Ethiopian-Israeli protests resume over killing of teenager by cop

Demonstrators in Tel Aviv march from Azrieli junction to Rabin Square, rallies take place elsewhere following end of family’s seven-day mourning period

Ethiopian-Israelis and supporters protest police violence and discrimination in Tel Aviv, July 8, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Ethiopian-Israelis and supporters protest police violence and discrimination in Tel Aviv, July 8, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Ethiopian-Israeli protests resumed Monday, ending a pause of several days after angry demonstrations rocked the country last week over the police killing of an unarmed teen.

In Tel Aviv, demonstrators gathered at the Azrieli intersection and planned to march to the city’s Rabin Square. Police said roads would be blocked to make room for the rally.

Other protests were set to take place around the country.

Police said in a statement that they wouldn’t tolerate the disorder and road closures caused by last week’s protests, which were sparked when an off-duty police officer shot to death 19-year-old Solomon Tekah in Haifa on June 30.

Demonstrators at Monday’s Tel Aviv protest, which focused on mothers of Ethiopian youth, carried signs reading “Mom, don’t let me be the next victim,” “in the State of Israel, being black is not a crime” and “different from the outside but the same within.”

Blue and White MK Pnina Tamano-Shata addressed the crowd at the Rabin Square rally, saying “all of us here are worried mothers, like all mothers in Israel who want to raise their children in a good and safe environment. Our children won’t be abandoned, and Solomon Tekah won’t be abandoned.”

“The time has come for us to look at these problems with open eyes, and to stop thinking that we are the problem. Solomon Tekah is not the problem,” Tamano-Shata said.

Ethiopian-Israelis and supporters protest police violence and discrimination in Tel Aviv, July 8, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

One protester, identified by the Ynet news site as Janet, said to the crowd: “If my child cannot go out and come home [safely], no mothers are going to be silent. I’m prepared to bleed, and I’m prepared to die.”

“These children are the children of all the people of Israel. Anyone who calls the Ethiopian Jews ‘them,’ removes himself from the rest of the people.”

Last week, protesters across Israel blocked streets, burned tires and denounced what they say is systemic discrimination against the Ethiopian-Israeli community.

The demonstrations escalated after Tekah’s funeral Tuesday, when some protesters set vehicles on fire, overturned police cruisers and clashed with officers and others who tried to break through their makeshift roadblocks.

Ethiopian-Israeli protesters demonstrate in Tel Aviv against the shooting of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah and what they say is systemic police brutality, July 2, 2019. (Hadas Parush/ Flash90)

Community organizers say government reforms meant to address racism and police brutality against Ethiopian-Israelis have yet to be implemented, over three years after promises were made following similar protests.

Protests had faded on Wednesday after Tekah’s family asked that demonstrations cease until after the seven-day Jewish mourning period, which ended Sunday. The family had asked that protests be kept nonviolent and said an official memorial ceremony would be planned.

Worka and Wbjig Tekah hold a picture of their son Solomon Tekah, 19, who was killed by an off duty police officer on July 1, 2019, at their home in the Israeli city of Haifa on July 3, 2019. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Ethiopian Jews, who trace their lineage to the ancient Israelite tribe of Dan, began arriving in large numbers in the 1980s, when Israel secretly airlifted them to the Holy Land to save them from war and famine in the Horn of Africa.

Blue and White MK Pnina Tamano-Shata attends a Knesset committee meeting on July 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Earlier Monday Tekah’s parents and family visited his grave for the first time since he was buried a week ago, and called for justice in the case. The family, accompanied by other members of the Ethiopian community, held a memorial ceremony at the Tel Regev cemetery, where he was laid to rest.

“I lost a dear son who did nothing wrong,” Tekah’s father, Worka, said alongside the grave. “I put my hope in the country’s judges and it is their responsibility to ensure justice is done. I paid a heavy price, the community paid a heavy price.”

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department confirmed Monday that a probe into the death of Tekah had concluded the officer fired at the ground and the bullet apparently ricocheted into the teenager.

Ethiopian-Israelis and supporters protest police violence and discrimination in Tel Aviv, July 8, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The officer, who was off duty at the time of the incident and has not been named, has claimed he was trying to break up a street fight he came across but was set upon by three youths who hurled stones at him, endangering his life.

Officials are said to be leaning toward charging the man with a disciplinary offense only and not manslaughter.

Most Popular
read more: