Ethiopian Women in Israel

How the lives of Ethiopian Beta Israel women changed when they made aliyah to Israel.

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While Ethiopian Jews in Israel are afforded equal privileges and responsibilities in practically every sphere of life, in practice they are socially and spatially segregated, which sometimes gives rise to feelings of deprivation.

Shula Mola, as the director of the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews, tries to battle this. Negest Mengashe has recently been appointed the administrative director of the National Project for Ethiopian Jews, aimed at raising vast governmental and outside funds to ameliorate the condition of Ethiopian Jews living in Israel. She can also be credited with being the first Ethiopian woman in Israel to run (unsuccessfully) on the list of a women's political party to the Knesset (Israel Parliament). Truwork Mulat directs the Steering Committee for Ethiopian Jews attached to the Ministry of Education. Simha Getahun is the coordinator of multicultural programs in Elem, an organization for disattached youth. Tsega Melaku is deputy-director of the Amharic Radio of Kol Israel. Meski Shibru is Israel's most famous Ethiopian Jewish model and singer.

Conclusion

Immigration to Israel changed Ethiopian Jewish family life in a dramatic manner. In Israel, girls are not allowed to marry at first menstruation and women are encouraged to go out to work. Some young women have been referred to welfare institutions; some live beneath the poverty line. One third of Ethiopian families in Israel are one-parent families. At the same time, some young women have become community leaders; others are acquiring a higher education. As the apparent gap between migrant Ethiopian women and men continues to grow, new forms of family structure and adjustments will no doubt emerge.

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Rabbi Steven Weil

Rabbi Steven Weil is rabbi of the Young Israel of Oak Park in Oak Park, Michigan.

Shalva Weil

Shalva Weil is senior researcher at the NCJW Research Institute for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specializing in Indian Jews and other ethnic groups. She is the editor of Ethiopian Jews in the Limelight (1997) and two bibliographies on Ethiopian Jewry (2001; 2004). In 2004, she was appointed president of SOSTEJE (Society for the Study of Ethiopian Jewry).