Ethiopian Workers in Netanyahu Residence Barred From Family's Quarters, Report Says

A transcript published by Yedioth Ahronoth features an Ethiopian worker saying that Sara Netanyahu forbade workers of Ethiopian origin from approaching the family's laundered clothes, saying they have 'germs'

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at their official residence in Jerusalem, May 17, 2018.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at their official residence in Jerusalem, May 17, 2018.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The caretaker of the prime minister’s official residence ordered workers of Ethiopian origin not to enter the Netanyahu family living quarters, Yedioth Ahronot reported Thursday morning.

A person who managed employees at the residence told the newspaper that the cartaker, Efi Azoulay, explicitly requested that he not allow Ethiopian women to work on the residence's second floor, barring exceptional cases.

According to the employee, who the newspaper said passed a polygraph test, Azoulay told him “Ethiopians are not suited for work upstairs.” He added that “In the past five years, there were almost no Ethiopian workers upstairs.” The Netanyahu family, through their lawyers, has denied the claims made in the report, as has Azoulay.

Another worker, who according to the report was involved in hiring employees for the official residence, confirmed that he was also aware Azoulay’s instructions. “I’m telling you that Ethiopian women – it was clear they could not go upstairs,” he told the newspaper.

The newspaper also published a transcript of a conversation between an employee of the residence of Ethiopian origin, Metsaviya Mengistu, and M., another employee who is not Ethiopian. The conversation was conducted a few months ago, and Mengistu can be heard saying only one woman of Ethiopian origin was allowed to go upstairs – and only to the kitchen.

“Only the kitchen?” M. asked her, “not in the rooms and in ….”

Mengistu answered: “No, no. [Sara Netanyahu] doesn’t let us in. You think that she’d let her in? She doesn’t let us in. When her laundry arrives, she lets us into the rooms [on the ground floor] and throws us out of there: ‘Oh, what germs they have, what germs.’”

Mengistu also mentions in the conversation that Azoulay "said that [Sara Netanyahu] would always say: ’You aren’t cleaning well, you don’t do it well, you don’t know how to clean.’ In short, she was disgusted by you. That’s what he told us.” When dry cleaned clothes were returned to the residence, Mengistu said, she was moved to another room so she wouldn’t be near the clean clothes.

“There were days I went into the pantry,” Mengistu told M. When M. asked why, Mengistu said, “Where do you want me to be? Her laundry came in and she said that we, we have germs. If I happened to be there, she sent it back to the laundry again.”

The Netanyahu family’s lawyers told Yedioth that they deny any discrimination based on the national origin of the residence’s workers. They called it a “false, shamful story” against Sara Netanyahu. “All the lawsuits of the ‘cleaning ladies’ are an innovative start-up whose goal is to extort money from the state.”

The Prime Minister’s Office said: “It is a tendentious and false report that includes fabricated stories that never happened. The attempt to slander a devoted government employee is unacceptable.”

A statement on Azoulay's behalf called the story “Lies and falsehoods. All these recycled claims are completely baseless and were brought up to slander the Netanyahu family and their household. The matter is under police investigation so Mr. Azoulay cannot comment. Nonetheless, when the investigation is over, he will act with all the means available to him to expose the lies and bring the slanderers to justice.”

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