Restive Ethiopians Take to Street

New Generation Emboldened To Protest Racism in Israel

No to Racism: Thousands rally in Jerusalem to protest racism against Ethiopians in Israel.
getty images
No to Racism: Thousands rally in Jerusalem to protest racism against Ethiopians in Israel.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published January 22, 2012, issue of January 27, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Covering the shabby concrete storefronts in this small Israeli town are graffiti messages expressing the anger some Ethiopians feel over what they see as racism.

An unemployed Ethiopian immigrant waiting at the bus terminal says he has little hope of finding a job.

In a predominantly Ethiopian neighborhood named for Zionist forefather Theodor Herzl, residents complain that landlords use racist deals to keep them out of apartment blocks where white Israelis live.

Facing Racism: Ethiopian woman has her face painted for rally against racism.
getty images
Facing Racism: Ethiopian woman has her face painted for rally against racism.

Welcome to the epicenter of the growing movement of Ethiopian Israelis fighting what they call omnipresent discrimination and even blatant racism in the Jewish state.

“It’s funny that Herzl was a man who said that Jews should be together but… it’s full of Ethiopians living separately,” said protest leader Rachel Sium-Aaron, 26, pointing to a sign emblazoned with Herzl’s name.

Few Israelis had heard of Kiryat Malachi, much less been to the down-on-its-heels town of 25,000 on the road to Beersheba from Ashdod, until television news reports in early January broke the scandal of apartment leases that supposedly barred Ethiopians from living there.

Ethiopians responded by mounting one of the biggest demonstrations in their community’s short history, drawing about half of the town’s estimated 5,000 Ethiopians into the streets on January 10.

The East African immigrants and their allies staged a similarly sized protest on January 18, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem.

Ethiopian elders say the protests, organized using social media and led by people in their 20s, represent a dramatic new stage in their community’s history.

Many of the protest leaders are second-generation immigrants who grew up in Israel and may feel more confident protesting racism than their parents, who came from Ethiopia in the famed airlifts of so-called Falasha Jews.

“The youngsters didn’t appreciate what was happening until now,” said Yaakov Kabada, a leader of Kiryat Malachi’s Ethiopian community. “But now they have woken up. Now it’s all bursting out.”

Studies reveal that de facto school segregation exists in some places in Israel, with some schools populated entirely by children of Ethiopian origin. In Kiryat Malachi, some neighborhoods appear to be populated almost entirely by African immigrants.

“‘Ethiopian only’ schools are a disgusting and condemnable phenomenon that stain the entire education system,” Alex Miller, chairman of the Knesset Education Committee, said in September.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.