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Religion, Blood and the Equality of Rights The Case of Ethiopian Jews in Israel

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image of International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

The legal status of Ethiopian Jews who were permitted to migrate to Israel is examined. I demonstrate that Ethiopian Jews formally equality of rights and responsibilities with other Jews in Israel in major spheres of life while in practice they are segregated giving rise to feelings of deprivation. On the one hand there is a policy of affirmative action whereby they receive preferential treatment in housing, education and other areas compared with other immigrants while, on the other hand, they are discriminated against - reasonably or unreasonably - in the fields of religion and health. They still encounter restrictions in selecting a Rabbi who will be willing to perform the marriage ceremony. A major demonstration in 1996 around the issue of AIDS documented here in detail shows how a discrepancy exists between the official status of Ethiopian Jews as equal and their perceived status of collective rights. Symbolically, blood has become the marker between an Ethiopian Jew and other Jews in Israel in a situation where Ethiopian immigrants are striving for equality as Jews.

Affiliations: 1: Senior Researcher, NCJW Research Institute for Innovation in Education, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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