Last night, a few of the current Yahelnikim and Yahel alumni joined some of our friends from Gedera at a protest in the city of Kiryat Malachi. The protest was in reaction to a news segment aired in Israel that showed members of the Kiryat Malachi community coming together to sign housing agreements that barred any renting of apartments to Israelis of Ethiopian descent. If this wasn’t bad enough, some Israeli students went undercover to try to rent an
apartment in this area, and the man renting them assured them there would be “no roaches” there – he was referring to Ethiopian Israelis. One resident came on camera saying that the “only good Ethiopian was one in the grave.” I watched this segment with the Yahelnikim and one of our friends from the neighborhood who is of Ethiopian descent. I tried not to cry, and failed. He walked away for a few minutes, and we all had our own reactions. He said he knew this type of racism existed, but to see it and hear it was jarring, although he wasn’t sure why. For me, I know why I was emotional. I was embarrassed. Mortified, really. Mortified for every Jewish person who believes that all Jews are one people and we have a responsibility to protect one another. We have failed one another and, I believe, our ancestors and our generation have the responsibility to fix this.
Jews have been discriminated against for thousands of years. My grandmother and grandfather were in labor camps and survived the Shoah. They saw their families murdered for being Jewish. Never should Jews be spewing this kind of hatred against anyone- especially our own brothers and sisters. Israel is the home for all Jews- there should be no conditions. This has been a lesson for me in how to channel my own anger into something positive and productive to make a difference. To do my part to ensure that this is the last generation of any immigrants to feel unwelcome in their home, in all of our home, Israel.
The first step was to participate in the protests here in Israel. What will come next, I am still figuring that out but I am thankful to Yahel and all of its supporters, my fellow Yahelnikim and my friends in Gedera, for being on this journey with me to create and spark social change, and for allowing me to be on theirs.