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ALM Feature

Israelis of Ethiopian origin suffer discrimination, racism, over-policing

Decades after arriving to the country, Israelis of Ethiopian origin still face distrust, discrimination and police brutality.
Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

JERUSALEM — Israelis of Ethiopian origin have lived in the country for years. Some of them made the long journey from Ethiopia to Israel 30 or 40 years ago, while others were born in Israel to Ethiopian-born parents. Yet many of them feel that Israeli society still treats them as outsiders, making their integration difficult.

Knesset member Tsega Melaku of the Likud Party paid a visit on Monday to 26-year-old Vendelin Avera, who sustained extensive burns last week from a firebomb thrown during a violent protest by Israelis of Ethiopian origin.

Melaku's visit lasted longer than planned, as she found it hard to leave Avera and his distraught family. Having come to console them, she said she left despondent. “This takes me back to my own experiences of the racism I and my family experienced in Israel, of all places,” she told Al-Monitor.

Melaku, 55, is one of tens of thousands of Ethiopians of Jewish ancestry who have immigrated to Israel since the early 1980s. Born in Gondar Province, she arrived in Israel at the age of 16 and entered the struggle against the institutionalized racism of which she accuses her adopted homeland. Last Wednesday, she addressed the protest at which Avera was injured, the second such demonstration since 4-year-old Rafael Adana was killed in a May hit-and-run while out walking with his grandfather.

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