fbpx
Saturday, October 24, 2020

My Grandpa Was Killed for Being a Jew in Ethiopia – Now I Fight for Black Lives in Israel

Print This Article

Being Black and Jewish, I was always very aware of anti-Semitism and racism. My life will always be characterized by the separation, the hatred and “the othering” of my people.

I was born in Ethiopia. I came to Israel as an infant, but my upbringing was filled with asides about the way Jews were discriminated against in Ethiopia. My parents never said it outright; they barely spoke about their life in Ethiopia. For them, Africa was the past. Israel is the future — and a hard-fought one at that. But every now and then, if I catch them in the right mood, they will tell me about Ethiopia, the beautiful scenery, the simple lifestyle and the Jewish community. 

Hiding in these happy stories were small comments about the neighbors. You wouldn’t notice them if you didn’t listen carefully. My parents said they never walked alone at night because “it was dangerous for Jews to walk by themselves,” and that they never stayed in the same place for a long time because it wasn’t legal for Jews to own land. The nickname the neighbors gave them was “Falasha,” a derogatory term which means “landless, wanderers, strangers.”

Only under pressure, after I asked several times, “How did my grandfather die?” did my mom look at me with tears streaming down her face, and say, “They murdered him. They murdered him because he was a Jew.” 

My parents view these horrors as simple hate against their community. They didn’t know there was a term for that: anti-Semitism. 

My family’s story defines a lot of who I am today. It is the reason why Zionism is such a big part of my identity and why I vigorously fight for the right of Israel to exist. While I was growing up in Israel, anti-Semitism wasn’t a problem but I needed to learn a new term: racism. 

Ashager Araro playing with a friend as a child. (Courtesy of Araro.)

One of my most vivid childhood memories was when my English teacher decided to put me in a separate classroom. This classroom had fewer students who covered the material at a much slower pace. Everyone in this classroom was Ethiopian. I presumed we were put there to help us out, give us more attention and make sure we would be able to keep up with the other students. This policy was fine in principle. However, it turned out, the only characteristic that determined if you ended up in the remedial class was your ethnicity. 

Growing up in Israel, anti-Semitism wasn’t a problem, but I needed to learn a new term: racism. 

I wasn’t judged according to my potential, but rather by the color of my skin. And even though this decision may have come from “a good place,” it delivered the message to Ethiopian students that we were incapable of doing things by ourselves; we could not measure up to others and would always need extra help. 

This messaging can outlast one’s childhood and permanently taint one’s self-esteem. Thankfully, I come from a very strong family that always reassured me that I could do anything I set my mind to. While this act of discrimination didn’t permanently damage me, I’m sure it damaged others. 

In my adult life, I continuously feel that people expect me to choose which group I’m going to side with: Jewish or Black people. I don’t understand that, as these are not mutually exclusive struggles. My parents lived in a majority Black country. Still, their Black skin didn’t protect them from anti-Semitic persecution. I live in a majority Jewish country, but my Jewish identity doesn’t shield me from racism. We need to fight both of those fights.

The fight against racism and anti-Semitism is ongoing; we need to fight both battles. It’s our responsibility to do so. To choose one without the other not only harms people like me but erases us from both the communities I love.


Ashager Araro is the founder of the Bettae Ethiopian Israeli Heritage Center in Tel Aviv.

Did you enjoy this article?

You'll love our roundtable.

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.

Select list(s) to subscribe to


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

Jewish Organization Sharsheret Helps Women with Breast and Ovarian Cancer During Pandemic

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still important for women to maintain their annual OB-GYN appointments and...

Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Judd Apatow to Host ‘Superbad’ Reunion and Watch Party as Democrat Fundraiser

The cast “Superbad” will reunite virtually on Oct. 27 for a livestream of the movie, with actors Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher...

U.S. and Bahrain Agree to MOU Saying Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism

On October 23, the United States and Bahrain signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that included a statement about anti-Zionism being anti-Semitism. The MOU stated...

Israeli Arabs Remain Divided Over Normalization Deals with Gulf States

JNS — The Joint Arab List was alone in voting against the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates in the Knesset, upsetting many...

