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!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • 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.