Archive for the ‘Ethiopian Jews’ Category

Israeli Government Admits to Sterilizing Ethiopian Jews …

February 21, 2012 According to recent Forbes and Haaretz articles, the Israeli government has been pursuing a long term plan of sterilization of immigrant Ethiopian Jews.

The Depo-Prevara injections were enforced upon women in transit camps in Ethiopia.

One might ask: why? At this point, no absolutely clear answer can be given. There are, of course, speculations about racial motives; that is, with the Israeli ruling class being mainly of Ashkenazi back ground, while the Ethiopian Jews are not. The outrage eventually led to the Israeli government suspending injections unless the women understood the ramifications. The shots have led to a drop in the Ethiopian Jewish birth-rate byabout 20%.

According to the UK Independent:

The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive.

as well as noting:

Sharona Eliahu Chai, a lawyer for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), said: Findings from investigations into the use of Depo Provera are extremely worrisome, raising concerns of harmful health policies with racist implications in violation of medical ethics. The Ministry of Healths director-general was right to act quickly and put forth new guidelines.

The Ethiopian Jewish community of course has its past shrouded in mystery. Different theories abound as to its origins. However, despite dispute about their ability to legally come to Israel, it was decided that those Ethiopian Jews who agreed to undergo a conversion to Orthdoox Talmudic Judaism would be allowed entry. The Ethiopian Jewish community has left in large numbers from Ethiopia, especially since the culture was hostile to them (for example, prior to the over-throw of the old imperial system, they could not own property).

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Ethiopian Jews in Israel – My Jewish Learning

Ancient traditions in a new Jewish State. By Atira Winchester

The Jews of Ethiopiaknown as the Beta Israelhave experienced a long history of famine, religious oppression, and civil war. But in the 20th century the community went through some major changes as it was transplanted into Israel.

In 1974, following a coup detat, Ethiopia came under the Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Under Mariams regime, anti-Semitism rose, and physical conditions worsened for the Beta Israel, with starvation across the country.

In May 1977, Israeli President Menachem Begin started selling arms to Mariams government, hoping to secure freedom for Ethiopias Jews. Later that year, Israel took 200 Jews out of Ethiopia on a plane that had emptied its arms cargo for Mariams use. Mariam agreed to the airliftgiven his reliance on Israels arms, he could hardly refuse.

Between 1977 and 1984, a total of 8,000 Ethiopian Jews came to Israel in a number of small airlifts, all authorized, albeit grudgingly, by the Ethiopian government. Large-scale aliya started in 1984 with Operation Moses, a mission that brought 8,000 Jews to Israel in just a few months. The operation, which began in November, 1984, ended prematurely in January 1985 when news of the airlift reached Ethiopias Arab allies.

In March 1985, another 650 Jews were rescued in Operation Joshua, but approximately 15,000 Beta Israel still remained in Ethiopia, many of them elderly, sick, or weak.

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Atira Winchester is a journalist who worked for many years as an editor for The Jerusalem Post. She currently lives in London, England where she works as a freelance writer, specializing in arts, culture and contemporary Israeli life.

The Jews of Ethiopiaknown as the Beta Israelhave experienced a long history of famine, religious oppression, and civil war. But in the 20th century the community went through some major changes as it was transplanted into Israel.

In 1974, following a coup detat, Ethiopia came under the Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Under Mariams regime, anti-Semitism rose, and physical conditions worsened for the Beta Israel, with starvation across the country.

In May 1977, Israeli President Menachem Begin started selling arms to Mariams government, hoping to secure freedom for Ethiopias Jews. Later that year, Israel took 200 Jews out of Ethiopia on a plane that had emptied its arms cargo for Mariams use. Mariam agreed to the airliftgiven his reliance on Israels arms, he could hardly refuse.

Between 1977 and 1984, a total of 8,000 Ethiopian Jews came to Israel in a number of small airlifts, all authorized, albeit grudgingly, by the Ethiopian government. Large-scale aliya started in 1984 with Operation Moses, a mission that brought 8,000 Jews to Israel in just a few months. The operation, which began in November, 1984, ended prematurely in January 1985 when news of the airlift reached Ethiopias Arab allies.

In March 1985, another 650 Jews were rescued in Operation Joshua, but approximately 15,000 Beta Israel still remained in Ethiopia, many of them elderly, sick, or weak.

The final and most dramatic large-scale operation was Operation Solomon. 14,325 Beta Israel were airlifted to Israel in 36 hours on May 24 -25, 1991 amid political turmoil that forced Mariam to flee the country.

By the end of 1991, only a handful of Beta Israel remained in Ethiopia, although many thousands of Falasha Mura, whose Jewish identity has been disputed, still remain today.

While the operations that brought about Beta Israels exodus were dramatic and swift, integration into Israeli society has been painstakingly slow. Even today, the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel is still grappling with problems: they are marginalized socially, religiously, geographically, and professionally.

