In protest

Chief photographer Ariel Jerozolimski captures Ethiopian immigrants from Beit Alfa as they demand better conditions opposite the Prime Minister's Office.

crying ethipian child 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
crying ethipian child 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It started just days before Yom Kippur, when more than 700 Ethiopian immigrants, including up to 100 young children, spent two nights sleeping outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem protesting what they claimed were unacceptable living conditions at the Jewish Agency for Israel-run Beit Alfa Absorption Center, near Beit She'an. The protesters were angry that their National Insurance benefits had been delayed, that the isolated location of Beit Alfa meant they could not find work to supplement those benefits and that their children had to travel long distances to get to school. They also pointed out the unsympathetic and unhelpful stance of the staff at the absorption center. In response, the authorities - both governmental and from the Jewish Agency - promised that they would look into their claims and managed to persuade most of them to go home before the fast started. They appointed a committee tasked with looking into the claims and finding a long-term solution for the immigrants. Most protesters went home but some continued their protest through Yom Kippur and were eventually relocated to different absorption centers. Last week, those who had returned to Beit Alfa said the promises had not been carried out by the authorities and headed again to the capital. They said that those appointed to investigate their claims were actually part of the problem. They felt the committee would most likely not be objective. Men, women and children joined the protest and slept some five nights on the streets again. On Monday, the situation came to a head when eight of the Ethiopians were arrested for attempting to break into the Prime Minister's Office and by Tuesday, Ethiopian groups spoke out about the lack of interest being displayed by the media. No long-term solution has yet been found for the immigrants.