This is a landmark day for Ethiopian Jews and those who have tried to help them.
Israel's comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, issued a 1500 page report that blasts the government for ignoring the needs of Ethiopian Jews, botching their absorption and wreaking havoc on their families and social structure.
…from the Jerusalem Post:
'Gov't fails to provide for Ethiopians'
Ruth Eglash and Jpost.com staff
May. 20, 2008
A series of failures over the years to provide adequate and culture-appropriate treatment to tens of thousands of new Ethiopian immigrants has contributed to the growing poverty and distress of more than two-thirds of the 110,500-strong population, a report published Tuesday by the State Comptroller's office has found.
Focusing on the treatments provided by the Social Welfare Services, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and the Anti-Drugs Authority to assist the needy immigrant community between January-October 2007, the report highlighted the "general failure by the authorities in treating the Ethiopian community in the area of social welfare."
In addition, the report pointed out the failure by the government to transfer its decisions to the people out in the field.
"The most troubling finding," wrote the comptroller, "is that these problems have been known about for many years. How could these state-controlled bodies not have internalized this community's unique needs and devised a method of helping them?"
The report calls on the relevant ministries to "immediately seek ways to fix the problems outlined in the report and to coordinate their work by sharing their information and program ideas."
"We know that the findings were not positive," a spokesman for the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday. "But we are now working hard to improve the situation and we have carried out our own research. The office now has new ideas on how to deal with the problems."
He pointed out that since the comptroller's office completed its research in October, the government has approved a first-of-its-kind five year plan aimed at improving life for thousands of Ethiopian families.
However, he added, "We are still waiting for final funding approval from the Finance Ministry."
Ethiopian MK Shlomo Mula (Kadima) commented that the report made clear the disparities between government decisions and implementation.
"There needs to be a parliamentary investigation to see how these [government] policies end up falling through the cracks," he said, adding the fact the five-year-plan has still not been implemented shows that the "government makes promises but nothing ends up happening."
Taking the two cities in the case study - Ashdod and Netanya - the comptroller noted that "domestic violence in the Ethiopian community was disproportionately high" due to a range of social and cultural challenges faced by the immigrants during the absorption process.
However, it added that the social welfare services charged with tackling the problem were not sufficiently trained or equipped to help victims of such violence.
"In Ashdod, individual treatments were carried out by social workers who had not been trained in the field of domestic violence or with experience on how to deal with the Ethiopian community," observed the report. "In Netanya, there were two social workers of Ethiopian descent but they could not deal with the overwhelming demand for services and as a result those who needed treatment had to wait a very long time to receive it."
Failure to provide wide-ranging assistance in the area of alcohol and drug abuse, despite 2003 figures from the Anti-Drugs Authority showing that a quarter of Ethiopian teens had reported to using drugs, two-thirds said they'd experimented with alcohol and 40 percent admitted to getting drunk, were also noted in the comptroller's report.…
The report absolutely excoriates the government – and rightly so.
From Operation Moses onward, money meant for Ethiopian absorption was diverted to other needs. Some of it was simply stolen.
Even with the best of intentions, Israel's choking bureaucracy crushed those who needed help most, and crushed those who tried to bring change.
If this report had been issued 20 or 25 years ago, so much pain and suffering could have been avoided. As it is, an entire generation of Ethiopians have been cast aside.
Will they recover?
Sadly, for many if not most of them, the answer is likely to be no.