When they first arrived, housing was often provided in mobile homes located in Israels peripheral areas. Housing conditions were regularly squalid, inadequately heated in the winter or cooled in the summer. Ethiopians were isolated and disempowered, with children far from decent schools. Life in an industrialized, modern society baffled many of the older community members, and adjusting to simple things like electricity was often difficult.

Israelis were not always quick to help make the transition easier. For example, Yehuda Dominitz, then Director General of the Jewish Agencys Department of Immigration and Absorption, declared in 1980 that, [taking] a Falasha out of his village, its like taking a fish out of waterIm not in favor of bringing them [to Israel].

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Ethiopian Jews in Israel – My Jewish Learning

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Ethiopia Virtual Jewish Tour | Jewish Virtual Library

Once they were kings. A half million strong, they matched their faith with fervor and out-matched the Moslem and Christian tribesmen around them to rule the mountain highlands around Lake Tana. They called themselves Beta Israelthe house of Israeland used the Torah to guide their prayers and memories of the heights of Jerusalem as they lived in their thatched huts in Ethiopia. But their neighbors called them Falashasthe alien ones, the invaders. And even three hundred years of rule, even the black features that matched those of all the people around them did not make the Jews of Ethiopia secure governors of their destiny in Africa (Falashas: The Forgotten Jews, Baltimore Jewish Times, 9 November 1979).

For centuries, the world Jewish community was not even aware of the existence of the Jewish community of Ethiopia in the northern province of Gondar. The miracle of Operation Solomon is only now being fully understood; an ancient Jewish community has been brought back from the edge of government-imposed exile and starvation.

But once they were kings. . .

– History – Modern Contact – The Mengistu Threat – Operations Moses & Joshua – Operation Solomon – Authentic Jews – Jewish Apathy & its Defeat – Operation Dove’s Wings – Recent Developments

Christianity spread through the Axum dynasty of Ethiopia in the 4th century CE. By the 7th century, however, Islam had surpassed Christianity and had separated Ethiopia from its Christian African neighbors.

Prior to this, the Beta Israel had enjoyed relative independence through the Middle Ages. Their reign was threatened in the 13th century CE under the Solomonic Empire, and intermittent fighting continuing for the next three centuries with other tribes.

In 1624, the Beta Israel fought what would be their last battle for independent autonomy against Portuguese-backed Ethiopians. A graphic eyewitness account described the battle:

Falasha men and women fought to the death from the steep heights of their fortress… they threw themselves over the precipice or cut each other’s throats rather than be taken prisonerit was a Falasha Masada. [The rebel leaders] burned all of the Falasha’s written history and all of their religious books, it was an attempt to eradicate forever the Judaic memory of Ethiopia (Righteous Jews Honored by Falasha Supporters, AAEJ Press Release, 1981).

Those Jews captured alive were sold into slavery, forced to be baptized, and denied the right to own land. The independence of the Beta Israel was torn from them just as it was from their Israeli brethren at Masada centuries before.

The first modern contact with the now oppressed community came in 1769, when Scottish explorer James Bruce stumbled upon them while searching for the source of the Nile River. His estimates at the time placed the Beta Israel population at 100,000, already greatly decreased from an estimate from centuries before of a half-million.

Little additional contact was made with the community, but in 1935 their stability was greatly threatened as the Italian army marched into Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s ruler, Emperor Haile Selassie fled his country and actually took refuge in Jerusalem for a short time. Selassie returned to power in 1941, but the situation for the Beta Israel improved little.

In 1947, Ethiopia abstained on the United Nations Partition Plan for the British Mandate of Palestine, which reestablished the State of Israel. By 1955, the non-governmental Jewish Agency of Israel had already begun construction of schools and a teacher’s seminary for the Beta Israel in Ethiopia.

In 1956, Ethiopia and Israel established consular relations, which were improved in 1961 when the two countries established full diplomatic ties. Positive relations between Israel and Ethiopia existed until 1973, when, in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, Ethiopia (and 28 African nations) broke diplomatic relations with Israel under the threat of an Arab oil embargo.

Months later, Emperor Selassie’s regime ended in a coup d’etat. Selassie was replaced by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose Marxist-Leninist dictatorship increased the threat to the Beta Israel. During the weeks surrounding Mariam’s coup, an estimated 2,500 Jews were killed and 7,000 became homeless.

Soon Mariam instituted a policy of villagization, relocating millions of peasant farmers onto state-run cooperatives which greatly harmed the Beta Israel by forcing them to share their villagesthough they were denied the right to own the landwith non-Jewish farmers, resulting in increased levels of anti-Semitism throughout the Gondar Province. According to the Ethiopian government, over 30% of the population had been moved from privately owned farms to cooperatives as of 1989.

