Tomorrow marks 50 days since young Ethiopians set up a protest tent at the top of my street.
I walk Stuey and Dexxy past the tent – situated outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, on the same spot that the Shalit tent stood for three and a half years – with its “Stop Racism” and “Apartheid 2012” signs, most mornings. And, if you ask me, there are just some people you can never please.
Admitted, Israel’s 120,000 Ethiopians suffer institutional racism and discrimination, and enormous economic, employment-related and educational hardship – unemployment is over double that in the Jewish population as a whole, nearly three-quarters of Ethiopian families live below the poverty line, and their children are forced to attend separate kindergartens and schools – but, hello-o, would Ethiopians prefer to still be living in Africa, with its famines, droughts, human rights abuses and civil wars, rather than in Israel, with Big Brother and The Voice?!
Many passers-by clearly also have difficulty understanding what it is exactly that that the tent-dwellers want . . .
“My parents and their 17 children walked here from Morocco in 1955,” one woman told me. “We lived on leaves and grass,” she continued, “but we didn’t complain.”
And an elderly gentleman, born in Yemen, said: “We are also black . . . I mean, lighter than them, but still black. And it wasn’t easy with those bastard Ashkenazim, I can tell you! But we succeeded. And we did it through hard work, not charity.”
And, while we are on the subject, my aliyah wasn’t easy either. I had to share the ulpan/absorption centre with at least two dozen French, and – with the exception of the half-wit who walked around screaming “You fuck my wife?” (the only sentence that he knew, having apparently spent all of his high school leçons d’anglais memorising the script of Raging Bull) – the swines refused to speak a word of English.
And not all the new olim came with cash in the bank. Indeed, one of the Russian lasses was even said to have run a knocking shop from her bedroom (tragically, I only tend to discover such things when it is too late).
So, Ethiopian brothers and sisters, in the prophetic words of (your) Bob, you’ve gotta be “iron like a lion in Zion”: see your Israeli cup as half full . . . and stop yer wailing!