Public protests against police brutality have erupted across the country in the past week after two African Americans, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were shot to death by officers of the law, rekindling the rage of the Black Lives Matter movement. Just two days earlier, however, another group of Africans descended on a metropolis half a world away to express their anger over the racist violence directed against their own sector of society. Demanding an end to institutional anti-Black racism by the Israel government, hundreds of Jewish citizens of Ethiopian heritage marched through the streets of downtown Tel Aviv on July 3, renewing demonstrations that had galvanized the community a year earlier.
The mostly young Ethiopian-Israeli protesters called for abusive police officers to be jailed and blocked a main street in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense. Hours later, demonstrators tried and failed to block the Ayalon Highway, the country’s most traveled traffic artery. Police arrested at least a dozen individuals over the course of the rally for “disrupting public order,” later releasing them in the wee hours of the morning.
Many of the protesters carried signs and stickers emblazoned with the name and the face of Yosef Salamsa, a 22-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli who had died exactly two years earlier. In July 2014, Salamsa’s dead body was found at a quarry on the outskirts of his home town, Zichron Yaakov, in the north of the country. Salamsa’s family and many community members believe that Yosef’s death is connected, either directly or indirectly, to the abuse he faced at the hands of Israeli police officers months prior.