The absorption of the Ethiopian community within Israeli society has been accompanied by many immeasurable difficulties and hardships. Following their arrival in Israel, most Ethiopian immigrants settled in development towns and low-income neighborhoods in which the rates of unemployment, crime and drug abuse are extremely high. A research study conducted by the Myers-JDC- Brookdale Institute reveals that the school drop-out rate among Ethiopian Israeli students is 2.5 times higher than among veteran Israelis. These research findings indicate that the percentage of at-risk students within the Ethiopian Israeli community is particularly high and that the percentage of students that complete their high school matriculation exams is low.
One of the primary reasons for this situation (especially for the high concentration of Ethiopian immigrants in low-income neighborhoods and towns) is the government's policy toward the Ethiopian Israeli community. The intentions of Israeli society as a whole are positive, but the attitude towards immigrants is paternalistic. Instead of being sensitive to the cultural backgrounds of immigrants and seeking appropriate solutions to their problems, the solutions which are developed usually fit the needs of Israeli society and culture rather than the needs of immigrants.
An additional reason for the current difficulties faced by the Ethiopian community can be traced to the immigrants' sudden transition from a traditional to a western culture. In Ethiopia, families lived a traditional lifestyle, had many children, and most worked in agriculture. In addition, there was a clear delineation of roles both inside and outside of the family realm. Upon arrival in Israel, Ethiopian immigrants were exposed to western culture, which led to many changes and difficulties. Among these difficulties are Ethiopian parents' loss of control over their children as well as their inability to effectively cope with the problems that have arisen within their families as a result of the abrupt cultural transition that they experienced. Many parents, due to their inability to speak Hebrew and their lack of knowledge about western culture, feel insecure. They feel helpless and are unable to help their children with their studies, with acquiring skills or with dealing with the demands of western culture.
In response to the difficult circumstances in which the Ethiopian community finds itself, a group of socially and politically aware Ethiopian Israeli women came together to improve the community's current situation.
Our underlying assumption is that if we do not act now, the situation of the Ethiopian Israeli community will deteriorate even further. This deterioration can transform the current situation from a ticking social time bomb to a phenomenon that will leave permanent scars on Israeli society.
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