Demonstrators from Israel’s Ethiopian community blocked a main highway in Tel Aviv on Monday to protest police’s handling of a hit-and-run that killed a boy several months ago, accusing authorities of racism and leniency in the case.
Rafael Adana, aged four, was hit by a car while walking with his grandfather in Netanya on Shabbat, May 6. He was critically wounded and died in a hospital several days later.
The driver, a 70-year-old woman, fled the scene, later claiming she “didn’t feel” the vehicle striking anything. She turned herself in to police several hours later and provided testimony about the car collision, Channel 12 reported. She was released to house arrest.
Since then, no charges have been filed against the driver, and Adana’s family and other activists are demanding that prosecutors take action and allow the family to view footage of the hit-and-run.
Investigators have sought to determine whether the driver veered from her lane and hit the boy while he was on the sidewalk, or whether he had strayed into the street, Channel 12 reported.
Adana was of the Ethiopian-Israeli community, as are many of the activists calling for action. The community has charged authorities with discriminatory legal treatment in the past.
On Monday morning, dozens of protesters demonstrated outside the state prosecutor’s office in Tel Aviv, then marched to the Ayalon Highway, blocking traffic. Police dispersed the demonstrators after around 30 minutes. The activists then blocked traffic at the nearby Azrieli Junction.
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The protesters wore shirts with the boy’s face imprinted on them, chanted “Justice for Rafael,” and carried signs that said “We are all Rafael.” The activists said they intend to continue protesting until the driver is indicted.
“If his name was Rafael Heshin or Rafael Rubinstein, there probably would have been an indictment already,” the boy’s father told the crowd, implying the family was being discriminated against.
Likud MK Tsega Melaku, a lawmaker of Ethiopian heritage, said at the protest, “There is no equality before the law. This country has a caste system.”
“The person who hit Rafael is a murderer who left him to bleed to death,” she said. “We’re here to demand justice from the prosecutors.”
Or Yarok, a traffic safety organization, said, “There should be no forgiveness for a hit-and-run. The State of Israel must declare war on drivers who hit someone and flee the scene without providing help.”
In 2019, Israel’s Ethiopian community held major protests over the fatal shooting of a community member by an off-duty police officer.
In 2015, a large demonstration in support of the Ethiopian community against police brutality and racism turned violent, transforming Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square into a massive street brawl.
Community members have also accused successive governments of neglecting an Ethiopian-Israeli man, Avraham Mengistu, who is believed to be held by the Hamas terror group in Gaza.