Damas Pakada, the Ethiopian soldier who was beaten by an Israeli police officer in a video which sparked protests across the country has become a decorated officer.
In April, 2015, on his birthday, Pakada was walking to his home in Holon when he was accosted by a police officer who refused to let him pass. After Pakada continued to request that he be allowed to pass, the officer began to beat him and knocked him to the ground. He was brought in to the police station and put in a cell for "striking officers."
The incident was caught on a security camera.
The officer was dismissed from the police officer following the publication of the video.
Thousands took to the streets to protest the police brutality and discrimination against Ethiopian Jews in the months following the incident.
The beating and placement in a cell were humiliating for Pakada, who moved to Israel from Ethiopia with his mother and seven siblings at the age of nine. He was orphaned at the age of thirteen.
Despite the hardships he has endured, Pakada has risen through the ranks and is now a decorated officer in the cyber unit of the army’s technology branch, achieving the rank of first lieutenant in the Topaz unit of the Technological and Logistics Directorate.
“If it weren’t for that camera, I’d be behind bars,” Pakada said in an interview with Hadashot TV news last week. He said that finding out that the incident had been caught on video was “like a miracle, wonder of wonders.”
He said that he became depressed after the incident. “It’s not a good feeling. It breaks you.”
However, Pakada did not give up. "My victory is that I didn’t lose my optimism,” he told Hadashot TV. “I’m proof that you can overcome the challenge.”
Pakada is known in his neighborhood for his volunteer work. He established an after-school math club and a local chapter of the Bnei Akiva youth movement in order to provide local schoolchildren with activities instead of hanging around the streets after school.
Prime Minister Binyamnin Netanyahu met Pakada shortly after the publication of the video of the beating. The Prime Minister praised Pakada's outstanding academic record and volunteer work during their meeting.