Recently it seems that the Ethiopian community has raised its head. What began as a video that circulated through the internet, depicting racially motivated police brutality, turned into a protest reminiscent of the violent riots taking place simultaneously in Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States. Data of the Central Bureau of Statistics indicate that the cities in Israel with the highest percentage of Ethiopians relative to the total population of the city are Kiryat Malachi (16.2%), Afula (8%), and Kiryat Gat (7.9%), all of which are characterized by low socioeconomic status. Jerusalem’s Ethiopian community constitutes 0.7% of the total population, and the city takes second place – after Tel Aviv – in a ranking of localities with 2,000 or more residents of Ethiopian heritage. The Ethiopian community’s protest raises questions with respect to all new immigrants in Israel.
From 2010 to 2013 a total of 67,000 new immigrants moved to Israel from throughout the world: 43% from the former Soviet Union, 14% from the United States, and 12% from Ethiopia and France each. A total of 14% settled in Jerusalem, which ranks third as a destination city for new immigrants, after Tel Aviv and Netanya. Analysis of data from the Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem reveals that the percentage of new immigrants from countries with high socioeconomic status who choose to settle in this city is equal to or greater than their percentage among new immigrants to Israel during these years. This trend is reversed among immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union.
The immigrants who settled in Jerusalem during these years – 52% of whom were from the United States and France and not one from Ethiopia – chose to take up residence primarily in neighborhoods with high socioeconomic status. In Talbiya the proportion of new immigrants who arrived during these years constitute 9% of the Jewish population of the neighborhood; in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, City Center, and Rehavya they constitute 7% of the population (in each neighborhood); and in the German Colony they account for 6%. In contrast, a broad look at the years 1990-2013 reveals that the neighborhood with the highest percentage of immigrants as a proportion of its Jewish population is Pisgat Ze’ev North, with a total of 4,900 residents, accounting for 30% of the neighborhood’s Jewish population. Most of the immigrants in this neighborhood arrived during the years 1990-1999, primarily from the former Soviet Union, and they number 3,700 residents, constituting 23% of the neighborhood’s Jewish population. There are 980 immigrants who arrived during the years 2000-2009, accounting for 6%, while the immigrants who arrived during 2010-2013 – who, as noted, represent more than 6% of the affluent neighborhoods in the city center – constitute only 1.4% of the Jewish population of Pisgat Ze’ev North.
Jerusalem does indeed offer a home to new immigrants, but primarily those from wealthy countries. At the same time, immigrants from other countries actually stay away from the city. One might attribute this to Zionist considerations motivating the first, but one cannot ignore the socioeconomic exclusion that results from housing prices and employment opportunities in the city.
1. “The Ethiopian Population in Israel – Selected Data on the Occasion of the Sigd Holiday,” Central Bureau of Statistics, November 2014
2. Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem, Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2015