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!
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • 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.