to the Lord’s chosen people, is thought to be a Holy Land; a homeland for the Jews. But, the 120,ooo Falashas, who only make up 2 percent of the Jewish population in Israel, are subject to discrimination on a daily basis. In fact, when Falashas first immigrated to Israel, they were denied employment, based on their skin color and homeland. Time heals all wounds, right? Wrong. Employment is still denied regularly to Falashas because of their skin tone and they apparently “don’t belong.”
“Poverty is three times higher among Ethiopians than among other Jewish Israelis, and unemployment is twice as high. Ethiopian youngsters are much more likely to drop out of school and are vastly under-represented at the country’s universities. One place they are over-represented is in jail: juvenile delinquency runs four times higher in the community than among Israelis overall” – Newsweek
According to the Middle East Monitor, “Hundreds of complaints of racism are made by the Ethiopian community to charities and organizations like Tebeka every year and there is clearly a huge imbalance in the treatment of black Jews and non-black Jews.”
Upon leaving Ethiopia, many Falashas were expecting and were promised a happier life in Israel. Many are fed up with the way they are being treated, and are considering moving back to Ethiopia or even to Canada.
Racism against the Falashas as risen to an extreme level recently, however. According to spokesperson for Ethiopian Jews in Israel, “Racism is a word that I have feared using until now, because I did not believe that it could exist in Israel in 2007, but the time has come to call a spade a spade. Israeli society is profoundly infected by racism and unfortunately there is no suitable punishment for racism in Israel.”
In a recent article published by Forbes, a horrific practice was brought to light. Upon arrival into Israel, Ethiopian Jewish immigrants are subject to medical testing. The women, however, have been forcibly [and in some case, unknowingly] given birth-control injections as to limit the population of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. This has led to the Ethiopian Jewish birth rate dropping by over 20 percent in the last few years.
“The medical staff told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” – An Ethiopian woman forced to take birth control injections
This practice was widely used by the Germans in World War Two, so the fact that Jews are now doing the same is shocking. Israel has recently addressed this issue (of course, without acknowledging that they have done anything wrong) and is taking actions to prevent this practice.
The land promised as a refuge for Jews has become a center for racism and injustice. For years, Falashas have not felt safe in Israel. We can only hope that the recent spotlight shined on Israel’s exploits will help promote a change for the Ethiopian Jews.