Jewish Agency Panel Urges Sweeping Changes to Improve Lives of New Ethiopian Immigrants

Recommendations made after residents at Beit Alfa absorption complain of meager stipends and lack of employment.

A Jewish Agency panel on Tuesday recommended a series of sweeping internal changes intended to improve the lives of immigrants residing in a state-run absorption center in the Jezreel Valley.

The recommendations, which the panel expects to be implemented immediately, were made in specific reference to the absorption center at Kibbutz Beit Alfa, in the Jezreel Valley.

Earlier this month, 120 people from the center - mostly Ethiopian immigrants - set up a permanent protest vigil opposite the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem to complain that life in the center, situated five kilometers from the kibbutz, offers no employment opportunities.

The immigrants complained that the meager stipends and the distance of the kibbutz from industrial centers have brought them to penury.

They also explained that any money they obtain goes toward buying food, preventing them from being able to afford even bus fare as well.

With this in mind, the panel has recommended changing personnel in the absorption center, reducing the number of residents assigned to the center and splitting the center in two to allow more staff per immigrant family and to improve the services received by each immigrant.

The panel also recommended larger housing grants be given to the immigrants planning to leave the center, expanding the health care program on site and expediting the immigration procedure.

The panel also recommended improving the childcare program on site and the conditions of the residential areas.