Netanyahu: There is no room for racism in this country
For the first time in 20 years, a prime minister of Israel formally recognized Sunday the suffering and loss experienced by thousands of Ethiopian Jews who arrived in Israel during the 1980s and 1990s.
At a memorial ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told more than a thousand members of the Ethiopian community - all of who lost loved ones on their journey to Israel - that the history of Ethiopian Jewry is inseparable from the overall history of the Jewish people.
“Your history is part of our history and your future is part of our future,” he told those gathered for the annual ceremony, which only in the past two years has become an official state event but never before included a direct address from the prime minister.
Netanyahu’s presence and that of other dignitaries for the first time since the community started holding a memorial for its dead - prior to 2005 an unofficial event took place at Kibbutz Ramat Rahel - was greeted with mixed emotions.
“Of course it’s an honor that the No. 1 person in the country is here,” commented Uri Kabada, a journalist and activist from Petah Tikva. “But we are also painfully aware that this is the first time it is happening.”
Michal Avera Samuel, director of FIDEL - The Association for Education and Social Integration of Ethiopian Jews in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post that while it was certainly a sign of respect, there was still a feeling of paternalism from the establishment, which last week unveiled a controversial plan to tackle immigration problems and widespread discrimination against Ethiopian Israelis.
In addressing the problem of racism against the immigrant community, Netanyahu highlighted during the ceremony that there is no room for such attitudes in Israel and called on the community itself to help spread the word about their commitment and contributions to the state.