Assessment of Ethiopian Newcomers

A senior psychologist on the staff of the Jewish Agency has rebutted reports in the local media which have deeply hurt newly arrived Ethiopian Jews by describing them as “primitive” and stressing their unfamiliarity with such Western amenities as toilets and toothbrushes.

Dr. Zvi Yadin, who is the psychologist in charge of the absorption of Ethiopian Jews, told reporters today that the newcomers were culturally developed in many ways “but their ways simply are different from ours.”

He said, for example, the Ethiopians are fastidious about dental care, but in Ethiopia they used special twigs to clean their teeth instead of toothbrushes which were unknown to them. “I wish that Israeli children’s teeth were as healthy as those of Ethiopian old men,” Yadin said.

He said the new comers are equally fastidious about their personal hygiene. But they look askance at the idea of a toilet inside their home because in Ethiopia they were used to outside facilities.

Yadin described the Ethiopian women as extremely modest and much care and discretion has to be exercized when submitting them to medical examination. The fact that they publicly breast-feed their infants reflects common Ethiopian mores, not a lack of modesty, he said.

The Jewish Agency is employing about 100 Ethiopian “old-timers” — those who arrived here months ago or in some cases years ago — to help absorb — the newcomers. They act as communicators, relaying the feelings and desires of the new arrivals who speak no Hebrew. But they also inform the newcomers of Israeli media comments about them.

NEXT STORY