Jews of Ethiopia
For my A to Z of "African People Series", I will present the Jews of Ethiopia. I think there is a lesson for us all hidden in the lives of this community.
It is found that the word Jew came to currency in the 5th century BC, referring to the inhabitants of the province of Judea (now part of Israel). The Jews trace their origins to Biblical times. Judaism was the first religion based on monotheism, the belief in one God. All of the major Western religions find their roots in Judaism.
The Jews of Ethiopia were discovered by Prof. Joseph Halevy (1827 - 1917) in 1877. His student Jacques Faitlovitch (1881 - 1955), took a dedicated interest in the Jews of Ethiopia community, investing financially and educationally, with the intention of returning them to the Promised Land.
Who are the members of the Jews of Ethiopia?
The Jews of Ethiopia or Beta Israel (Hebrew term for "House of Israel") is a Jewish community of northwestern Ethiopia that practices a form of Judaism. They were known with a derogatory name from the ancient Ge'ez language as "Falasha"" which means "outsider", "moved" or "gone exile".
Some of the different beliefs of the Jews of Ethiopia origin are:
- They are from the tribe of Dan, one of the lost tribes of Israel. From the parting of the Red Sea, they did not cross in time and escaped from Egypt by heading South.
- They arrived in Ethiopia between the 1st and 6th centuries as merchants or artisans from various countries in the region.
- They are descendants of Menelik, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
- They are descendants of a group speaking Agaw (a Cuchitic language) converted by Jews from Southern Arabia (Yemen nowadays).
Operation Dove's Wings
Where are the Jews of Ethiopia located?
The Jews of Ethiopia come from Africa: Gondar Province, in the Semien Mountains near Lake Tana; the rest live in Tiger and Wollo Provinces. Since the 1980s an estimated 125,000 of the Jews of Ethiopia have migrated to Israel. Three significant events have relocated the Jews of Ethiopian into Israel.
- Operation Moses - Rescued over 7,000 Jews of Ethiopia and brought to Israel from November 18, 1984 ending 6 weeks unto January 5, 1985.
- Operation Joshua - Brought 500 Jews of Ethiopia to Israel from Sudan in 1985.
- Operation Solomon - Transported 14,500 Jews of Ethiopia to Israel from Ethiopia in May 24 and 25 of1991.
- Operation Dove's Wings - Aiming to bring them all to Israel, another group of 240 Jews of Ethiopia were brought to Israel in October 2012. Israel intends to airlift the rest by October 2013.
Jews of Ethiopia brought to Israel
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How do the Jews of Ethiopia live?
The Jews of Ethiopia lived in dispersed villages located on hilltops near streams. Women with the smallest baby strapped to her back were in charged of the domestic surroundings, with the help of her children. Young boys help until they joined the father in the field. Men are what we call "macho men" treating women inferior to them.
The Jews of Ethiopia community has changed by the move from an underdeveloped society to a modern society in Israel. Men and women in Israel are working in unskilled occupations. They use a different family structure, where both parents are being encouraged to work outside, have , and be educated. leadership
How do the Jews of Ethiopia communicate?
The Jews of Ethippia do not use the Hebrew language. Most of the Jews of Ethiopia gradually gave up their Agaw language and adopted the Tigrinya or Amhara language of their neighbors. Their actual language is Ge'ez.
What characteristics define the diversity of the Jews of Ethiopia?
- The community of the Jews of Ethiopia have passed down their religious life based on the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) from generation to generation
- They keep a diet called Kosher
- They observe the Saturday (Sabbath) as a day of rest
- They celebrate all the festivals mentioned in the Torah
How do the Jews of Ethiopia survive?
The Jews of Ethiopia have lived a life like a second Exodus. Some of the ways they have survived are:
- artists and decorators in the Christian churches worked by the women
- craft occupations
- blacksmiths and weavers worked by the men
- potters worked by the women
Lessons learned by the Jews of Ethiopia
It is undoubtedly that the Jews of Ethiopia have given us a lesson of hope, tolerance, determination and a will to exist and survive just like the Exodus time; even living under the most difficult struggles, they keep their devotion and praise to God's name.
Blessings to all!
© Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill
- Timeline of Ethiopian Jewish History
Cyber encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture that covers everything from anti-Semitism to Zionism. It includes a glossary, bibliography of web sites and books, biographies, articles, original documents and much more!
- BBC News | Africa | Ethiopia's Jews: The last exodus
Ethiopian Jewry has a history going back thousands of years - but the last members of the community are due to leave for Israel in the coming months.
- March 30, 2012 ~ Ethiopian Jews | Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly | PBS
They say Israel's Law of Return permits them to become Israelis. But some Israelis wonder whether they are really Jews.
- The 2012 Sheba Film Festival at Tadias Magazine
Ethiopian Business and Lifestyle
© 2012 Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill