Ethiopian community asked for pardon requests for Sigd holiday

Fifty days after Yom Kippur, Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel celebrates traditional holiday called Sigd commemorating Temple Mount.

Mordechai Sones,

Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel take part in prayer for Sigd holiday
Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel take part in prayer for Sigd holiday
Flash 90

President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked today issued a special appeal to the Ethiopian-Israeli community to submit requests for pardons in honor of the Sigd holiday.

Some two years ago the report of the committee on racism towards the Ethiopian-Israeli community, headed by Justice Ministry Director-General Emi Palmor was published. The report, which was adopted by the government, described discrimination against the Ethiopian-Israeli community in various fields including law enforcement, health, education, and employment.

The report noted, among other things, that criminal investigations were opened and charges brought against Ethiopian-Israelis at a significantly higher rate than their representation in the population. The report also noted that criminal investigations were opened against minors and adults from the community for relatively insignificant matters (refusal to present identity documents, violations of laws on public consumption of alcohol, etc.) that deteriorated into violence, arrest, and criminal charges so that day-to-day policing led young Ethiopian-Israelis to criminal lifestyles in many cases.

Shaked, Rivlin
Mark Neyman, GPO

Out of a desire to complete a process of healing and closing gaps, as well as to strengthen the trust between the Ethiopian-Israeli community and law enforcement and justice authorities, in honor of the Sigd holiday, President Rivlin and the Justice Minister are calling on young Ethiopian-Israelis who have been charged in the past for public order offenses (such as insulting a public servant, obstructing a public servant, prohibited assembly, and rioting) and for which no custodial sentence was imposed, to apply for the criminal record to be expunged.

"Requests will be considered positively, out of a belief in the significant contribution made by these young people to Israeli society as a whole," said the President's office.

At the end of the meeting with the Justice Minister, the President said: “The strength of the institution of pardon is the ability to deal with issues in Israel that require considerations of leniency for the good of the public interest. Ethiopian-Israelis faced discrimination from officials and from Israeli society, they suffer from stigma and negative stereotypes and are open to marginalization and discrimination, and even to physical and verbal violence. It is our duty as a society to do all we can to confront the racism within us and to uproot it. It is the duty of all authorities to fight against labeling, marginalization, and discrimination of all kinds. Our appeal today is another step in the war against labeling and marginalization. Another step to heal the rift of trust between Ethiopian-Israelis, the authorities, and the society.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said: “The State of Israel has a responsibility to Ethiopian-Israelis. It's inconceivable that after Israel worked to bring them here it turns its back on them. To prevent the discrimination that's occurred we established the department to fight against racism at the Justice Ministry that works for full rights for members of the community. Now, together with President Rivlin, we're taking a further important step to increase trust between the Ethiopian-Israeli community and the State. At the end of the day we're all brothers and sisters and we're all here to live together in harmony between the different strands of society.”