Baltimore unrest evoked as thousands of protesters block off traffic
A few thousand Ethiopian Israelis took on Thursday to the streets of Jerusalem to protest what they describe as institutionalized racial discrimination against the Ofer Meir/Ynet community.
The rally, sparked by two incidents where members of the community allegedly suffered violent assaults at the hands of the police, saw protesters draw explicit parallels to the racially-charged unrest in Baltimore, US.
The protesters blocked several of the capital’s main arteries, including the entrance to the city; they have also blocked the movement of the light rail near the National Headquarters of the Israel Police, the focal point of the protest.
Israel’s absorption of new immigrants from Ethiopia has been the subject of criticism.
According to the State Comptroller’s last year report, more than half (51.7%) of families who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia subsist below the poverty line. The report further said that despite government grants, only two families took out a mortgage over a period of four years.
Israel is currently home to some 120,000 Ethiopian-born Jews or their descendants. The majority came during two major clandestine immigration operations — Operation Moses in 1984 and Operation Solomon in 1991.
The mass migration of Ethiopian Jews began in the 1980s during the Marxist-Lenninist dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam, who killed thousands of African Jews and forbade practicing the religion.