An Ethiopian Jewish woman arrives for the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah services at a synagogue in Addis Ababa..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked decided to give members of the Ethiopian community who are serving time in prison but who have not committed serious crimes, a chance to be pardoned and released.
The two issued a statement on Monday calling on the community to submit requests for pardons in honor of the annual Sigd festival, which marks the Ethiopian Jewish yearning for Jerusalem.
Notwithstanding government and Knesset declarations against racism, many members of the Ethiopian community
have suffered intolerable discrimination, according to a report published two years ago by a committee on racism headed by Justice Ministry Director-General Emi Palmor. The report – which was adopted by the government – described areas in which Ethiopians were treated in a discriminatory manner, including law enforcement, health, education and employment.
Among the worst examples of racial intolerance was when they wanted to donate blood, which was subsequently discarded on the grounds that it was tainted.
One of the more disturbing elements of the report was that criminal investigations were opened against both minors and adults for relatively insignificant misdemeanors, and charges were brought to bear. Protests by Ethiopians who could not understand what the fuss was about often led to violence, and from there to a criminal life style.
Rivlin and Shaked understand that many of the Ethiopians who are in prison are in fact victims of circumstance, and out of a desire to heal rifts and to strengthen the trust and confidence of Ethiopian Israelis in law enforcement and justice authorities, they have reached out to the Ethiopian community.
Requests for pardons will be given serious consideration, and in the most inconsequential cases, the criminal record will be expunged.
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