Voting is Holy: A Reflection and a Prayer

A Reflection: Life's paradox and promise: continuity across time, minute modifications day by day, as living things reinvent themselves in a flow that shifts caterpillars into butterflies tadpoles into leaping frogs....

Yitzhak Rabin Miniseries ‘The Leader’ in the Works

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995, will be the subject of a six-part miniseries called “The Leader” from L.A.-based...

Report: Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes Rose 18% in LA County

According to the report, the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the county in 2019 was 93; in 2018, that number was 79. The report noted that the 93 instances is the largest number of anti-Semitic hate crimes that the county has recorded since 2009.

In a Striking Move, State Department Plans to Label 3 Large Human Rights Groups as Anti-Semitic

WASHINGTON (JTA) — In an unusual move, the State Department is planning to formally identify three large international human rights organizations as anti-Semitic, citing...

A Moment in Time: The Ten Qualities I Expect in my President

Dear all, Earlier this week, Ron and I sat down to cast our votes in the upcoming election. While we poured over the many propositions...

Amid Middle East Peace Deals, Israel and the US Reassert Commitment to Israel’s ‘Qualitative Military Edge’

(JTA) — The United States’ commitment to Israel’s “qualitative military edge” — or having the strongest armed forces in the Middle East — is...

Culture

Jewish Organization Sharsheret Helps Women with Breast and Ovarian Cancer During Pandemic

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still important for women to maintain their annual OB-GYN appointments and...

Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Judd Apatow to Host ‘Superbad’ Reunion and Watch Party as Democrat Fundraiser

The cast “Superbad” will reunite virtually on Oct. 27 for a livestream of the movie, with actors Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher...

Yitzhak Rabin Miniseries ‘The Leader’ in the Works

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995, will be the subject of a six-part miniseries called “The Leader” from L.A.-based...

The “Borat” Sequel Returns to a Divided America and Struggles to Adapt

“Borat” was, to say the least, very much a product of its time. The 2006 satirical shockumentary aimed to mock the rampant xenophobia and...

The Shepherd’s Pie Tradition

Every Friday morning, my phone would ring. “Boker Tov!” my grandmother would greet me. “You’re coming for dinner?” “Of course,” I would reply. “You’re making Shepherd’s Pie?”...

Latest Articles
Latest

Jewish Organization Sharsheret Helps Women with Breast and Ovarian Cancer During Pandemic

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still important for women to maintain their annual OB-GYN appointments and...

Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Judd Apatow to Host ‘Superbad’ Reunion and Watch Party as Democrat Fundraiser

The cast “Superbad” will reunite virtually on Oct. 27 for a livestream of the movie, with actors Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher...

U.S. and Bahrain Agree to MOU Saying Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism

On October 23, the United States and Bahrain signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that included a statement about anti-Zionism being anti-Semitism. The MOU stated...

Israeli Arabs Remain Divided Over Normalization Deals with Gulf States

JNS — The Joint Arab List was alone in voting against the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates in the Knesset, upsetting many...

Voting is Holy: A Reflection and a Prayer

A Reflection: Life's paradox and promise: continuity across time, minute modifications day by day, as living things reinvent themselves in a flow that shifts caterpillars into butterflies tadpoles into leaping frogs....

Hollywood

Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Judd Apatow to Host ‘Superbad’ Reunion and Watch Party as Democrat Fundraiser

The cast “Superbad” will reunite virtually on Oct. 27 for a livestream of the movie, with actors Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher...

‘Dirty Dancing’ Sequel Starring Jennifer Grey Announced

It’s official: A “Dirty Dancing” sequel is coming, and it’s starring Jewish actress Jennifer Grey, who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in the 1987 original.

Roy Moore’s Lawsuit Against Sacha Baron Cohen Over Being Pranked Can Proceed, Judge Rules

By the time the episode aired, it was widely known that Cohen was punking public figures.

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 98: Who Won the Final Debate?

New David Suissa Podcast Every Tuesday and Friday. Reflections on the presidential debate and the rhythms of the Jewish tradition. How do we manage our lives...

Bagels Subsequent Podrecord

Does Sacha Baron Cohen traffic in satire or stumbling blocks? Anticipating Borat 2, Erin and Esther puzzle over the line between deception and shining...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

x