The Health Ministry announces that Israelis
born in Ethiopia will now be allowed to
donate blood; the change was hard-won
and took years to become ministerial policy;
'It may be 30 years late, but the light has
beaten out the phobia that's been cast on
us ever since we came here, says Pnina
Tamano-Shata, the Ethiopian-born former
MK that led the change in policy.
In a battle that took years to win, it was
announced on Thursday that the Health
Ministry will begin accepting blood
donations from those born in Ethiopians.
The decision came about due to a persistent
call to end the discrimination, stemming
from the 2013 Ynet report on Pnina
Tamano-Shata, then an Ethiopian MK for
Yesh Atid, who was denied the option of
donating blood due to her being born in
Former Health minister Yael German, also
from Yesh Atid, teamed up with Tamano-
Shata at the time to bring about this change
in policy. "I was stunned by the fact that she
wasn't allowed to donate blood, in addition
to (other) community members," said
German of the case. "Together, we founded
the committee that offered up
recommendations that changed things."
The back story to the change was an
incident that occurred in December 2013,
when Tamano-Shata had wished to donate
blood as part of a Knesset blood drive held
by MDA (Israel's medical emergency and
blood bank service). When she approached
the medical team taking donations, she was
told that could not donate blood due to
"Ethiopians' special blood type."
When she insisted on receiving a more
acceptable answer, she was referred to the
person in charge. Tamano-Shata asked to
have a professional team assess her
personal details and determine whether she
was eligible to give blood. After another
examination, she was told that she was not,
though if she insisted, they would take her
blood anyway. When Tamano-Shata asked
what would happen to the donation, she
was told, "We'd freeze it."
As a young woman, Tamano-Shata lead the
social protest against automatically
disposing of Ethiopian blood donations. In
2006, this issue once again became a matter
of public debate, at which point Tamano-
Shata founded a social call to action,
insisting that the policy be changed, until
her battle eventually helped her reach the
"I'm good enough to serve my country and
in the Knesset," she responded at the time.
"But for some reason, I'm not good enough
to donate blood. It's sad that after all these
decades, the state hasn't learned not to
distinguish blood from blood or to not treat
people equally. It's a humiliation that's been
following me since I was 16, during the first
case, and I hope the health minister will
change this," said Tamano-Shata at the time,
referring to German.
Her request was heard by the incoming
minister, who announced the erection of a
special committee to look into the policy.
"Three weeks after becoming (health
minister), I ordered to once again look into
the guidelines that prohibit taking blood
donations from homosexuals. Not long after,
Pnina's story blew up," she said.
The committee reviewed the policy over a
period of a year and a half, and eventually
concluded that Ethiopians should be allowed
to donate blood. Its recommendations
brought before the current Health Minister
Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism),
who decided to accept them.
The new policy states that Ethiopian-born
Israelis could donate blood, as long as they
state they have not visited Ethiopia over the
past year. The change would reflect similar
policies adopted by most Western countries.
In addition, men who have sex with men
will also be allowed to donate blood,
provided that they have not had same-sex
relations over the past year.
"It may be 30 years late, but the light has
beaten out the phobia that's been cast on
us ever since we came here," Tamano-Shata
said in response to the decision. "This is an
end to the humiliation and singling out of
soldiers, young and old members of the
(Ethiopian) community. Finally, an end to the
separation of blood from blood. An end to
regulations that go against what is accepted
in the world. An end to the saga of
humiliation regarding not accepting blood
due to one's origins."
"This moment is important," continued
Tamano-Shata. "For equality and the
understanding that even if we have to
stubbornly keep fighting, we won't give up,
because this is our home, no less so than
anyone else's."
Ethiopian-born Israelis
can now donate blood

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