The son of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. visited Israel this week to confer an award on Israeli activists working on behalf of the Ethiopian Jewish community.
Martin Luther King III attended a special ceremony at the President’s Residence Sunday, where he handed the 2016 Unsung Hero Award, given by his Drum Major Institute, to three Israelis.
President Reuven Rivlin welcomed King by quoting from his father’s final speech before his assassination in 1968.
“In his last speech, on 3 April 1968, one day before his assassination, your dear father Martin Luther King Jr. said, and I quote, ‘We as a people will get to the Promised Land together!'” Rivlin recalled. “He taught us a great and important lesson. the Promised Land is of course an actual place, but at the same time it is also a vision, a dream, and also a responsibility. It was this old dream of the Promised Land that kept the fire burning in the hearts of the Jews of Ethiopia for so many years — for centuries. It was that fire, that deep faith, that dream, that brought them to Israel, to Jerusalem.”
He added: “For many of the community, modern Israel did not exactly fit the dream, but thankfully the Israeli community of Ethiopian origin is strong. It is a community with the power to create new dreams and visions, and picture their own new Promised Land built here in the actual Promised Land of Israel.”
The award winners were singer Idan Raichel, who incorporates Ethiopian Jewish music and musicians in his performances; former Knesset member Pnina Tamano-Shata, Israel’s first Ethiopian-born woman lawmaker; and journalist Anat Saragusti.
“It seems to me the message of Martin Luther King Jr. still resounds loudly in our nation and throughout the world and perhaps is needed even more so now today then back then,” King said at the ceremony. “I think the world is crying out for a message of hope and healing.”
Tamano-Shata called for bolstering the relationship between Jews and African Americans. “We can do much together to fight discrimination and hatred. In Israel, too, we still have much to do to fight discrimination,” she said.