Ethiopian Jew Becomes Israel's First Black Deputy Speaker

MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) was elected deputy Knesset speaker on Wednesday, and will become the first Ethiopian to fill the role when the Knesset summer recess ends in late October.

If both President Shimon Peres and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin were out of the country, Molla could serve as Israel’s president.
“I’m honored to serve in such an important job in Israeli democracy, and be able to set the Knesset’s agenda together with the speaker and his other deputies,” Molla said.

“I hope [other Ethiopians] will see me and realize that they can go far and break the glass ceiling,” he explained.

Molla, who made aliya from the Gondar province of Ethiopia at age 19 in 1984, added that he hopes to show Israeli society that “immigrants from any country can be partners in building the land and the State of Israel.”

“I am very excited – there is no doubt that ‘if you will it, it is no dream,’” Molla stated, quoting Theodor Herzl. “I hope to be a model for all young people, and show young people that with perseverance and a strong will, you can succeed.”

In 2008, Molla became the second MK of Ethiopian origin.

(Adisu Massala served in Labor and One Nation from 1996-99.) Previously, he was the head of the Jewish Agency’s Ethiopian Division and a head of department at the World Zionist Organization.

He has since become a prominent member of Kadima, and an outspoken critic of the last Knesset session’s more nationalist legislation, such as the anti-boycott bill.

The Knesset Speaker has nine deputies who take his place when he is unable to preside over plenum discussions and votes. In addition, Rivlin and his deputies compile the Knesset’s agenda, and are able to reject bills from being brought to a vote in certain situations.