Israeli President Reuven Rivlin admitted Monday that the Israeli authorities had “erred” in dealing with Jews of Ethiopian origin, following a night of clashes between the latter and Israeli police.
“Protesters in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv revealed an open and bloody wound in the heart of Israeli society,” Rivlin was quoted by Haaretz as saying at a meeting with local leaders of Israel’s ultra-orthodox community.
“This is a wound of a community sounding the alarm at what they feel is discrimination, racism and disregard of their needs. We must take a good hard look at this wound,” he added.
“We’ve erred,” he said. “We have failed to see and listen enough. Among those protesting in the streets, there can be found the best of our boys and girls, excellent students and former soldiers.”
He added: “We must give them answers.”
Late Saturday, thousands of Ethiopian Jews demonstrated in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to protest what they described as heavy-handed police practices against their community.
Late Sunday, around 68 people, mostly police personnel, were hurt – and 43 others arrested – in clashes between protesters and security forces in Tel Aviv, Israeli police spokesperson Luba Samri said.
The protests followed the emergence of a video showing an assault on an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier by two Israeli policemen.
The following day, Israeli police announced in a statement that the two policemen implicated in the incident had been suspended until further notice.
Late last month, Israel’s Jerusalem Post newspaper reported that there had been “a series of reports in the Israeli press about alleged acts of police brutality against Ethiopian Israelis, with many in the community saying they are unfairly targeted and treated more harshly than other citizens.”
Jews of Ethiopian descent accuse Israeli authorities of discriminating against them.
Three years ago, Ethiopian Jews staged demonstrations in central Israel to protest the refusal of a number of Israeli schools to allow the enrollment of children of Ethiopian descent.
Unofficial estimates put the number of Jews of Ethiopian origin in Israel at about 125,500, some 5,400 of whom serve in the Israeli military. (Anadolu Ajansi)