Ethiopian Jews protests turn violent in Israel, President speaks of “open wound”


Protests by Ethiopian Jews have turned violent in Israel in recent days.

BBC reports that dozens of police and protesters were hurt in Tel Aviv, where Ethiopian Jews protested against alleged police brutality. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades as protesters threw bottles and bricks. Tensions have risen after a video was released, in which two policemen were beating a soldier with Ethiopian background.

Israeli political leaders have addressed the violent protests.

President Reuven Rivlin said that “a handful of violent trouble-makers” were responsible of the violence, but stated that the protests revealed “the pain of a community crying out over a sense of discrimination, racism, and of being unanswered. We must look directly at this open wound.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanjahu has met both with the abused soldier and Ethiopian community leaders.

One protester said that they are not prepared to wait any longer to be recognized as equal citizens. Tel Aviv police has commented on the clashes by saying that the use of violence by a small minority of the many protesters doesn’t serve their struggle.

U.S. News reports that the violent protests highlight the struggles of Ethiopian Jews after 30 years in Israel. About 135,000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel are plagued by poverty, crime and unemployment, and their brewing frustrations over racism and lack of opportunity. Jews have been the victims of discrimination and similar protests erupted previously in 2012.

Secret operations carried out in the 1980s and 90s allowed thousands of Jews with high expectations of a better life to flee to Israel to escape Ethiopia’s famine and civil war.


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