Israel Gets First Ethiopia-born Minister in Pnina Tamano-Shata

Israel is set to get its first Ethiopia-born minister, with the nomination of a female MP brought there in a secret operation in the 1980s.

Pnina Tamano-Shata has been chosen by incoming deputy prime minister Benny Gantz, who is forming a unity government with PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

The new government is expected to be sworn in on Sunday after a delay over ministerial appointments.

Israel’s Ethiopian-Jewish community often complains of discrimination.

Incidents of police using force against Israelis of Ethiopian origin – including fatal shootings – have led to street protests and clashes in recent years.

The 140,000-strong community is among the poorest in the country and suffers from high rates of unemployment.

However, many second generation Ethiopian-Israelis have become successful across society, achieving notable positions in the military, judiciary and politics.

Pnina Tamano-Shata

Pnina Tamano-Shata, a lawyer and journalist, is the first woman of sub-Saharan African ancestry elected to the Knesset or Israeli National Parliament.

Tamano-Shata was born in Wuzaba, a village located near the city of Gondar in the Amhara Region of northern Ethiopia, she’s the granddaughter of Kais Shato-Maharata, one of the foremost spiritual leaders within the Ethiopian Jewish community.

At the age of three, she immigrated with her family to Israel as part of Operation Moses. Tamano-Shata studied law at Ono Academic College, and became Deputy Chairman of the national Ethiopian Student Association.

Following an internship at a law firm, Tamano-Shata worked from 2007 to 2012 for the Israeli Channel 1 TV news as a reporter and as a host of a current-affairs talk show, the first Ethiopian woman to do so.

As a student, Tamano-Shata was elected deputy chairperson of the Ethiopian Student Association in Israel.

She also worked with youth at risk, founded a club for adolescents from high-risk neighborhoods, and established a women’s club in her home town of Petah Tiqva.

In 2005, she was among the founders of the Headquarters for the Ethiopian Jews’ Struggle for Social Equality, which aims at raising awareness of the discrimination against members of the Ethiopian community in Israel.

In 2006, she served on a committee that set a five-year governmental-expenditure plan of one billion NIS (Israeli currency) for the advancement of the Ethiopian community. That year, she was also chosen to serve as a public representative on the Israel Press Council.

After joining the newly-formed party of Yesh Atid (There is a Future) in 2012, Tamano-Shata was elected in 2013 to the Knesset. Her parliamentary activity focuses on fighting racism and discrimination in Israeli society, and promoting equality of minorities and women.

She is also involved in promoting affordable housing, and has been active in legislation to advance the wellbeing and welfare of children at risk.

Uzonna Anele
Uzonna Anele
Anele is a web developer and a Pan-Africanist who believes bad leadership is the only thing keeping Africa from taking its rightful place in the modern world.


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