One of the more interesting discussions I had during the past few days on reserve duty was with a 37 year old Ethiopian reservist. I've always been interested in the Ethiopian story, especially the immigration waves that brought them to Israel from 1984 (Operation Moses) to 1991/92 (Operation Solomon). He was one of the Ethiopians (approximately 15,000) who made the treacherous journey to Sudanese camps in the early 1980s, waiting for his chance to come home through the secret military airlifts. He described the camps as "hell" and says everyone who survived those few years before the Israeli airlift has no reason to ever doubt G-d's existence. One can only imagine the conditions he lived under in order to reach this country.
While his descriptions of the six day journey to Sudan astounded me, his various stories about racism within Israel infuriated me. I've long been bothered by the unnecessary & wrong troubles we've placed upon the Ethiopians, be it the inability to recognize their religious leaders or the blatant racism shown towards them. While things have improved due to various programs and their increasing integration into Israeli society (Just as it did with the Arab Jewish immigrants of the '50s, and the Russian immigration of the early to mid 90s), these stories serve as a reminder to how poor we are at accepting our own. The one story that really stood out was the refusal by a religious kindergarten to accept his daughter to their program - while at first he felt it was due to the fact he didn't wear a kippa (although he did observe Shabbat, the festivals and kashrut), he soon realized it was more likely due to his skin color. After various meetings with the city council, his daughter was accepted to the school.
While he holds no grudges against the country or those who have perpetrated these crimes against him, I still found it necessary to apologize to him. It just sickens me how a country which was 'built' for the Jewish people continually hates and hurts its own. Some will say it's the hazing process every new immigrant class deals with but to me, that is inexcusable. The damage we do to these people, while not permanent, will continue to be the barrier in our ability to reach internal peace. I've long held the opinion that Israel's survival rests far more on our ability to make internal peace as it's been a problem & hindrance throughout our history. When I hear stories like these, I realize how we've sadly forsaken the need to fix ourselves while looking for peace with our neighbors.
On the bus ride home tonight, three religious kids (between the ages of 3 to 5) saw a few Arab workers on the Mamila building site. They announced it in English, "Arabs!" and straight away made gun noises while aiming their finger guns at the three workers. The mother stood by smiling as I stood there shocked. Regardless of the fact our last three terrorists were Israeli Arabs, teaching kids such hatred is sickening and inexcusable. The majority of the Arab world does not need to be tarred with the same brush people tar the radical minority and their despicable actions. It's sad that any Jewish parent feels the need to take a page from the 'Hamas rule book' and brainwash kids with an attitude of hatred and the desire to kill.