After taking office in 1977, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was eager to facilitate the rescue of Ethiopia’s Jews, and so Israel entered into a period of selling arms to the Mariam government in hopes that Ethiopia would allow Jews to leave for Israel. In 1977, Begin asked President Mengistu to allow 200 Ethiopian Jews to leave for Israel aboard an Israeli military jet that had emptied its military cargo and was returning to Israel. Mariam agreed, and that may have been the precursor to the mass exodus of Operation Moses.

In the early 1980’s, Ethiopia forbade the practice of Judaism and the teaching of Hebrew. Numerous members of the Beta Israel were imprisoned on fabricated charges of being Zionist spies, and Jewish religious leaders, Kesim,(sing. Kes) were harassed and monitored by the government.

The situation remained exceedingly bleak through the early 1980’s. Forced conscription at age 12 took many Jewish boys away from their parents, some never to be heard from again. Additionally, with the constant threat of war, famine, and horrendous health conditions (Ethiopia has one of the world’s worst infant mortality rates and doctor to patient ratios), the Beta Israel’s position became more precarious as time progressed.

The government began to slightly soften its treatment of the Jews, however, during the mid-1980’s when terrible famines wreaked havoc on the economy. Ethiopia was forced to ask Western nations for famine relief, including the United States of America and Israel, allowing them both to exert a modicum of pressure for the release of the Beta Israel.

Over 8,000 Beta Israel came to Israel between 1977 and 1984. But these efforts pale in comparison with the modern exodus that took place during 1984’s Operation Moses.

Under a news blackout for security reasons, Operation Moses began on November 18, 1984, and ended six weeks later on January 5, 1985. In that time, just over 7,000 Jews were rescued and brought to Israel.

But the mission was not without problems. Because of news leaks (blamed primarily on a December 6 article in the Washington Jewish Week and full page advertisements placed by the United Jewish Appeal), the mission ended prematurely as Arab nations pressured the Sudanese government to prevent any more Jews from using Sudan to go to Israel. Almost 15,000 Jews were left behind in Ethiopia.

Thus, by the end of Operation Moses in January 1985, almost two-thirds of the Beta Israel remained in Ethiopia. They were comprised almost entirely of women, young children, and the sick, since only the strongest members of the community were encouraged to make the harrowing trek to Sudan where the airlift would actually occur. In addition, many young boys were encouraged to make the dangerous trek to freedom due to the low age of conscription, often as young as age twelve.

As Babu Yakov, a Beta Israel leader, summed up, Those who could not flee are elderly, sick, and infants. Those least capable of defending themselves are now facing their enemies alone.

In 1985, then Vice President George Bush arranged a CIA-sponsored follow-up mission to Operation Moses. Operation Joshua brought an additional 500 Beta Israel from Sudan to Israel. But in the following five years, a virtual stalemate occurred in the rescue of Ethiopian Jewry. All efforts on behalf of the Beta Israel fell on the closed ears of the Mariam dictatorship.

Meanwhile, those Jews who did escape during Operation Moses were separated from their loved ones while attempting to adjust to Israeli society. The new arrivals spent between six months and two years in absorption centers learning Hebrew, being retrained for Israel’s industrial society, and learning how to live in a modern society (most Ethiopian villages had no running water or electricity). Suicide, all but unheard of in their tukuls in Ethiopia, even claimed a few of the new arrivals due to the anxiety of separation and departure.

Over 1,600 orphans of circumstance lived day to day separated from their families, not knowing the fate of their parents, brothers, sisters, and loved ones.

The grim prospect of thousands of Jewish children growing up separated from their parents in Israel almost became a reality. Little could be done to persuade the Mariam government to increase the trickle of Jews leaving Ethiopia in the years between Operations Joshua and Solomon. But in November 1990, Ethiopia and Israel reached an agreement that would allow Ethiopian Jews to move to Israel under the context of family reunification. It soon became clear, however, that Mengistu was willing to allow Ethiopian Jews to leave outside of the guise of reunification. November and December, 1990, showed increased numbers of Ethiopians leaving for Israel. The Ethiopian Jews were finally ready to come home.

In early 1991, Eritrean and Tigrean rebels began a concerted attack on Mengistu forces, meeting with surprising success for the first time since the civil war began in 1975. With the rebel armies advancing each day, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam fled his country in early May. Rebels claimed control of the capital Addis Ababa shortly thereafter, and the situation of the Beta Israel took top priority in Israel. The Likud government of Yitzhak Shamir authorized a special permit for the Israeli airline, El Al, to fly on the Jewish Sabbath. On Friday, May 24, and continuing non-stop for 36 hours, a total of 34 El Al jumbo jets and Hercules C-130sseats removed to accommodate the maximum number of Ethiopiansbegan a new chapter in the struggle for the freedom of Ethiopian Jewry.

Operation Solomon, named for the king from whom one of the theories suggest that the Beta Israel draw their lineage, ended almost as quickly as it began. Timing was crucial, since any delay by Israel could have allowed the rebels to hold the Jews as bargaining chips with Israel or the United States. A total of 14,324 Ethiopian Jews were rescued and resettled in Israel, a modern exodus of the grandest design. Operation Solomon rescued nearly double the number of Jews as were saved during Operation Moses and Joshua, and it did so in a mere fraction of the time.

