Ethiopian Olim Stage March to Demand Permanent Housing

Some 600 Ethiopian immigrants took to the road Monday to demonstrate their need for permanent housing.

Braving the intense midday heat, the marchers — many with babies slung across their backs — began their demonstration in the coastal city of Ashkelon. From there, they vowed to walk all the way to the capital, about 40 miles away.

The olim, who are being housed in hotels in the Ashkelon area, are demanding to be placed in permanent dwellings.

“We have no privacy, and there is no place for us to cook our food,” one marcher charged. “It’s time we were given a real place to live.”

In recent months, hundreds of Ethiopian olim have staged demonstrations, charging that their living conditions are unbearable. This week’s march follows a two-week hunger strike by some of the demonstrators.

Late in the afternoon, after the immigrants had walked 15 miles, Immigration and Absorption Minister Yair Tsaban drove to the scene. Following reassurances from the minister, who said he would personally intervene on their behalf, the olim called off their march.

“I won’t promise something I cannot deliver,” said Tsaban, who asserted that “too many people have promised the immigrants things they have not delivered.”

He added that “the problems of absorption cannot be solved overnight. It will take at least three years, and hundreds of millions of shekels, to set things right.”

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