I have always heard it said in the Israeli public sector and professional social circles, by way of explaining why so few Ethiopian Jews hold positions of prominence in these realms, that no one from among our community is sufficiently qualified. That if even one Ethiopian Israeli would meet the minimum qualifications for this or that high-ranking job, it would gladly be given to him or her.
Then, at the end of June, Israel’s Ministry of Religious Services unexpectedly announced that the Chief Rabbi of the Ethiopian Jews, Rabbi Yosef Hadane, would be removed from his position immediately upon reaching retirement age. This, despite the fact that others in comparable positions are rarely, if ever, subjected to the enforcement of this Israeli labor law.
The ministry also determined that there would be no replacement for Hadane, since no qualified candidate could be found.
This was, to me, uniquely galling.
As a member of the Ethiopian Jewish community, I would like to share the pain that I feel when I hear top Israeli government officials or corporate leaders state that there are no qualified Ethiopian Israelis to fill a certain position.
Most of the time, these statements are simply false and thoroughly unfounded, made out of blatant disrespect for the Ethiopian community, and, truly, no different from outrageous racial stereotypes voiced by the likes of Donald Trump. They imply laziness as a trait of black people and suggest that some kind of inherent failing among those of African descent keeps them from reaching the professional heights of their European counterparts.
This, of course, could not be further from the truth. Just because we come from a “third world” country does not mean that after almost 40 years of living in Israel we’ve failed to produce expert professionals. For example, by my count and to my
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