A report by a Justice Ministry’s committee detailing the widespread institutionalized and racial discrimination against Ethiopian Jews was officially submitted to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Sunday.
Among its recommendations, the report states that the changes it suggests to be made in the public education system should be implemented beginning with preschool.
The report, headed by the Ministry of Justice's director general, Emi Palmor, was compiled following extensive meetings with leaders, experts and representatives of the Ethiopian communities.
Focusing, among other topics, on their treatment under the public education system, Ethiopians spoke of a pattern of discrimination at the hands of educators, including being turned away from public schools due to “underachievement,” in addition to stories of parents who refrained from sending their children to activities that included Ethiopian children.
Other complaints focused on the fact that Ethiopian children are referred much more to the special education system, instead of working to keep them within the general population and education system, and that welfare workers are much more likely to decide on removing Ethiopian children from their homes as opposed to other children, while being unable to help lower the rate of Ethiopian minors’ involvement in criminal activity.
The current report offers recommendations on how to best address these issues, suggesting more effort needs to be made to strengthen the Ethiopian community from an early age, in a similar manner to the recommendations put forth by the Biton Committee, which focused its energy on promoting Mizrahi Jews.
As such, the Palmor report states that kindergarten libraries be stocked with age-appropriate books on children from different cultures and various skin colors, while also introducing the children to dolls with different skin tones.
The report also stresses that educators are underprepared and misinformed about matters of racism, recommending that their continued education programs focus more on introducing them to Ethiopian heritage and on how to prevent racism in their classrooms.
Since Netanyahu is the head of the Ministerial Committee on the integration of Israeli Citizens of Ethiopian Origin, the report was turned over to his office for review. The ministerial committee is expected to adopt the report’s conclusions in full.
Heads of the Ethiopian community have warned that if the report’s suggestions are not adopted in full, they will return to the streets and protest the decision.
Speaking before the committee, a member of the Ethiopian community said, “We have an obligation to our community to make it absolutely clear that this is the government’s last chance.”
He continued by saying that the committee “should not make the mistake of thinking that we will be satisfied with empty slogans, when in reality the Ethiopian public is about to boil over.”
Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog's advisor Shlomit Berhanu, who took part in the committee’s discussions and who herself is a member of the Ethiopian community, said that “implementing the report’s recommendations would heal the deep rift and lack of trust in our society.”