Case Charges Absorption Ministry with Racism on Ethiopian Mortgages

A petition filed last week with Israel’s High Court of Justice charges the Absorption Ministry with racism for restricting favorable mortgages for Ethiopian olim to certain cities.

The ministry currently grants highly favorable mortgages to Ethiopian immigrants for housing in a number of cities, such as Netanya.

But it withholds the mortgages if the immigrants attempt to settle elsewhere, including cities where there are already high concentrations of Ethiopians, such as Beersheba, Dimona and Nazareth.

This, according to the petition, unfairly deprives the Ethiopians of the right to choose where they buy apartments.

Further, the petition, which was filed by a resident of Hod Hasharon, calls the policy racist.

The Absorption Ministry is defending its policies, saying they are designed to promote integration.

A spokesperson for the ministry, who answered on condition of anonymity, refused to comment on the pending court case.

But the spokesperson said the ministry restricts mortgages to the Ethiopians “for their own good.”

The policy is one of the ministry’s “special integrative programs,” and exists because “we don’t want Ethiopian ghettos,” the spokesperson said.

The program steers the immigrants into so-called “stronger” cities that can sustain the Ethiopian immigrants better because these cities have “better facilities, better education and better jobs.”

A “weak population” concentrated in a development town “burdens the city,” the spokesperson said.

But the spokesperson insisted that the immigrants are nevertheless free to live wherever they want.

The High Court has given the Absorption Ministry 45 days to explain the rationale behind its mortgage policy.

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