More than 36,000 Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel and despite both economic and social hardships, their community has an integral part in Israeli society. In 1999, Avraham Yitzhak became the first Ethiopian immigrant to earn an MD degree from an Israeli medical school. In 2011, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed Rachamim Elazar as Israel’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, making him the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent to ever serve as an ambassador for the State of Israel. There are still many problems within the Ethiopian community in Israel – poverty, lack of education, etc – but large strides are being made every day.

Because much of the Beta Israel’s history is passed orally from generation to generation, we may never truly know their origins. Four main theories exist concerning the beginnings of the Beta Israel community:

1) The Beta Israel may be the lost Israelite tribe of Dan. 2) They may be descendants of Menelik I, son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. 3) They may be descendants of Ethiopian Christians and pagans who converted to Judaism centuries ago. 4) They may be descendants of Jews who fled Israel for Egypt after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and settled in Ethiopia.

Without regard as to which theory may actually be correct (and each theory has its support), the authenticity of the Jewishness of the community became an issue.

As early as the 16th century, Egypt’s Chief Rabbi David ben Solomon ibn Avi Zimra (Radbaz) declared that in Halachic (Jewish legal) issues, the Beta Israel were indeed Jews. In 1855, Daniel ben Hamdya, a member of the Beta Israel, was the first Ethiopian Jew to visit Israel, meeting with a council of rabbis in Jerusalem concerning the authenticity of the Beta Israel. By 1864, almost all leading Jewish authorities, most notably Rabbi Azriel Hildsheimer of Eisenstadt, Germany, accepted the Beta Israel as true Jews. In 1908 the chief rabbis of forty-five countries had heeded Rabbi Hildsheimer’s call and officially recognized the Beta Israel as fellow Jews.

In reaffirming the Radbaz’s position centuries before, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, stated in 1972, I have come to the conclusion that Falashas are Jews who must be saved from absorption and assimilation. We are obliged to speed up their immigration to Israel and educate them in the spirit of the holy Torah, making them partners in the building of the Holy Land.

In 1975, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren wrote to the Beta Israel telling them, You are our brothers, you are our blood and our flesh. You are true Jews. Later that same year the Israeli Interministerial Commission officially recognized the Beta Israel as Jews under Israel’s Law of Return, a law designed to aid in Jewish immigration to Israel. The Beta Israel were ready to come home.

Indeed, the Beta Israel were strictly observant in pre-Talmudic Jewish traditions. The women went to the mikvah, or ritual bath, just as observant Jewish women do to this day, and they continue to carry out ancient festivals, such as Seged, that have been passed down through the generations of Beta Israel. The Kesim, or religious leaders, are as widely revered and respected as the great rabbis in each community, passing the Jewish customs through storytelling and maintaining the few Jewish books and Torahs some communities were fortunate enough to have written in the liturgical language of Ge’ez.

The struggle to free the Beta Israel was not fought solely against the Ethiopian government. Much like some timid Jewish leaders during the Holocaust, some recent Jews sought to prevent a shanda fur de goyim (an embarrassment in front of the non-Jews) by not stirring up waves over Ethiopian Jewry.

The history of the Beta Israel’s rescue is at times open to debate regarding the heroes of the Ethiopian Jewry movement. As with many struggles to free oppressed Jewry around the world, many advocated and vocalized opposition to those responsible for the lack of action on their behalf. Others, however, argued for a more quiet diplomacy, void of the public demonstrations and arrests that marked the struggle for Soviet Jewry.

Though over 8,000 Beta Israel managed to flee to Israel during his tenure, it was an Israeli official in charge of the Ethiopian Jews’ absorption who may best symbolize the insensitivity that an extreme minority of people once held. Yehuda Dominitz who served as Director General of the Jewish Agency’s Department of Immigration and Absorption, declared in 1980 that, [taking] a Falasha (sic) out of his village, it’s like taking a fish out of water…I’m not in favor of bringing them [to Israel]. Dominitz also refused to allow his agency to rent buses so Ethiopian Jews in Israel could travel to Jerusalem to observe their ancient holiday of Seged (Dominitz eventually relented, but had the buses take the Beta Israel to Haifa instead of Jerusalem).

Malkah Raymist, a writer for the World Zionist Organization, wrote in 1956 in The Jewish Horizon (of the Hapoel Hamizrachi of America Movement) that, the reasons [for not bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel] are simple and weighty. On one hand, they are well off where they are, while their development and mental outlook is that of children; they could fall an easy prey of exploitation, if brought here without any preparation. On the other hand, being a backward element, they would be and it would take several years before they could be educated towards a minimum of progressive thinking.

