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Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis protest racism in Jerusalem march

By Max Schindler

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis and their supporters marched through central Jerusalem on Wednesday to call attention to a recent groundswell of racism and discrimination.

Thousands of Israeli Ethiopians and supporters demonstrate Wednesday in Jerusalem (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Holding picket signs and shouting “a new generation demands change,” the demonstrators joined a wave of protests triggered by a Channel 2 report last week that a group of homeowners in Kiryat Malachi—a Southern town with a large Ethiopian population— signed a pledge to neither rent nor sell to Israelis of Ethiopian origin.

The news sparked outrage in the Ethiopian community and demands by activists for a response from the government.

Mulet Araru, a 26-year-old university student, led the protest after walking for three days from Kiryat Malakhi, some 60 kilometers from Jerusalem. In a hoarse voice, Araru addressed the crowd, declaring, “I have no other land,” infusing his speech with traditional Zionist rhetoric and slogans.

The protestors marched from the Knesset to Independence Park, with a quick stop in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in the neighborhood of Rechavia. At the Knesset, opposition MKs Tzipi Livni (Kadima) and Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) addressed the crowd.

The atmosphere seemed tense at times, with activists sprinting towards Netanyahu’s home. Most demonstrators were students of Ethiopian origin, many of high school age.

Thousands of Israeli Ethiopians and supporters demonstrate Wednesday in Jerusalem (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills)

With differing and sometimes competing protest signs, the crowd spanned the ideological spectrum. Some demonstrators hoisted Israeli flags while others clutched photos of Nelson Mandela and sharply criticized Israel’s treatment of their community.

One Israeli-Ethiopian man held a sign asking “Is there a future for me in this state?” Others carried posters appropriating phrases and symbols from the American civil rights movement and black American figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

Thousands of Israeli Ethiopians and supporters demonstrate Wednesday in Jerusalem (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Some 120,000 Jews of Ethiopian origin reside in the country, many of them having arrived in three airlift operations in the 1980s and early 1990s. Many continue to face socioeconomic difficulties, racism and other barriers to social integration – including segregation in schools, and challenges stemming from the Rabbinate’s refusal to recognize the community’s religious leaders.

Max Schindler is a student at Cornell University who is spending the year volunteering on a kibbutz and writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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    1. IAMPhilip777

      Israel is greating a hermetic seal around itself and just as the Second of Thermodynamics states… Entropy WILL ensue…Israel will self-destruct due to it’s own internal contradictions. So Be It.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Cinti

      BE AWARE…

      It’s always something – somewhere – our job is to be aware.

      Israel is the first place to chant “Never Again” to horrible injustices of racism – antisimitism, it all boils down to the same thing. Shouldn’t we all simply do to and for others as you would have others do to and for you.

      If we treat our neighbors with respect, we hope to receive respect in return. However there are always those who will over look the fact that we are all human beings and use our difference of race, religion or if there is nothing else different, perhaps hair or eye color as a point of discrimination. It is a sad and trecherous human condition…

      Reply to Comment
    3. Palestinian

      @ Cinti , Israel was established based on racism and discrmination !

      Reply to Comment
    4. Zionism is used by imperialism to divide us. The Ethiopian Israelis should unite with their Palestinian brothers and sisters as well as Jewish working class youth, against the zionist regime and the zionist bourgeoisie.

      viva the third intifada……..

      Reply to Comment
    5. William C. Lennard

      There is no security or advancement for mankind until
      All are treated with dignity, respect, and as the creation if Almighty God!
      God bless all mankind.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Mischa

      The cradle of what? Civilization!?

      Reply to Comment