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Ethiopian girls that were placed in separate classroom
Photo: Shaul Golan
Mother knows best
B. Michael recounts talk with his mom that foresaw shameful treatment of Ethiopians

A national-religious school in the central Israel town of Petah Tikva adopted racist customs and separated black students from the white ones. Ethiopians were placed in one class, while non-Ethiopians were grouped in another class - A case of apartheid; simply disgusting.

 

The excitement over the affair was great and justified. It is good to see people taking to heart a case of apartheid at an Israeli school. It would be even better had they dedicated similar measures of shock to apartheid roads, communities, and roadblocks in the territories, as well as various other apartheid customs around here that separate one people from another.

 

But let’s not mix different stories together. As this week we have been celebrating the black-and-white apartheid that has been accompanying the Jews of Ethiopia from their first day in Israel, I shall recount a little story that truly happened.

 

The year: 1984. “Operation Moses” to bring the Jews of Ethiopia to Israel is being formulated. Only very few people knew about it at the time. One of my colleagues, at the newspaper I wrote for at the time (Haaretz,) told me, quietly and emotionally, that he was granted the privilege of being the only journalist to embark on a trip to Ethiopia with the permission of the Mossad, in order to document the story of the Jewish Ethiopians’ journey to Israel.

 

The colleague made me swear to keep the secret, and embarked on his trip the very same evening.

 

A day later I went to visit my parents. I was sitting in the kitchen with my mother, may she rest in peace, and we were chatting about all sorts of things. My mother knew the colleague who traveled to Africa. They greatly respected and liked each other. I was able to hold the secret for barely 10 minutes, but then it emerged out into the world:

 

“Mom, do you know where he is now?” I asked.

 

“No,” she responded.

 

“He traveled to Ethiopia!” I told her in a mysterious tone.

 

“Why would he travel to Ethiopia?” my mother asked, with puzzlement in her eyes.

 

“The Mossad is organizing a large-scale secret operation there. They want to bring all the Jews of Ethiopia to Israel,” I revealed the entire secret to her.

 

“Oh, so he traveled there to warn the Ethiopians not to come?” my mother asked innocently. “That was really a nice thing to do.”

 

Once upon a time, this was a funny story. 

 

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