Hundreds of Israelis of Ethiopian descent and their supporters staged sit-down protests at major road junctions throughout the country this week, after a member of the immigrant community was shot dead by police. Several of the protests have seen violence and destruction of property.
18-year-old Solomon Tekah died under disputed circumstances after being shot by an off-duty policeman on June 30th, in the northern city of Haifa. The officer maintains that he had only fired a ‘warning shot’ after two groups of youths put his life in danger by hurling rocks at him, after he tried to break up a street fight between them. His claims that Tekah was accidentally hit by a ricochet may be borne out by forensic autopsy, which reportedly found only the fragment of a bullet in the victim’s body. The policeman has been suspended pending a departmental investigation into the incident.
Israelis of Ethiopian origin and their supporters dispute the officer’s account, and have complained of racist discrimination at times.
Israel brought around 20,000 Ethiopian Jews, who trace their lineage to the ancient Biblical tribe of Dan, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, to the Holy Land aboard secret flights in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, to save them from war and famine plaguing the Horn of Africa.
While speaking on behalf of the Tekah family, friend Asaf Kovna detailed contributions his community has made to Israel, which he referred to “this beloved country.” The victim’s father Worka Tekah has also issued an appeal that rallies on behalf of his son be held “without violence, in a peaceful way.”