Supreme Court Allows Ethiopian Israelis to Keep Protest Tent Up Outside Netanyahu's Residence

Protesters set up their tent in February at the end of a weeks-long campaign to raise awareness about anti-Ethiopian racism.

The Supreme Court is letting Ethiopian Israelis keep their protest tent up outside the Prime Minister's Residence for another month, describing as "petty" the Jerusalem municipality's request to dismantle the tent immediately.

The justices allowed the activists, who are protesting anti-Ethiopian discrimination, to stay where they are until the end of May, pending their compliance with several bylaws.

Representatives of the Ethiopian community at the High Court of Justice for Tuesday’s hearing.
Shiran Granot

The activists called the court's decision a victory. "Justice must also be seen to be done," said attorney Osnat Schwartz, who offered the tent dwellers legal advice. By overturning a regulation under which protest tents must be dismantled within three days, "the Supreme Court set a new precedent," Schwartz said.

The protesters set up their tent in February at the end of a weeks-long campaign to raise awareness about anti-Ethiopian racism. They launched their protest after several Kiryat Malakhi landlords refused to rent apartments to Ethiopian immigrants. This led Mulet Araro, a Kiryat Malakhi resident of Ethiopian origin, to launch a protest march to Jerusalem at the end of January.

Since then, the Jerusalem municipality has tried to evict the tent dwellers, first via negotiations - Mayor Nir Barkat even visited the site. Then came the legal battle.

In Tuesday's hearing, justices Hanan Melcer and Asher Grunis sought a compromise between the activists' wish to set up a tent encampment and the municipality's request for just a small shed.

"I must say I don't understand what it's all about," Grunis told Amnon Merhav, the municipality's legal adviser. "What's the difference? I really don't see what the problem is."

When Merhav objected to the justices' decision to give the activists a week to adapt the tent to the city's health and safety regulations, Grunis said: "Mr. Merhav, that's a bit petty."

Gilad Shalit, who was released in October after more than five years in Hamas captivity, visited the site, where his parents had put up a protest tent to pressure the government to get their son freed.

"If my parents weren't evicted, there's no reason why you should be," he told the activists.