‘Racist’ government not doing enough to rescue brethren, say Ethiopian-Israeli protesters

Hundreds block intersection in Jerusalem, chanting “racism, discrimination, and asking why Ukrainian Jews were helped to escape their war and Ethiopians are not.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Hundreds of Ethiopian-Israelis protested Sunday in Jerusalem, alleging racism as the reason for the government’s poor rescue effort of their brethren trapped in the conflict zone of their home country.

For over an hour, the demonstrators blocked the intersection near the Supreme Court, holding pictures of their loved ones still in Ethiopia, signs imploring the government to “Bring our People Now, tomorrow may be too late,” and shouting “racism” and “discrimination.”

When police on foot and horseback started removing them, severe clashes developed, and the authorities retreated. The intersection opened to traffic over two hours later.

On Thursday, a joint effort of the Jewish Agency and several government organs evacuated some 200 people from the Gondar region, but only about 50 of them were prospective immigrants, reports indicate; the rest were Israeli citizens. According to the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry movement, the four planeloads were not close to what was needed.

The rescue flights “left over a thousand qualified individuals behind in Ethiopia,” the group said in a statement, referring to those who met the established criteria for immigration. Those in “the besieged and volatile confines of the Gondar camp” are especially in “imminent danger of their lives,” it added, as the national army fights with a local militia called FANO.

Holding a picture of his own relatives left behind, group coordinator Surafel Alamo told Ynetat the protest, “As of now, the Israeli government is not doing enough to bring Ethiopian Jews here…. Exactly a year ago, a war began between Ukraine and Russia – Israel brought in over 40,000 within the first two months. Here, with Ethiopia – nothing!”

“My sister has been waiting in Ethiopia for 23 years,” said another demonstrator, “and they haven’t brought her because ‘there is no budget,’ that’s what they say. Rescue them now because they’re in war! …. But they’re not reaching out their hands to rescue Ethiopian Jews. Racism and discrimination still exist in 2023.”

Other demonstrators held signs demanding, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, keep your promise,” referring to a 2020 vow to bring the last Ethiopians to Israel.

MK Gilad Kariv (Labor) called the situation “unacceptable.”

“This is a human tragedy that is affecting” relatives of Israeli citizens,” he said, and while “not a new situation,” as the Jewish Agency has run camps for prospective immigrants for years in the African country, “it can’t be that the State of Israel won’t help those citizens whose families…trapped in the war zones in Gondar [or] waiting for years in Addis Ababa. This story has to end, the State of Israel can deal with the Aliyah and reunification of families.”

According to the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry, “The Knesset was informed that a staggering 4,226 individuals from camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa had submitted Aliyah requests” since the hot clashes began some two weeks ago.