Protesters Demand Freedom for Israeli Held Captive in Gaza Strip

Over 100 marchers urge the government to take action to bring Abera Mengistu, who has been missing since 2014, back home

The Mengistu family and over 100 activists march to demand action from Israeli over the 2014 disappearance of Avera Mengistu in Gaza.
Ilan Assayag

Relatives of an Israeli thought to be held captive in the Gaza Strip marched together with more than 100 other people in the southern city of Ashkelon on Wednesday to demand that the government take action to bring him home.

Abera Mengistu, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent, has been missing since September 2014, when he left his house in Ashkelon and crossed the Gaza border. His family says he did so because he has mental health problems that affect his judgment.

“Seder night was very difficult for us,” said Mengistu’s brother, Ilan, during the march. “It’s impossible to celebrate when my brother isn’t with us. We live with constant uncertainty, and it’s all because of the government. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if this government cares about human life. ... We won’t be quiet until they return Abera.”

Avi Dabush, an Ashkelon resident who participated in the march with his children, said he did so because Israel is doing nothing on the matter.

“There’s a man in Gaza whose existence is simply being ignored by the government and the prime minister,” he said. “We joined the march to give the family support and make them treat the family with respect. The time has come for the government to wake up and start working seriously so that we see Mengistu at home again.”

Miryam Tazazu, 27, of Be’er Sheva, said, “It was important to me to come to express support for the family, and above all to raise awareness of this issue. ... It’s not enough just to write Facebook posts."

“I think Abera’s case hasn’t received appropriate attention,” she added. “My guess is that this is related to the fact that he’s Ethiopian. He’s the wrong color.”