|Combatting Domestic Violence in the Ethiopian-Israeli Community|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
Domestic murder, unheard of in Ethiopia, has sadly made headlines once again in Israel’s Ethiopian Israeli community. The murder of Yeshi Amara, a mother of three whose family emigrated from Ethiopia five years ago, sent shockwaves through the community. The SHATIL-guided Yachdav Coalition, comprised of Ethiopian women and men, was formed to address the crisis of domestic violence in the Ethiopian community and has been battling the phenomena for several years through educational and lobbying activities.
This regent tragedy has galvanized the coalition into further action.
Recent successes of the coalition include: The creation of a special prayer against domestic violence, created though collaboration with Kessim, (spiritual leaders of the Ethiopian community); empowering young activists from within the community through trainings; and using the Amharic language media to bring the issue of domestic abuse to the community’s agenda. In response to the latest murder, Yachdav chair Moshe Shatte stated on Israeli radio that “if we act now and work together we can prevent the next murder.”
Last week the Yachdav coalition sent a letter to Harel Loker, the Director General of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office. The letter presented an urgent action plan for the government to undertake combating domestic violence, including funding for Ethiopian social workers trained in identifying and combating spousal abuse. When the Knesset Committee for Aliya, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs convened last week to discuss the crisis, Yachdav representatives were on hand. They made sure that it was well attended by both Knesset members from various parties and by representatives of Ethiopian-Israeli NGOs. A second Knesset meeting on the topic is scheduled for later this month.
A few years ago the Yachdav coalition successfully lobbied for anthropological research on domestic violence among Israeli Ethiopians, which was subsequently funded by the Ministry of Welfare. The coalition was outraged to learn this month, based on an expose in Ha’aretz, that the Ministry had intentionally hid some of the report’s findings in order to obfuscate its own failure to invest resources on this issue. In its letter to Loker the coalition stated, “The cover-up of the report findings demonstrates a refusal by many government bodies to recognize the scope of the problem.” The coalition demanded the immediate release of the full report and an investigation of the cover-up.
The Yachdav coalition wants to make sure its message against domestic violence and in favor of Shalom Bait - family peace - makes its way into every Ethiopian home in the country. To this end, the coalition has just completed production of a CD promoting an anti-violence message, narrated in Amharic by well-known Ethiopian-Israeli actors, which will be distributed to Ethiopian households, community and absorption centers, and schools across Israel. The CD will also be syndicated on Amharic language radio stations and programs.
The Yachdav coalition will continue its life saving work with Ethiopian civil society, the media, and government offices to create change towards -- and also from within -- the Ethiopian community, in the hope of making Yeshi’s murder the last one.