Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin made statements today in support of Ethiopian Jews and against racism at the national memorial ceremony for the thousands of Ethiopian Jews who perished on their way to Israel in the early 1980s.
Israel Was Wrong To Close Its Doors To Ethiopian Jews, Israeli Racism And Discrimination Against Them Must End, Israeli President Says
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin made statements today in support of Ethiopian Jews and against racism at the national memorial ceremony for the thousands of Ethiopian Jews who perished on their way to Israel in the early 1980s, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Today, which is Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), was picked only several years ago by the government to commemorate the Ethiopian Jews who died on the way to Israel.
Netanyahu reportedly called Israeli Ethiopian Jews the “flesh of our flesh, equal among equals,” and lashed out at racism and discrimination against them while speaking at the official state ceremony on Har Herzl (Mount Herzel) commemorating the thousands of Ethiopian Jews who died trying to reach Israel.
“We will fight with all our strength against those unacceptable phenomena. We will uproot this from our lives. We will turn it [the racism and discrimination against Ethiopian Jews] into something inferior, despicable,” Netanyahu said, noting that there are societies around the world which have overcome racism and discrimination, and that Israel must join them.
“We the Jews brought the idea of the dignity of man to civilization,” Netanyahu insisted. “And we will make sure that the dignity of man will be expressed in this our one and only state.”
He also reiterated his recent pledge to implement a comprehensive plan addressing these problems. The pledge was made to Ethiopian Jewish activists who had organized large-scale protested against police brutality and racism over the past few weeks.
Speaking of that meeting with the activists, Netanyahu said, “I heard complaints about racism, prejudice, discrimination, and the use of excess force. I heard concerns about walking down the street because of the color of your skin. I cannot accept this, not in our country, not in the Jewish state.”
He also called the immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel – which for many included walking for weeks over mountains and through a desert, followed by a stay of months in a squlid, fetid refugee camp in Sudan – “a journey of tears…[on which Ethiopian Jews] faced every possible evil: hunger and thirst, disease and death, imprisonment and torture, robbers. Sometimes you struggled with wild animals, other times with people who were worse than animals -- and the stories are heartbreaking.”
Netanyahu also said he has now ordered the state education system to teach the story of Ethiopian Jews’ aliyah (immigration) to Israel “because I think it's part of bringing people closer together, and to implant a [feeling] of the common destiny of our people.”
At the same ceremony, President Reuven Rivlin reportedly said that of the 12,000 Ethiopian Jews who tried to reach Israel in 1983 and 1984, about 4,000 died on the way. (The actual numbers, which Israel has tried to hide for decades, is closer to 15,000 who tried to reach Israel. The number who died or were murdered along the way is still unclear, but could be as high as 7,000 – close to 3,000 of whom appear to have died after Israel leaked the joint US-Israel rescue operation, known in the Jewish world as Operation Moses, to the media and the rescue was halted by Sudan’s leader, Gaafar Muhammad Nimeiry. The leaks in late 1984 and in the first week of 1985 also contributed to Nimeiry’s fall from power that April. Approximately 3,000 Ethiopian Jews, stranded in those Sudanese refugee camps when the rescue abruptly ended, tried to walk back to Ethiopia. Many, if not most, died.
Rivlin reportedly went on to say that Israeli society has made mistakes in how it absorbed Ethiopian Jews, and has not done enough to correct those mistakes. He also reportedly laid a wreath at the monument to those Ethiopian Jews who perished.
Rivlin lashed out at the State of Israel he now heads for having closed its doors to Ethiopian Jews for the decades leading up to Operation Moses in 1984.
Rivlin also spoke with emotion, his voice cracking, of the racism many Ethiopian Jews face in their daily lives
“We have all seen and heard the cry of pain of Israelis of Ethiopian background. The demonstrators exposed an open wound that bled in the heart of Israel, a penetrating cry that comes from a feeling of bias, racism, humiliation and lack of resources,” Rivlin reportedly said.