"He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11).
Imagine a family reunion after 2000 years. The thrilling anticipation of
bonding. Connecting all the dots of your origin and history. Healing,
strengthening, and enriching your born identity. You had always heard about
them, but now you will actually see your relatives. You will find a strong
resemblance, and a common thread that runs through your histories. To
witness such an encounter with your past is truly a miracle.
Israel is the home of such a miracle - the biggest family reunion ever.
Jews are returning from exile worldwide. It is a wonderful thing.
Yet despite the excitement, the return of exiles to the Land has also been
a source of social, cultural, and racial clashes. Such has been the weaving
of Ethiopian Jewry back into the fabric of Israeli Society.
The return of the last remaining community of Israel from the soil of
Africa started in the late 1970s and still continues today. The Jews of
Ethiopia have realized their long-awaited dream of coming to the Promised
Land according to the promises of God through the mouth of great prophets.
Today they number around 140,000 in Israel. But the Ethio-Israeli community
has not seen the promises fully come to pass. While thankful to be
with fellow Israelis they are not happy with the discrimination
and racism that they have experienced in many pockets of society.
Two generations protesting
Discrimination and lack of acceptance toward their very own Jewish
Ethiopian brothers has caused great offence to the story of God's
redemption of Israel. This condition of inequality has crept into Israeli
society at large, even affecting government institutions. This
discrimination was largely hidden for the last 30 years, with only minor
and ineffective demonstrations and appeals. Due to the meek and humble
character of the Ethio-Israeli community, empty promises from prime
ministers and leaders were taken at face value. But now that has changed.
Volcanic anger and frustration erupted into violent demonstrations in early
May when a video went viral. The video showed an innocent Ethio-Israeli IDF
soldier in uniform, being brutally beaten by police for no specific reason.
The video did not leave any room for doubt about discrimination targeted at
Ethio-Israelis. Apparently this is not an isolated event but something many
young Israeli Ethiopians have experienced at the hands of police. Perhaps
it is not a coincidence that 40% of juvenile jail inmates in Israel are
Protest sign: Our hope is lost.
We are not free in our own land.
What makes this wave of demonstrations different is that it is coming from
the younger generation - many of whom were born in Israel. The racism,
discrimination, and derogatory remarks towards the Ethiopians have
continued into the next generation - a generation that will not allow
themselves to be gullibly reassured by lip service of politicians.
The discrimination is not just from the police. It is present in numerous
places including some schools who refuse to receive Ethiopian pupils, some
employers who discriminate and some neighborhoods which have not allowed
Ethiopians to buy or rent homes.
The police chief has fired the officers in the video, and he also called to
open all the files of incarcerated Ethiopian juveniles. This is a step
toward righting the wrongs, but the journey towards equality is going to be
Protest blocking main artery
highway of Tel Aviv
Looking back at the history of our nation, there was a time such as this.
The whole camp of Israel was stopped in their journey towards the Promised
Land when: "Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the
Ethiopian woman whom he had married ... So the anger of the LORD was
aroused against them, and He departed" (Numbers 12:9). God saw this
arrogance of heart and He departed from their midst. They could not move
forward. God feels strongly about discrimination and racism.
The family reunion born in the heart of God was not meant to end in
debasing one another. Quite the opposite, it is Israel's irrevocable
calling to be a brotherhood nation that is diverse but unified in the
loving heart of the Father. Maybe this can only happen fully when all
Israel receives the One who "came to His own ..."
"That they all may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one
accord. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my worshipers, the daughter of
my dispersed ones, shall bring My offering" (Zephaniah 3:9-10).