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In First, Two Ethiopian-Israeli Women Sworn In as Judges

Two Israeli women of Ethiopian descent were sworn in as judges by President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday, marking a first in the country’s history.

Esther Tapeta Gardi will serve on the Haifa District’s Traffic Court while Adenko Sabhat-Haimovich will sit on the Magistrates’ Court.

The ground-breaking appointments of the two attorneys were announced by the Judicial Nominating Committee in late September. At the time, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said the appointments helped realize the wishes of late Israeli President Shimon Peres, who authorized the covert evacuation of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1984 while serving as prime minister.

Attorney and former member of Knesset Pnina Tamano-Shata, a long-time advocate for nominating judges of Ethiopian heritage, hailed the appointments as “an important step for the legal system, which belongs to everyone regardless of religion, color or gender. This is an exciting moment, and I have no doubt that the two new judges are a source of pride and a contribution to Israeli society as a whole.”

“We need to thank the Israel Bar Association, which lent its backing to the appointments, and also to the justice minister and MKs. But in the end, the candidates were appointed based on their legal talents and achievements, and weren’t ‘given’ anything — just like the rest of the appointees,” Tamano-Shata added.

Fentahun Assefa-Dawit, the executive director of Tebeka, a group advocating for equality for Israelis who are of Ethiopian descent, called the appointments “an important, historic step.”

[Photo: Yossi Zamir / Flash90 ]