1,000 Days since Ethiopian-Israeli went Missing in Gaza

1,000 Days since Ethiopian-Israeli went Missing in Gaza Avera Mengistu

Campaigners say his predicament has been completely ignored by the Israeli government, public and media

One thousand days ago Avera Mengistu, a 30-year-old Israeli citizen of Ethiopian descent, entered the Gaza strip on his own and was promptly taken into captivity by the Palestinian movement Hamas, which controls the coastal enclave.

Reportedly suffering from mental illness, Mengistu climbed over the fence separating Israel and Gaza in September 2014. He is one of three Israeli citizens said to be held by Hamas.

Marking 1,000 days since his imprisonment, activists on Saturday demonstrated in Tel Aviv in the hope of drawing public attention to Mengistu, who they say has been abandoned by the Israeli government, media and public.     

Avera's brother Ilan said his families' lives have filled up with darkness since he disappeared, "and that darkness only increases because they feel the government ignores them.” 

Yonit Tlayenesh Fenta is the head coordinator of the Committee for the Release of Avera Mengistu, a modest group of Ethiopian activists working to introduce the public to Mengistu’s case.

Fenta is a longtime friend of his family, who live in Ashkelon in southern Israel, and said it has been an uphill struggle to get the public interested in Mengistu's case.

"Avera falls into several groups that are oppressed and 'invisible' to Israeli society," she said.

'The invisible people'

Avera's mother Agernesh praying at the Western Wall, believed to make wishes come true

"He's mentally unstable, the kind of person we ignore when we see on the street; he comes from a troubled neighbourhood; he doesn't have a rich family with status and connections, and we can't ignore the big elephant in the room – he's black."

Mengistu was not the first Israeli to be taken hostage by Hamas. Gilad Shalit, a white Israeli soldier was captured by Hamas in 2006 and was held for five years until his release in a prisoner exchange agreement. Comparing the two cases reveals an uncomfortable truth.


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crime news, Ethiopian-Israeli, Gaza, Avera Mengistu