The discrimination against Ethiopian immigrants and their families in Kiryat Malakhi is prevalent in all walks of life, residents of Ethiopian origin told Knesset members who visited the town this week.
Avi Tesera, 35, a university student and a company commander in the Paratroopers Corps, told the lawmakers he tried to buy an apartment in a new housing project some five months ago. The contractor, Yaakov Vaknin, responded evasively, he said.
"The contractor said, 'You can't afford the price, leave it alone,' even before quoting any price or knowing what I had," Tesera said. "When I insisted, he said NIS 980,000. I spoke to neighbors who had already bought an apartment and are not from Ethiopia and they said they paid NIS 740,000 for the same apartment. I realized he simply didn't want to sell me an apartment."
Vaknin is one of the only contractors building apartments in the town at present, so anyone who wants to buy an apartment depends on him.
"Then he offered me a rotting apartment in an old building unfit for human residence, in an old neighborhood," said Tesera. "'That will be right for you,' he said. He kept saying I wasn't suitable for the building I wanted to buy in. Until now I haven't been able to buy a better apartment than my old one, and it's not for lack of money."
Tesera was speaking to members of the Knesset's Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee who came to Kiryat Malakhi on Sunday following the reports of discrimination against Israelis of Ethiopian origin in the town.
Vaknin later said: "I sell to anyone willing to pay."
Tesera said people of Ethiopian origin were discriminated against in schools as well.
"It was immensely difficult to keep my 3-year-old son and another child of Ethiopian origin in his preschool, where all the other children were Israelis of other origins," he said. "They tried to make me take him out in several ways, but I insisted."
"This week I started doing a month's reserve service. I hate the thought that I'm going to fight also for those who don't want me among them," said Tesera.
Kiryat Malakhi Mayor Moti Malka said he was planning to cancel the building permit of real estate developers who refuse to sell to Ethiopians, but can't do anything about individuals who choose to discriminate.
"I'm going to pass a municipal resolution to cancel the building permit of any developer who builds in the city and discriminates against any community," said Malka, adding that nearly 800 apartments have been sold to residents of Ethiopian origin so far.
Responding to Tesera's complaint about Vaknin, he said: "The tenders were issued by the Israel Lands Administration and private people are building there. Can I tell a private individual who to sell to? That contractor has already sold everything he had so I couldn't tell him what to do."
"I'm not responsible for the wave of discrimination in Israel," Malka added.
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