Ethiopian-Israeli Begins Three-day March to Protest Racism

Mulet Araro, who set out on foot to Jerusalem from his home in Kiryat Malachi, will arrive in time for Wednesday's anti-racism demonstration in Jerusalem.

An Israeli of Ethiopian descent yesterday started a three-day protest march from his home in Kiryat Malakhi to the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, where he will join other Ethiopian Israelis for a demonstration against racism Wednesday.

Mulet Hararo, 26, an IDF officer and physical education student, called on Israelis of Ethiopian origin and other supporters to join him on his march, which is intended "to raise awareness for the discrimination and awaken society from its coma."

"I believe racism can be quashed. We, the new generation, are ready to make great sacrifices. We are fighting for the future generations," he wrote in his Facebook page on Sunday.

A week ago, hundreds demonstrated in Kiryat Malakhi to protest discrimination in the wake of the reported refusal of housing committees to sell apartments to Israelis of Ethiopian origin.

Araro embarked on his 63-kilometer trek at 7 A.M. yesterday, passing Beit Shemesh on his way to Latrun, where he stopped for the night. Today he will spend the night in Mevasseret Zion and continue to Jerusalem tomorrow via the Western Wall and the Knesset, where the demonstrators will gather.

Groups of supporters will accompany him at various points along the way.

"I'm determined to make a change and it's time we did more than just demonstrations," he told Haaretz yesterday, walking on Route 3 toward Latrun. "The disease of racism in Israeli society must be exposed. As far as I'm concerned all the means are justified except violence. Because racism is violence," he said.

"I've been through the army and learned something. I hope the sane Israeli society will join me and walk with me because this is everyone's war, not only ours," he said.

Activists of Ethiopian origin and other volunteers yesterday distributed flyers to passersby outside Tel Aviv's Azrieli towers, urging them to come to Wednesday's demonstration against racism and discrimination.

The demonstration is scheduled to start at 3 P.M. in the Knesset plaza. From there protesters will march to the prime minister's residence and the central stage set up in Zion Square.

Some 6,000 signed up for the demonstration on Facebook since the invitation to the rally was posted at the beginning of the week. However, the organizers fear that due to the bad weather and the local authorities' strike fewer people would actually take part in the event.

"We'll come on Wednesday with a list of demands and propose solutions as well," said social activist Daniel Bahart.

"We hope at least one of the decision makers will come down to us, hear us and respond to our demands. Of course we expect [Immigraant Absorption Minister] Sofa Landver to talk to us," he said.

Landver said last week, in response to protests against discrimination of Israelis from Ethiopia, that they should be grateful for what they have received from Israel.

"We have problems and we will not rest until things change. As of now the response to racism has been merely cosmetic. There are still numerous racists in the schools who receive wages from the state, there is segregation in schools, nightclubs...we'll continue demonstrating until these issues are solved," he said.

Meretz Knesset members Ilan Gilon and Nitzan Horowitz yesterday submitted a proposal to the ministerial legislation committee banning discrimination in renting or selling a home on the basis of nationality, skin color, sexual inclination, handicap and political association.

However the committee put off discussing the proposal for a month, in what Gilon called a deliberate attempt to scrap it once the public uproar died down.

"It is clear the cabinet is trying to bury the proposal and silence the Ethiopian immigrants' outcry," Gilon said.