Hundreds of mourners arrived Sunday afternoon at the Yarkon Cemetery in Petah Tikva to attend the funeral of Ethiopian immigrants Ilu and Adelu Beju. According to police reports, Ilu, 46, stabbed Atelu, 42, to death and then committed suicide in front of his seven young children on Friday night.
Or Yehuda social workers dealing with the case said the fate of the children would be decided after the Pessah holiday, meanwhile they are in the care of Ilu's sister and a specially hired Ethiopian social worker.
Holding a photograph of Ilu, his brother stood at the center of a traditional Ethiopian mourning ceremony that took place at the entrance to the cemetery prior to the burial, while another member of the mourners' circle held up a photograph of Adelu.
Chanting in Amharic, professional mourners from the Ethiopian community decried the premature deaths of the deceased and the fate of their eight children, who lost both their parents in one day. Two of the couple's teenage daughters cried uncontrollably at the graveside.
The couple's oldest daughter, Habam, had still not been alerted to the terrible tragedy. When the family immigrated from Ethiopia four years ago she remained behind with her child and husband. As is the Ethiopian custom Habam must be told of her parent's fate in person and not by telephone, Ethiopian activist Avraham Neguise told The Jerusalem Post. He said that a close friend of the family in Ethiopia would let her know in a few days.
One of the mourners told the Post, "The family and many members of the Ethiopian community are very angry at the media coverage of these tragic deaths. Why did they have to publish a photograph of both of them holding beer bottles, as if they were alcoholics? All they care about is creating a sensation. What image of the community does this create?" Most of the others at the funeral refused to comment.
Neguise said that one of the main factors troubling the family was not being able to see their daughter. Habam, whose husband is also Jewish, has been trying to join her parents for the past four years but her immigration has been held up by the bureaucratic process, he said.
"They went to the interior ministry many times to ask for their daughter to come to Israel," said Neguise, the first Ethiopian immigrant to run for Knesset as the head of a political party. Neguise's Atid Achad Party, which promoted rights of Ethiopian immigrants, did not make the percentage threshold to gain a seat in the 17th Knesset.
"Being separated from loved ones is a very common problem for Ethiopian immigrants and makes adjusting to their new life in Israel very difficult," said Neguise, director of South Wing to Zion, an advocacy group for Ethiopian immigrant rights.
"The families have to send money to their relatives in Ethiopia to help them survive there, that means they cannot feed their families here." Neither of the Bejus were employed, he said.
Michael Jankelowitz, spokesman for the Jewish Agency said that there is a lengthy process of verifying the background of each person wanting to come to Israel. Ethiopian Jews who are Falash Mura do not immigrate under the Law of Return but rather the Law of Entry, said Jankelowitz, meaning that each case must be evaluated individually.
He said that the Ministry of the Interior must first approve the documentation of each application and then the Jewish Agency is able to facilitate the immigration. "Twenty thousand people are still waiting," said Jankelowitz. "It is a process that takes a long time. Due to Ariel Sharon's illness and the elections everything is at a standstill."
Neguise, however, dismissed this saying that the policy was discriminatory against Ethiopians. "Immigrants from other countries, such as Russia, can come whenever they want but from Ethiopia only 300 people are allowed each month," said Neguise "The Israeli government is similar to the British during the mandate period. I call this policy 'Israel's black paper.'"
Jankelowitz told the Post that the Jewish Agency would immediately look into the immigration status of the Beju's daughter.