Ethiopian Israelis continue protests as family of victim calls for calm

Following the riots that occurred throughout Israel on Tuesday, protesters called for further demonstrations on Wednesday, which are expected to be violent.

A protester holding a sign saying 'Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not be silent'   (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
A protester holding a sign saying 'Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not be silent'
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
The family of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah, who was killed by an off-duty police officer, called on protesters yesterday to refrain from violence after Tuesday’s demonstrations left more than 110 police officers wounded and 136 protesters arrested.
“We have lost a child, and we ask the public not to protest until the end of the shiva (mourning period) and to act with restraint and patience,” the family was quoted by Ynet as saying. “At the end of the shiva we will hold legitimate protests in an organized manner and in coordination with the relevant parties.
“We call on all the youth and their parents to refrain from provocation and unnecessary violence,” the family continued, adding that the anger expressed in recent days “is anger that has accumulated over years of ongoing neglect, racism and especially the over-policing and unnecessary killing of our children.”
Protests by the Ethiopian-Israeli community took place for a third day on Wednesday evening across the country as the family and authorities called for calm.
Tekah was the second Ethiopian youth to be killed by police in the past six months.
Close to 140,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, most having flown to Israel in three covert military operations called Moses, Joshua, and Solomon, from 1984-1991. But Ethiopian-Israelis have struggled to integrate into Israeli society, and the community has long accused the state, including the military, of racism, neglect, brutality and abuse.
Tekah’s father, Varkah, was quoted as saying that while the protesters have given him strength, he called on community members to refrain from violence. Varkah said that his son had plans to enlist in the police as part of his army service.
“There are police officers who came to protect the people and do their work faithfully,” he said, adding nonetheless that there are a “few who enlisted in the police and use their weapons and their power.”
Israeli police officers braced for violence on Wednesday and worked to prevent the blocking of central highways and junctions by protesters. They prepared with riot gear, along with vehicles which spray skunk water.
Five protesters were arrested in Tel Aviv as some 200 protesters tried to block the Azrieli junction; five were arrested in Yavne after demonstrators threw stones at police officers; and two more were arrested in Rishon Lezion for using Molotov cocktails.
Police urged protesters to refrain from using violence, and said they will move against anyone who acts in a dangerous or inappropriate manner. Bystanders were also urged by police to stay away from the areas where protests are taking place.
Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the leaders of the Ethiopian-Israeli community to use their influence to stop violent protests.
“The death of Solomon Tekah is a great tragedy,” the prime minister said. ”Our hearts are with the family and lessons will be learned, but one thing is clear: we cannot tolerate the violence we saw yesterday, we cannot see the blocking of roads, Molotov cocktails, attacks on police and citizens and private property. This is something that cannot be tolerated, and the police are preparing accordingly to prevent it.”
Netanyahu’s words came at the start of a meeting that he convened of an inter-ministerial committee established to advance the integration of the Ethiopian immigrants into Israeli society. A number of community representatives are on that committee and were at the meeting.
“We worked together and achieved important things for the Ethiopian community in Israel and we have more work to do,” Netanyahu said. “But the first thing I ask and expect is that you mobilize your influence to help stop this violence. It must stop immediately.”
Netanyahu said that the Ethiopian-Israeli community “is dear to us,” but that Israel is a state of law, and demands that “everyone respect the law.”
He said that the interministerial committee has previously discussed the need to change the pattern of the police toward the Ethiopian-Israeli community, and that while there has been improvements, more improvements are necessary.
“One thing is certain,” Netanyahu continued. “This cannot be dealt with by blocking roads, and it cannot be dealt with violently.”
Acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen also warned protesters that violence would not be tolerated, saying that “there is no place for attacks on public officials, on institutions and property.”
Cohen warned that “the incidents that took place yesterday will not be repeated... We will continue to respond proportionately, to distinguish between those exercising their right to protest in a democratic country, and those who incite and assault.”