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Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
Mengistu's parents
Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ethiopian captive's family attempts to fight off indifference
After three and a half years in Hamas captivity in Gaza, and 9 days in a protest tent outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, Avera Mengistu's family concedes race played a role in failing to secure his release, no government representatives speaking to them; 'I'm not budging until Netanyahu comes to talk to us,' says captive's father.
The family of Avera Mengistu has been sitting in its protest tent opposite the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem for nine days as of Monday, but not a single member of government has come forward to speak to them.

 

 

There are no more than 20 people at the protest tent at any given moment, with most attendees being Ethiopian, while only five MKs arrived to show their support.

 

"Government representatives have told us in the past, 'Sit quietly so as not to tamper with efforts to release Avera,' and we believed it. Today we no longer believe, and will no longer sit quietly," Mengistu's brother Ilan said.


Avera Mengistu's parents at their protest encampment outside the PM's Residence (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Avera Mengistu's parents at their protest encampment outside the PM's Residence (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
 

The missing Israeli's parents sit in the modest encampment awaiting a miracle. Agarnesh, Avera's mother, struggles to push back tears while putting protest placards in order and straightening the tablecloth, over a table with a handful of apples and oranges as well as "Avera is still alive" T-shirts.

 

The wall surrounding the premier's residence is emblazoned with the number 1308, reminiscent of the number of days Mengistu has been in Hamas captivity. Ayaline Mengistu, Avera's father, said, "I won't move until the prime minister comes out to speak to us. (Benjamin) Netanyahu isn't making public Avera's cry, so how can my son return?"

 

The tent's meager attendance and the fact most attendees are themselves—like Mengistu—Ethiopian, speaks volumes. The family has made an effort to preserve respectability and stateliness, but social activists who have joined them are irate.

 

Avera Mengistu has been in Hamas captivity for more than 1,300 days
Avera Mengistu has been in Hamas captivity for more than 1,300 days

 

"The protest has a color," activist Bat-El Bidgilin said. "He's not Gilad Shalit and he's not 'The child of us all.' Shalit's protest led to people changing their profile pictures and to class starting with talks about him."

 

"Avera, meanwhile, has been forgotten because the government is dormant. It's like this is exclusively a struggle of the Ethiopian community, but this is an Israeli citizen we're talking about here," she accused.

 

Another activist, Mazal Balai, who also participates in the encampment, added her opinion. "Like Shalit, (IDF casualties whose bodies are held by Hamas) Hadar (Goldin) and (Oron) Shaul are also in the public discourse, but Avera isn't—and it's because of his skin color. While Netanyahu is partying, there are parents camping outside his house who for three and a half years have not smiled," she lamented. 

 

Avera's brother Ilan said Avera was being forgotten
Avera's brother Ilan said Avera was being forgotten

 

Mengistu's brother eventually conceded his family's struggle to release the captive has not reached the Israeli general public. "The family has done so much to bring all Israelis together in this fight, but its most prominent figures are still from the (Ethiopian) community," he said. 

 

"We have seen the difference politicians can make in the past, but unfortunately Avera's story is not a familiar one, and they won't be able to reap political rewards for dealing with it, and in the meantime, he is being forgotten in captivity," Ilan Mengistu lamented.

 


פרסום ראשון: 04.09.18, 22:40
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