Anger and Indifference as Africans Immigrants March in Tel Aviv

Israelis Admire — and Revile — Activism on Display

Paying No Mind: Thousands of African immigrants rallied for their rights in Tel Aviv. Some Israelis praised the protests, others objected, and some simply went about their business as usual.
Paying No Mind: Thousands of African immigrants rallied for their rights in Tel Aviv. Some Israelis praised the protests, others objected, and some simply went about their business as usual.

By Ben Sales

Published January 06, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(JTA) — They marched down Allenby Street today, past the market and the traffic jam of buses and cabs, their chants echoing around buildings and into courtyards.

“What we want?” one man yelled.

“Freedom!” hundreds chanted. “No more prison!”

Most of them Eritrean, most of them men, the crowd swelled as it reached the beach and turned right up the boardwalk, filling the bicycle lane and leaving only a narrow path for pedestrians. Opposite the concrete facade of the U.S. embassy, they stopped, sitting in rows, forming lines on the side of the street, now numbering in the thousands. Some crossed their hands above their heads, as if bound. Others wore white T-shirts with the words “No more prison! We want freedom!” printed in black around a picture of hands in handcuffs.

The Israeli government calls them infiltrators, and says they are young men who have willingly left economic hardship in Eritrea and Sudan for the promise of employment and a decent salary in Israel.

The government has portrayed the 55,000-person African migrant community, most of whom live in the poor neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv, as a demographic threat to the Jewish state and has called for them to leave. Last month, the government opened a detention center in southern Israel for the migrants.

Monday’s march, on the second day of a three-day strike, aims to tell a different story about the migrants, whose chant “We are refugees!” encapsulates their fight with the government.

The migrants say they have come to Israel escaping totalitarianism, abuse and war. If they return to their homelands, they say, they will be killed.

They want Israel to recognize them as refugees under international law and to allow them to work and live in the country legally — a status European countries have afforded many Eritreans and Sudanese.

So, beginning Sunday, the migrants went on strike by the thousands, leaving their jobs as street cleaners, custodians, factory workers and in restaurants and hotels. Yesterday they filled central Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, a public space seemingly made for mass protest.


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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.