63% Say they would Welcome Ethiopians into their Family

A week after the disconcerting reports about the discrimination running rampant at several Israeli schools, it seems that perhaps there is still hope that most of the public does not suffer from such worrying racism.

According to a new Ynet-Gesher poll, the majority of Israelis would not object to see their child marry an Ethiopian and would not hesitate to send their children to a school that has a large Ethiopian student body. And yet, 52% of the population admits that they do not have any personal friends of Ethiopian descent.

The Ynet-Gesher poll was conducted by the Mutagim center and was based upon a representative sample of 500 adult, Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israelis. When asked “would you let your child marry an Ethiopian?” 63% answered they would gladly welcome the marriage while 19% said “absolutely not.” Another 6% said they would be saddened but would not object. Religious segmentation points at a different attitude: 61% of ultra-Orthodox respondents said they would vehemently object such a marriage. Only 25% would welcome an Ethiopian in-law.

The second question examined the degree of familiarity respondents have with community members: 32% admitted they do not have any Ethiopian friends and that they do not know any Ethiopians with whom they could build friendships. 20% do know Ethiopians but have no Ethiopian friends and 34% said they or their children have such a friend.

Once again a religious segmentation points at a different trend in the ultra-Orthodox community: 72% don’t have Ethiopian friends.

Age analysis reveals that 77% of the 65-and-over and 58% of 55-64 year olds said neither they nor their children have Ethiopian friends. Only younger Israelis, aged 18 through 44, have at least one Ethiopian friend.

Does the segregation in some of Petah Tikva schools reflect parents’ wishes? 63% claim they have no problem sending their children to schools where 40% of the students are Ethiopians. On the other hand, 14% said they “would never” send their children to such institutions. 50% of ultra-Orthodox respondents said they would not send their children to such a school.

Gesher director-general Shoshi Becker said that the findings are worrying and require immediate action: “It is difficult to understand how people who practice Judaism as a way of life choose to steer clear of Ethiopian immigrants.” Becker added that a Jewish-democratic society should view acceptance of the other as a challenge and a mission and convey a clear message to future generations: “This is our job as a society, a community and as individuals.”

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