Smadar Geto was airlifted to Israel in 1991 in one of the country’s most stunning operations -- a rescue of more than 14,000 Ethiopian Jews caught in the crossfire of a civil war. For many of the immigrants, sometimes dubbed Falashas or black Jews, the move marked the realization of a lifelong dream to live in Israel.
But the ensuing reality has often been harsh. Geto’s parents, now in their late 50s, never mastered Hebrew and have remained mostly unemployed. Her brother had to delay his compulsory Army service so he could help support the family. Geto herself, now 26, works at a packing plant and still lives with her parents in a run-down apartment in Pardes Hana, about an hour north of Tel Aviv. She says many Ethiopians she knows drift on the margins of Israeli society, poor and undereducated. “I think Ethiopians have gone bad here,” she told a visitor recently. “In Ethiopia they didn’t smoke, drink, steal, or anything.”
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