Some years ago, I contacted our esteemed editor regarding a caption that had appeared on the Times of Israel’s webpage. Unfortunately, an IDF soldier had been killed and the news sources throughout Israel covered the tragedy although with one glaring problem. The late soldier was constantly referred to as an “Ethiopian” soldier in the captions. I asked our editor why an Ethiopian soldier would be wearing the uniform of an Israeli Defense Forces soldier at the time of his death? He understood my point and immediately corrected the caption accompanying the image of the soldier. I thought that would be the end of the matter; however, events of recent weeks have proved me wrong.
I never see news stories that refer to Israelis of Moroccan, Yemeni, Argentinian, German, Syrian, French, Canadian, Romanian, Russian, Iraqi, Iranian, Turkish or Kurdish descent as anything other than “Israeli.” But when it comes to persons of an African country or even an Asian nation, the descriptor always indicates the country of origin of the ancestors of the person in question.
My point here is that Israel is, in theory, the most inclusive society in the entire Middle East. They encourage tourists to come for “Pride Week” from all over the world. They use the multi-cultural gamecard as a marketing tool. There is a tolerance of all sorts of visitors in Israel. The main problem is that this concept is currently a façade. No country can be considered a place for all if they can’t even describe an individual without referring to their country of origin.
I have often met Philippine citizens here in the States and when I mention that I had lived in Israel, they often tell me that they have family there or have been there or planned visits to see family there. When people have connections to a place, however tenuous, they naturally want to know more about that place. If they see news stories carrying images of violence against others, especially against those of a different skin color, they will think twice about visiting; thus, it is just as much an economic reason to be tolerant of others as it is critical to show that the safety and security of visitors would be guaranteed.
Israel is not so much a “melting pot” as it is apparently a cauldron where ancient animosities rise to the surface and erupt at will. I have seen what can only be described as race riots in Tel Aviv neighborhoods carried out primarily by Russian immigrants against Sudanese, Ethiopian and Eritrean individuals who are not, by the way, “illegal” citizens as the majority of them have United Nations protections and status as asylum seekers. Those who start riots based on race deserve nationwide condemnation. They violate the peace with indiscriminate violence and they endanger everyone, especially our most vulnerable population, the immigrants themselves. Surely, there are some “bad apples” amongst our newest immigrants from war-torn African countries, but has anyone ever thought of how much violence and mayhem are caused on a daily basis by Russian mobsters? Is there anyone in Israel that does not know what the expression “protexia” means?
The truth of the matter is that there would be no modern State of Israel without the power of our immigrant population. There would be no such people as “Jews” if Abraham, who came from Ur in ancient Kurdistan, had been denied entry into the land at some contrived border. Thus, it is time to change this theory into a practical reality and stop using descriptors such as “Ethiopian-Israeli,” particularly when that individual was born in the State of Israel. The title of “Israeli” should suffice to represent pride and honor in our nation and the equality it is supposed to represent.