Vol 1 No 2 Spring/Summer 2000

Domari: the Society of Gypsies in Israel

A Speech

by Ms Amoun Sleem

(Editor's Note: At the close of 1999 members of the Dom community in Israel launched an organization to promote Dom causes and meet the needs of the Dom people. The organization is called Domari: the Society of Gypsies in Israel. The establishment of this organization is the realization of a long-time dream for Ms Amoun Sleem, one of the Dom women in Israel. The following is a transcript of the speech she gave on November 23, 1999 at the gathering where the Society was officially begun.)

Good evening friends. We are here tonight to celebrate a new beginning - a new beginning for my people, the Gypsies.

If you know anything about Gypsies, you know that they are a people who have been discriminated against throughout their long history. They have moved from country to country in order to be at peace with others.

My people (forefathers) have lived in the Old City of Jerusalem and the West Bank for over 100 years, and yet, in many ways, during these 100 years our standard of living and status of life has not changed. Many of my people still live without electricity, many do not have indoor plumbing, and many cannot read or write.

When I was a child I was fortunate to be able to go to school. But we had no electricity at home and I, as well as my brothers and sisters, had to do our homework in the evening by candlelight.

We were discriminated against in school by the teachers and classmates. I saw at that time that there were many things that needed to be changed if my people were going to be accepted and given the opportunities that all other people have.

Today we have electricity in our home. Through hard work and perseverance we were able to change this situation. And I believe we can do this for my community as well.

People say that dreams can come true. I believe this is true. And because you are here tonight, you also believe this. Together, side by side, we can make OUR dream a reality.

What are the goals of this new organization, Domari: the Society of Gypsies in Israel?

We would like to raise our standard of living through education and health care.

Many of the Gypsy children do not attend school because they are discriminated against by the teachers and other students. Many are ashamed to go to school because they do not have clothes or backpacks like the other children. Because their parents did not attend school they are unable to get good jobs and don't have the money needed to buy the books and school supplies.

If the children were to attend school, they would be able to get better jobs and raise their standard of living.

Health care is another concern of our organization. We need to teach the women how to care for the health of their children and family. We need to look at how we can help the disabled in our community. Currently there is no health care available in our community. This needs to be changed.

My people have waited for this day for many years. Many of them have given up because they believe that no one cares about the Gypsies. All they know and remember is that throughout history many people tried to kill the Gypsies. Their homes were burned down and they were forced to flee from place to place. Why? What is their crime? They are Gypsies.

We are here today to say "stop!" We know that God created all men equal. With the establishment of this organization we want to give hope to my people, the Gypsies.

Thank you, all of you, for standing with me. Many of you know that it has taken many years for my dream, our dream to come true. We still have a long way to go. But I know if we work together, side by side, we can make this dream a reality.

Thank you.

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