In an American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) press release, the AAEJ quoted its founder, Dr. Graenum Berger, as criticizing those who sought any delay in the rescue of the Beta Israel. Berger declared, Not when Jews are dying…these revelations show once again that the policy of influencing factions of the government of Israel always have been against the immigration of the Ethiopian Jews. And, the same people who controlled their immigration then are controlling it now. These are the same people who gave instructions to the Israeli Embassy in Ethiopia (1956-1973) not to issue immigration visas to any Jew from Ethiopia.

Berger himself came under criticism for his outspoken remarks concerning the Israeli efforts to rescue the Beta Israel, showing that nobody was immune from the rhetoric surrounding the issue.

In December 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to bring to the Jewish State the few thousands Jews remaining in the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia. Nicknamed Operation Dove’s Wings, the plan sought to fly a few hundred each month to Israel. The first flight brough 240 new Ethiopian immigrants.

In July 2012, the government decided to increase the rate of aliyah from Ethiopia to 160 per month over the proceeding 10 months. In August 2013, the final two flights of Operation Dove’s Wings arrived in Israel with 450 immigrants. In a ceremony held at Ben-Gurion Airport, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said: “We are closing a 3,000-year-old circle.”

To mark the occasion, Prime Minister Netanyahu released a statement saying, “I am proud that as Prime Minister, beginning in my first term, I upheld the Zionist and Jewish imperative of bringing to Israel our brothers and sisters from Ethiopia. I see this as a moral obligation.”

More than 135,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, 92,000 of whom have been brought into the country.

The Israeli government approved the entry of the last group of Ethiopian Jews in November 2015, aiming to finish what was started by Operation Moses 30 years prior. This announcement comes two years after Israeli government officials claimed that no Jews remained in Ethiopia. There have been several supposedly last groups of Ethiopian Jews that have made aliyah to Israel, with the most recent group of 450 arriving in Israel in 2013. It is estimated that this proposal approved the entry into Israel of approximately 9,100 Ethiopian Jews, most of whom were at the time living in refugee camps in Adis Ababa and Gondar.

Sources: Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ). Written by the staff of PRIMER – Promoting Research in the Middle East Region; Israel Hayom (August 29, 2013); Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Israel approves ‘last’ round of Ethiopian immigration, Al Arabiya (November 15, 2015)

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Friends of Ethiopian Jews

Friends of Ethiopian Jews, Inc. (FEJ) supports grassroots Ethiopian-Israeli organizations working to create full integration and successful absorption in Israel for the Ethiopian Jewish community. FEJ was founded in 1998 by members of theAmerican Association for Ethiopian Jews(AAEJ) and other veteran activists dedicated to assisting the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel. Through supporting programs and projects led by Ethiopian-Israelis themselves, FEJ strives to empower the community, to help improve opportunities for Ethiopian-Israelis and to help create a just society in Israel overall. FEJ supports organizations that are effective, well-managed grassroots groups, which are achieving measurable, successful results. Today, FEJ helps sixEthiopian-Israeli groups, and welcomes donations on behalf of these outstanding organizations:

Friends by Nature Community EmpowermentFriends by Nature (FBN)Community Empowerment is a non-profit Israeli organization that was established in 2005 by a diverse group of Ethiopian-Israelis and veteran Israelis, secular and religious..Read More

Olim Beyahad Or Bandelay Woodelay (in Amharic), or Rising Together (in English) integrates members of the Ethiopian Israeli community as a normative and important part of Israeli life in the areas of employment, residence, education, and social life. ..Read More

Tech-Career Computer Training for Ethiopian-Israelis For over 25 years, Ethiopian-Israelis have been attempting to break out of the harsh socio-economic reality in which they live and integrate into Israeli society. According to the latest ..Read More

Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ) The Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ),directed and run by Ethiopians, is a unique advocacy organization and formidable voice for, and defender of, the Ethiopian community in..Read More

Tebeka Advocacy for Equality & Justice for Ethiopian-Israeli.TEBEKA, (Amharic for Advocate of Justice), is the legal aid organization serving Israels 120,000-member Ethiopian-Israeli community. It was founded in 2000 by Itzik Dessie, the first ..Read More

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Ethiopian Jews in Israel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ethiopian Jews in Israel refers to the immigrants and descendants of the immigrants of the Beta Israel communities of Ethiopia, who now reside in Israel.[2][3][4]

Most of the community made aliyah from Ethiopia to Israel in two waves of mass immigration assisted by the Israeli government: Operation Moses (1984) and Operation Solomon (1991).[5][6] Today Israel is home to the largest Beta Israel community in the world with about 125,500 citizens of Ethiopian descent in 2011,[1] who are mainly assembled in the smaller urban areas of central Israel.[7]

The first Ethiopian Jews who settled in Palestine in the modern times came in 1934 along with the Yemenite Jews from Italian Eritrea.

Between the years 1963 and 1975 a relatively small group of Beta Israel emigrated to Israel. The Beta Israel immigrants in that period were mainly very few men who have studied and came to Israel on a tourist visa and then remained in the country illegally.

