Ethiopians willing to integrate by marrying other ethnicities

JERUSALEM — About 90 percent of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants who graduated from state religious high schools would be willing to see their children "intermarry" with other Israelis, a survey conducted for the Education Ministry shows.

The survey, released last week, covered a random sampling of 120 graduates of five years ago. Most had immigrated in the mid-1980s as part of Operation Moses.

Shalva Weill, senior researcher at Hebrew University's National Council of Jewish Women Research Institute for Innovation in Education, said the data indicates a strong desire among Ethiopians to integrate into Israeli society.

"I hope that the policymakers and particularly the Ministry of Education will be able to learn from the research and improve the education they give to Ethiopian Jews," she said.

The findings included the following:

*84 percent completed 12th grade, as opposed to 72 percent in the general population, indicating a low dropout level among Ethiopians.

*Only 15 percent said they earned matriculation certificates, as opposed to 30 percent in the overall population.

*52 percent were satisfied with their education, while 27 percent were not.

*Half complained about the curriculum's absence of material on Ethiopian life.

*56 percent have served in the IDF.

*All had married other Ethiopians, except one woman who married a member of the Bnei Israel community from India.

Half said, however, that they would have been willing to marry other Israelis. Almost all said they would not mind if their children intermarry with other Israelis.

*A third are unemployed, while more than half work as skilled or unskilled laborers.

*41 percent, including some married couples, live with parents, and only 18.5 percent have their own apartments.

*59 percent reported they had not visited a non-Ethiopian Israeli friend in their last year of school.

*81 percent rejected the suggestion that any of their neighbors disliked them because of their skin color, while 19.5 percent reported experiencing discrimination.

From a mainstream religious viewpoint, the graduates became more secular, with 68 percent not traveling on Shabbat as compared to 84 percent while at school.

But the graduates remained more loyal to Ethiopian customs such as eating cold food on Shabbat and not eating yogurt on Passover.