The Ayalon freeway was blocked on Sunday during an anti-racism protest.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Natan Sharansky condemned the violence exhibited by some Ethiopian protesters in recent days on Monday while calling upon Israelis to work to improve the community’s situation.
Ethiopian-Israelis have come out en masse in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in protest of an unprovoked beating of an Ethiopian soldier by police that highlighted the discrimination and institutional racism they say they face every day.
The protests turned violent, with demonstrators throwing bottles and other projectiles, while the police responded with flash-bang grenades, high pressure hoses and gas.
“We were all deeply shocked by the terrible video clip in which an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian origin was seen being beaten by a police officer in broad daylight. Yet, although I was stunned by the awful images of a policeman beating a soldier, I was even more affected by the soldier’s heartfelt words about his and his community’s feelings regarding their experience of racism in Israeli society,” said Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency.
Citing the work done by the agency to bring Ethiopian Jews home to Israel, Sharansky said the Zionist body views it as its mission “to connect all immigrants to the State of Israel and ease their integration into Israel’s social fabric, where they must find their rightful place as full and equal citizens.”
“At this time, as painful cries of protest rise up against discrimination and exclusion targeting Israelis of Ethiopian origin, we must all listen carefully, help foster a more constructive discourse and mobilize to improve the situation in a real and tangible way,” he said, calling on the protesters to “exercise good judgment and moderation, to respect the law and public order and to utilize the societal conversation that has been started to achieve their worthy and legitimate goals using the democratic tools at our disposal.”
Sharansky and the government announced the “end” of Ethiopian mass aliya at the arrival of a flight of 450 olim last August, stating that they had brought the entire community here.
Ethiopian activists protested the declaration, asserting that there were still Jews left behind. Israel established an exemptions committee to deal with those left behind, many of whom were disqualified for not meeting the qualifications for immigration.
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