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Ethiopian Jewish Protesters Clash with Israeli Police

Israeli protesters, Jews of Ethiopian origin, rally against what they claim is police violence against their community, in Jerusalem April 30, 2015.

A protest by Israelis of Ethiopian origin, also known as “Black Jews,” has erupted in violence. At least 13 people were injured, including demonstrators and police.

Hundreds of Ethiopian Jews clashed with Israeli police in Jerusalem during a protest against alleged discrimination. Demonstrators threw stones and bottles, and police responded with water cannons and stun grenades.

The rally followed the airing of a video showing police beating an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian origin in what activists described as an unprovoked act of racism. Protesters carried signs saying "Enough to police brutality,” and "The police are a disgrace."

Pnina Tamano-Shata, a leading member of the Ethiopian Jewish community and a former member of Israel’s parliament, said it is unacceptable that “the color of a person’s skin should become an excuse for police to beat, curse and discriminate.”

There are about 120,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel, a small minority in a country of eight million. Most of them immigrated during two major airlifts sponsored by the Israeli government in 1984 and 1991.

The Ethiopians have had trouble integrating into Israel’s high-tech, Western-style society. But many of them believe race is the issue, not culture.

“It is very difficult to live this way,” said a protester named Vanda Eli. He added that his son is afraid to go out in the street.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed for calm, saying that he “unequivocally condemns” the policemen who beat the Ethiopian soldier; and he vowed that they would be brought to justice.

Netanyahu said the Ethiopian community is dear to Israel and the nation “is making great efforts to ease their integration into (Israeli) society."