4-year-old Rafael Adana child was struck by a driver while walking with his grandfather in Netanya in May, and still nobody has been charged. This week (21/8) protests took place in Tel Aviv against the police's handling of this tragedy.
4-year-old Rafael Adana child was struck by a driver while walking with his grandfather in Netanya in May.
Police said an officer was stabbed and 10 people were arrested at a protest in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night against law enforcement’s handling of a probe into a deadly hit-and-run that killed a boy several months ago.
The protesters, led by members of the Ethiopian community, have accused authorities of racism and leniency toward the driver who hit 4-year-old Rafael Adana in May.
The Adana family said in a statement, “We’re asking our brothers, sisters and friends to show restraint. There is great pain, but we don’t want an escalation, but solutions and justice for Rafael.”
“The last thing that we want or need is for them to portray our whole community as violent and problematic. Don’t let them take an entire community to the places that they want,” the family said.
Police said they were searching for the suspect, who fled the scene. “We take the incident very seriously and will act with zero tolerance toward the harming of police officers acting within the law to enforce public order and the security of the demonstrators,” the police said in a statement.
Hundreds of demonstrators, mainly from Israel’s Ethiopian community, gathered in Tel Aviv to draw attention to the death of Adana, who was hit by a car while walking with his grandfather in Netanya on Shabbat, May 6. He was critically wounded and died in a hospital several days later.
The driver, a 70-year-old woman, fled the scene, later claiming she “didn’t feel” the vehicle striking anything. She turned herself in to police several hours later and provided testimony about the car collision, Channel 12 reported. She was released to house arrest.
Since then, no charges have been filed against the driver, and Adana’s family and other activists are demanding that prosecutors take action and allow the family to view footage of the hit-and-run.
Investigators have sought to determine whether the driver veered from her lane and hit the boy while he was on the sidewalk, or whether he had strayed into the street, Channel 12 reported.
Adana was of the Ethiopian-Israeli community, as are many of the activists calling for action. The community has charged authorities with discriminatory legal treatment in the past.
On Wednesday, the demonstrators blocked a main highway in Tel Aviv to protest police’s handling of the case.
Police said the protesters attacked officers when they began dispersing them from the Ayalon Highway using stun grenades and water cannons. The “rioters resisted with force and threw objects at the police,” the police force said.
The Wednesday protest was the latest in a series of demonstrations over the case.
On Monday morning, dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the state prosecutor’s office in Tel Aviv to protest. They then marched to the Ayalon Highway, blocking traffic, but were quickly dispersed.
The protesters wore shirts with the boy’s face imprinted on them, chanted “Justice for Rafael,” and carried signs that said “We are all Rafael.”
The activists said they intend to continue protesting until the driver is indicted.
“If his name was Rafael Heshin or Rafael Rubinstein, there probably would have been an indictment already,” the boy’s father told the crowd, implying the family was being discriminated against.
Or Yarok, a traffic safety organization, said, “There should be no forgiveness for a hit-and-run. The State of Israel must declare war on drivers who hit someone and flee the scene without providing help.”
In 2019, Israel’s Ethiopian community held major protests over the fatal shooting of a community member by an off-duty police officer.
In 2015, a large demonstration in support of the Ethiopian community against police brutality and racism turned violent, transforming Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square into a massive street brawl.
Community members have also accused successive governments of neglecting an Ethiopian-Israeli man, Avraham Mengistu, who is believed to be held by the Hamas terror group in Gaza.