Several of their supporters in Israel, who recognized their “Jewishness” decided to assist them. These supporters began organizing in associations, among others under the direction of Ovadia Hazzi, an Eritrean born Yemeni Jew and former sergeant in the Israeli army. Several of those illegal immigrants managed to get a regularization with the Israeli authorities through the assistance of these support associations. Some agreed to “convert” to Judaism, which helped them regulated their personal status and remain in Israel. People who get their regularization often brought their families to Israel as well.

In 1973, Ovadia Hazzi officially raised the question of the “Jewishness” of the Beta Israel to the Israeli Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The rabbi, who cited a rabbinic ruling from the 16th century David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra and asserted that the Beta Israel are descended from the lost tribe of Dan, and eventually acknowledged their “Jewishness” in February 1973. This ruling was initially rejected by the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who eventually changed his opinion on the matter in 1974.

In April 1975, the Israeli government of Yitzhak Rabin officially accepted the Beta Israel as Jews, for the purpose of the Law of Return (An Israeli act which grants all the Jews in the world the right to immigrate to Israel).

Later on, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin obtained clear rulings from Chief Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that they were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel did however initially require them to undergo pro forma Jewish conversions, to remove any doubt as to their Jewish status.

Ethiopian Beta Israel are gradually becoming part of the mainstream Israeli society in religious life, military service (with nearly all males doing national service), education, and politics. Similarly to other groups of immigrant Jews, who made aliyah to Israel, the Ethiopian Beta Israel have faced obstacles in their integration to Israeli society. The Ethiopian Beta Israel community’s internal challenges have been complicated by the racism of Israeli society and the official establishment.[11] One study found that some social and cultural traditions have been treated as problems that need to be overcome.[12]

Individual Ethiopian Beta Israel had lived in Eretz Yisrael prior to the establishment of the state. A youth group arrived in Israel in the 1950s to undergo training in Hebrew education and returned to Ethiopia to educate young Beta Israeli community members there. Also, Ethiopian Beta Israel had been trickling into Israel prior to the 1970s. The numbers of such Ethiopian immigrants grew after the Israeli government officially recognized them in 1973 as Jews, entitled to Israeli citizenship.[13]

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Jewish Virtual Library – Timeline of Ethiopian Jewish History

4th Century CE Christianity is introduced into the Axum dynasty in Ethiopia.

7th Century With the spread of Islam, Ethiopia is isolated from most of the Christian world. The Beta Israel enjoy a period of independence before the power struggles of the middle ages.

9th Century The earliest apparent reference to the Beta Israel appears in the diary of Eldad Hadani, a merchant and traveler claiming to have been a citizen of an autonomous Jewish state in eastern Africa inhabited by the tribes of Dan, Naftali, Gad, and Asher.

13th Century The Solominic dynasty (which claims decent from Solomon and Sheba) assumes control. During the next 300 years (1320-1620), intermittent wars are fought between the Christian kings of Ethiopia and those of the Beta Israel, which finally result in the Beta Israel’s loss of independence.

16th Century Rabbi David B. Zimra, known as the Radbaz, issues a legal response in Cairo declaring that “those who come from the land Cush (Ethiopia) are without a doubt the Tribe of Dan…” He confirms that Ethiopian Jews are fully Jewish.

1622 Christians conquer the Ethiopian Jewish Kingdom following 300 years of warfare. The vanquished Jews are sold as slaves, forced to baptize, and denied the right to own land.

1769 Scottish explorer James Bruce awakens the western world to the existence of the Ethiopian Jews in his travels to discover the source of the Nile. He estimates the Jewish population at 100,000.

1855 Daniel Ben Hamdya, an Ethiopian Jew, independently travels to Jerusalem to meet with rabbis.

1864 Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer, the Rabbi of Eisenstadt, Germany, publishes a manifesto in the Jewish press calling for the spiritual rescue of Ethiopian Jewry.

1867 Professor Joseph Halevy is the first European Jew to visit the Beta Israel, subsequently becoming an advocate for the community.

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Falasha Black Jews of Ethiopia – Tripod.com

Origins of Abyssinian Jews

The early days of the Beta ‘Esra’el (House of Israel) community in Abyssinia remain a mystery. There is no doubt that the roots of Judaism were influential in this part of Africa at a very early date –perhaps even as far back as the First Temple period. Since there are no factual data from those times, and given the Ethiopian Jews’ racial resemblance to native Ethiopians, various theories have been proposed concerning the origins of the community, based on superficial research of their traditions, customs and roots.

Many aspects of Ethiopian culture still show traces of Judaic influence. The Abyssinian Church is considered very close to ancient Judaism, with customs such as circumcision, a form of Sabbath observance, dietary laws similar to those found in the Tora, and other practices preserved in its doctrine. We know that before the spread of Christianity in the 4th century CE, the Mosaic faith was practiced in Abyssinia, alongside the idol worship which still remains widespread. See Moses — was the lawgiver of Israel an Ethiopian?

