Ethiopians clash with police; 8 hurt
Sheera Claire Frenkel, THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 6, 2006
What was meant to be a peaceful rally for Ethiopian rights turned violent Monday, when demonstrators clashed with police in front of the Health Ministry in Jerusalem, leaving 19 people injured.
More than 200 people gathered in front of the government compound to protest discrimination against Ethiopians. The boiling point, they said, was a recent decision by the Health Ministry to discard donated Ethiopian blood.
“We won’t allow our blood to be spilled like this. The Torah says that blood is the soul. How can this country treat us, fellow Jews, this way?” said Gadi Yabarken, one of the protest’s organizers. “We will not leave unless the prime minister agrees to meet with us.”
While Prime Minister Ehud Olmert refused to meet with the protesters, Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Boim met with a small group of their representatives and promised to approach Olmert to ask him to create a ministerial committee dedicated to the Ethiopian community. Boim also promised to work for the release the five activists who were arrested during the protest.
The only politician to address the protest was MK Ran Cohen (Meretz). “I feel your pain. A country that discriminates against Ethiopian Jews is a racist country,” said Cohen, who added that he would raise the issue in the Knesset plenum.
Demonstrators answered Cohen’s speech with shouts that they were “sick of the false promises” of politicians.
Yabarken said the government had not upheld any of its promises to advance Ethiopian rights or deal with problems such as raising the salaries of Ethiopian religious leaders to match other rabbis, expand Falash Mura immigration or increase affirmative-action programs.
“These problems have been building up for some time, but to find out that they will throw our blood away, for no reason other than racist discrimination, that is too much to bear,” Yabarken said.