Dozens of members of Israel’s Jewish Ethiopian community protested Saturday in the northern city of Netanya for more racial justice and equity in the country, ahead of the Sept. 17 general elections and two months after the killing of 19-year-old Solomon Teka by an off-duty police officer.
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The protesters chanted "Justice for Solomon and all those killed," they lit candles and waved posters, denouncing police brutality and the fact that Black young men live in a non-stop fear of being harassed, abusively arrested or targetted by the police.
Teka was shot dead in late June in Kiryat Haim, a suburb of Haifa. Following his murder, widespread outrage ensued among the community who demonstrated for several days, shaking the country and blocking highways to expose their constant suffering in the country because of the color of their skin.
The young man's assassination occurred months after the police killing of Yehuda Biadga in January and many more incidents, such as the beating of Damas Pakada in 2015, tasering of Yosef Salamsa in 2014 which led him to commit suicide.
The officer who killed Teka said he did so to protect his wife whom he felt was in danger at the time of the shooting. He was released on bail from house arrest two weeks after the killing and was expected to be charged with reckless homicide, a less serious crime than manslaughter.
"We won't stop protesting until we get justice for Solomon Teka," said Gil Elias, a 41-year-old lifeguard who came from his hometown of Herzliya to attend the protests.
Saturday’s demonstrations took place a few days before Sept. 17 general election which brings Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to face Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White alliance, and Netanyahu’s most serious opponent.
Members of the Ethiopian community have traditionally voted for right-wing parties and have consistently been supportive of Netanyahu’s Likud party, however, they may revise the way they vote in the light of the latest events.
Terry Tessema-Cohen, a 40-year-old nurse from the northern town of Amec Heffer acknowledge that many in her community voted for the Likud in the past.
"But that's changing. I pray to God that my community will not vote for Netanyahu," she said, adding that the government has done little to counter racism in Israel.
The Ethiopian community in Israel numbers some 140,000 of almost nine million people. Most Ethiopians were cut off from the Jewish world for centuries and later recognized as part of the community belatedly by Israeli religious authorities. During the 1980s and the 1990s, Israeli took in tens and thousands of them.
Beyond the issue of police brutality, the community regularly complains against institutional racism at the hands of various authorities.