According to Ethiopia national legend, the founder of the royal dynasty, whose last monarch was Negus (Emperor) Haile Selassie –the symbolic and titular “Lion of Judah” –was the son of the Queen of Sheba (Makida, according to the legend) and King Solomon. See Solomon’s Temple. The son, Menelik, as an educated adult, returned to his father in Jerusalem, and then resettled in Ethiopia together with many members of the Israelite tribes, including priests and Levites. He also smuggled the Ark of the Covenant and the Tablets of the Law out from Jerusalem, and brought them to Aksum, capital of ancient Abyssinia. The Jews of Ethiopia do not generally accept this legend, and take it to be mere fabrication. However, this old tradition only strengthens what we know from other sources –that there was an early Jewish influence in Abyssinia . For Biblical ties, see http://robt.shepherd.tripod.com/spiritual-africa.html

A 9th-century tradition, based on the story of Eldad ha-Dani (the Danite), maintains that during the rift between Rehoboam, son of Solomon, and Jeroboam, son of Nebat –leaders of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel respectively –the tribe of Dan chose not to be drawn into tribal disputes. To avoid the impending civil war they resettled in Egypt. Once there, the Danites continued southwards up the Nile to the historic Land of Cush (today in Sudan and Ethiopia) and found it to be rich in resources. Eldad ha-Dani himself was probably from this area. According to his report, members of the tribes of Naftali, Gad and Asher lived there together with the Danites, and he himself could trace his ancestry back to Dan, son of Jacob.

This tradition, which may have a certain Biblical basis, is also found in other medieval sources. Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro came across two Abyssinian Jewish prisoners of war in Egypt in the late 15th century and wrote that they claimed to be descended from the tribe of Dan. Rabbi David ben-Zimra (RaDBaZ) ruled in his 16th century responsa that the Jews of Ethiopia were unquestionably Danites who had settled in Abyssinia, possibly even before the Second Temple period. The tradition appears to have been widely held by the Jews of Abyssinia and the surrounding areas until recently, though this is no longer the case today.

At the time when the Ten Tribes were exiled to Assyria (during the reign of King Hosea, son of Elah of Israel, approximately one century before the First Temple was destroyed and Judah was exiled), the Prophet Isaiah prophesied the End of Days, when the dispersed people of Israel and Judah would be gathered in from their place of exile. Cush is one of the places mentioned.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord will set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, that shall remain from Assyria and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:11-12)

The return of the people living “beyond the rivers of Abyssinia” to “the place of the name of the Lord of Hosts” is prophesied in detail in Isaiah 18:7 and Zephania 3:10. These sources are sufficient to demonstrate Jewish presence in Ethiopia towards the end of the First Temple period.

After the destruction of the First Temple, the Jewish community in Egypt expanded. Findings discovered at the beginning of this century in Yev (Elephantine) in southern Egypt on the Nile, near Aswan (the area of Biblical Pathros) indicate there were Jewish communities near the Sudanese border dating at least to the Return to Zion in the Persian period. The Jews of Yev, like those of Abyssinia, built a temple and performed sacrifices, but did not reject the sanctity of Jerusalem and its Temple. Similarly, Onias’ Temple, in Lower Egypt, dates from the Second Temple period. Other similarities in traditions and special customs support the evidence of a link between the ancient Egyptian Jews and those of Ethiopia.

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Falasha Black Jews of Ethiopia – Tripod.com

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Beta Israel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Beta Israel (Hebrew: , Beyte (beyt) Yisrael; Ge’ez: , Bta ‘Isr’l, modern Bte ‘Isr’l, EAE: “Bet srael”, “House of Israel” or “Community of Israel”[4]), also known as Ethiopian Jews (Hebrew: : Yehudey Etyopyah; Ge’ez: , ye-Ityoppya Ayhudi), are Jewish communities located in the area of Aksumite and Ethiopian Empires (Habesha or Abyssinia), currently divided between Amhara and Tigray regions.[5]

Beta Israel lived in North and North-Western Ethiopia, in more than 500 small villages spread over a wide territory, among populations that were Muslim and predominantly Christian.[6] Most of them were concentrated in the area around Lake Tana and north of it, in the Tigray Region; among the Wolqayit, Shire and Tselemt and Amhara Region of Gonder regions; among the Semien Province, Dembia, Segelt, Quara, and Belesa.

