By Danna Harman
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, March 17, 1998; 2:42 p.m. EST top of page
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Ethiopian immigrants in flowing white robes climbed off a bus to catch a first glimpse of their new home in Israel -- a trailer park on a windswept hill outside Jerusalem.
Activists of the 60,000-strong Ethiopian community complain of systematic discrimination by established Israelis and say the government is not moving fast enough to move immigrants from transit camps to real homes.
...Critics said while Israel is great on ideas -- two dramatic airlifts in 1985 and 1991 saved thousands of Ethiopian Jews from starvation and civil war -- it is not doing well on helping them get settled.
``It is as if the government feels they have finished their job by just bringing us here, but clearly the suffering is not over,'' said Adisso Massala, the sole member of Parliament from the Ethiopian community.
Ethiopian activists say other immigrant groups, especially newcomers from the former Soviet Union, get better housing, education and work opportunities.
The anger of the Ethiopian community exploded in riots two years ago when it was revealed that Israeli blood banks were secretly discarding their donations, fearing the blood might be tainted with AIDS.
The government says it has granted Ethiopians unprecedented aid. More than half the Ethiopian families in Israel have bought homes with government grants of up to $120,000 for families, far more aid than available to other immigrants.
But Ethiopian youth also have the lowest high school graduation rate of any group in Israel -- a guarantee of a future as low-paid unskilled laborers.
The government wavered for years over whether to allow thousands of Falashmura to come to Israel to join their relatives.
Some Israelis fear that more and more people in the developing world will look at the example of the Ethiopians and try to immigrate to the now relatively prosperous Jewish state by claiming Jewish roots.
Despite these concerns, the government decided to allow the immigration, and in recent weeks the pace of arrivals has quickened.
``But we still want more,'' he said. ``We do not want to create a new Ethiopia here. We came to be like everyone else.''