Netanyahu at Ethiopian memorial
Netanyahu at Ethiopian memorial Gil Yochanan/POOL

"The people have heard your cries," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the official ceremony to mark the memorial of 4,000 Ethiopian Jews who perished en route to Israel. 

Held annually on Jerusalem Day on Mount Herzl in the capital, Netanyahu focused this year's ceremony on recently erupted protests among the Ethiopian community against discrimination and police brutality. 

"Two weeks ago I met with some of you," Netanyahu told community leaders present. "It was an emotional meeting that left me shaking." 

"I heard complaints of racism, discrimination, oppression and fear of walking down the street because of the color of your skin. I cannot accept that," Netanyahu stressed. "Not in our country. Not in the Jewish state."

"I set up a ministerial committee to handle these issues," Netanyahu continued. "One principle is clear: there is no place for racism and discrimination in our society." 

"We will turn racism into something contemptible. There are societies who were able to rise above this. We have brought human dignity to culture and we will ensure it is expressed here in our country."

President Reuevn RIvlin also spoke at the ceremony, addressing "the cries of pain seen and heard from Israelis of Ethiopian origin in recent weeks."

"The protestors in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa have uncovered an open wound, alive and bleeding in Israeli society. It is the wound of a community raising its voice to describe the feelings of discrimination and racism."

"Israeli society erred in its treatment of Ethiopian Jewry," Rivlin continued. "The State of Israel erred in its absorption and treatment of members of the community over the years. We didn't see, we didn't do right, we didn't listen enough."

"Israel cannot afford to have its finest sons and daughters, released soldiers, outstanding students, feel cut off and alienated."