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What You Need To Know Right Now About Israel: Tensions Between The Police And The Ex-Ethiopian Community Boil Over

Tensions erupt into violence in the wake of a fatal shooting of a Jewish Ethiopian Israeli youth by an off-duty police officer

An unfortunate and deadly incident yesterday is causing major disruptions in the lives of many Israelis today. The incident took place in the Haifa suburb of Kiriyat Haim and involved an off-duty police officer who intervened in a scuffle that was taking place among members of the Ethiopian community, a community that has its roots in Ethiopian Jewry that was repatriated to Israel in the early to mid 1990’s. While there are many success stories of Israelis of Ethiopian-Jewish descent integrating into Israeli society at all levels, too many of its members are still having a hard time adjusting to life in the bustling and modern state of Israel.

These difficulties often express themselves in increased crime, domestic violence, and other social problems leading to continuous contact and friction between members of the Ethiopian community and the Israeli police force. As the incident developed, rocks were allegedly thrown at the police officer, who, believing his life to have been in danger, drew his service pistol and fatally shot Solomon Taka, one of the participants of the scuffle. Taka, a young man, had been previously rejected from mandatory military service due to a lengthy criminal record, but was apparently appealing that decision.

The officer in question was apprehended by the Israeli police department in charge of internal affairs and later released to house arrest pending the results of an investigation. Leaders of the Ethiopian community, however, expressed lack of confidence in the ability of the police department to investigate itself and demanded an external inquiry. Today, they backed up their demand by major demonstrations across the country in many cases leading to the closing of major traffic arteries, fires, and the endangerment of civilians. While the Israeli police and government authorities alike are trying to exercise maximum restraint, several arrests had to be made and the developing situation can in no way be viewed as contributing to a healthy dialogue between community leaders and the police.

This is a developing story.

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