The Beta Israel made renewed contacts with other Jewish communities in the later 20th century. After Halakhic and constitutional discussions, Israeli officials decided on March 14, 1977 that the Israeli Law of Return applied to the Beta Israel.[7] The Israeli and American governments mounted aliyah operations[8] to transport the people to Israel.[9] These activities included Operation Brothers in Sudan between 1979 and 1990 (this includes the major operations Moses and Joshua), and in the 1990s from Addis Ababa (which includes Operation Solomon).[10][11]

The related Falash Mura are the descendants of Beta Israel who converted to Christianity. Some are changing to the practices of Halakhic Judaism, and living together in communities. Beta Israel spiritual leaders, including Liqa Kahnet Raphael Hadane, have argued for the acceptance of the Falash Mura as Jews.[12] The Israeli government decided by a resolution in 2003 that descendants of Jewish mothers’ lineage have the right to migrate to Israel under the Entry Law; they may become citizens only if they formally convert to Orthodox Judaism.[13] This resolution has been controversial within Israeli society.[14][15][16][17]

Most of the 119,500 Ethiopian Israelis as of 2009 were born in Israel. 38,500 or 32% of the community had at least one parent born in Ethiopia.[18]

Throughout its history, the community has been referred to by numerous names. According to tradition the name “Beta Israel” originated in the 4th century CE, when the community refused to convert to Christianity during the rule of Abreha and Atsbeha (identified with Se’azana and Ezana), the monarchs of the Aksumite Empire who embraced Christianity.[19] This name stands opposite to “Beta Christian” (Christianity).[20][21] It did not originally have negative connotations, and the community has used it since as its official name. Since the 1980s, it has also become the official name used in the scientific literature to refer to the community.[22] The term Esra’elawi (Israelites)which is related to the name Beta Israelis used by the community to refer to its members.[22]

The name Ayhud (Jews) is rarely used in the community, as the Christians used it as a derogatory term. The community only has begun to use it since strengthening ties with other Jewish communities in the 20th century.[22] The term ‘Ivrawi (Hebrews) was used to refer to the Chawa (free man) in the community, in contrast to Barya (slave).[23] The term Oritawi (Torah-true) was used to refer to the community members; since the 19th century it has been used in opposition to the term Falash Mura (converts).

The major derogatory term, Falasha (foreigners/exiles), was given to the community by the Emperor Yeshaq in the 15th century. Agaw, referring to the Agaw people, the original inhabitants of northwest Ethiopia, is considered derogatory since it incorrectly associates the community with the pagan Agaw.[22]

Haymanot (Ge’ez: ) is the colloquial term of the Jewish religion in the community.[24]

Maf Kedus (Holy Scriptures) is the name for the religious literature. The language of the writings is Ge’ez. The holiest book is the Orit (from Aramaic “Oraita” “Torah”) which consists of the Five Books of Moses and the books Joshua, Judges and Ruth. The rest of the Bible has secondary importance. The Book of Lamentations is not part of the canon.

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Beta Israel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The History of Ethiopian Jewry | United with Israel

The Ethiopian Jewish heritage is a rich and ancient one that deserves to be remembered. According to the Ethiopian historian Yohanes Zeleke, Ethiopian oral Jewish tradition maintains that Jews came to Ethiopia in stages, the earliest one being during the time of the famine in Canaan, when Abraham was forced to flee southwards. Ethiopian Jews believe that other waves include during the times of slavery in Egypt; during the reign of Manasseh of Judah, who sought to forcefully convert Jews into pagans; and another group came accompanying Melinik I, the son of King Solomon. Additional Jews are reported to arrive in Ethiopia following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

From the 7th century BCE up until 330 AD, Judaism was the official state religion of Ethiopia. However, Ethiopia became a Christian country when the Ethiopian Emperor Ezana converted to Christianity. The Christians behaved very brutally to the Jews in Ethiopia, resulting in them revolting and overthrowing their Christian overlords. In the 9th century, Ethiopia became a Jewish country again under the leadership of Queen Yeodit. However, following three additional centuries of Jewish rule, Egypt grew wary of the growing power of Jewish Ethiopia and united with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to overthrow the Jewish government in Ethiopia. Following the regime change in Ethiopia, countless Ethiopian Jews were murdered, sold into slavery, or forcefully converted to Christianity.

Judiths Field, an area of ruined buildings which according to tradition were destroyed by Queen Judith, a medieval Ethiopian Jewish queen

From the 14th century onward, with the brief exception of the rule of one Jewish emperor named Tewodros II in the 1800s, the vast majority of Ethiopian Jews were forced to live as powerless and exploited landless peasants. However, in 1624, Jews did seek to regain their autonomy around the same time that Muslims in Ethiopia were also revolting against a policy of forced conversion, yet ended up instead committing a mass suicide that had an uncanny resemblance to Masada rather than be taken prisoner. At that time, all Ethiopian Jewish religious and history books were burnt as an attempt to eradicate Ethiopias Jewish heritage.

In the 20th century, the plight of Ethiopian Jews was very dire. When Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam rose to power in a coup dtat, 2,500 Jews were slaughtered and 7,000 additional Jews became homeless. Mariams Marxist ideology encouraged anti-semitism within Ethiopia. In the 1980s, Ethiopia forbade the practice of Judaism and the teaching of Hebrew. Countless Ethiopian Jews were imprisoned on fabricated charges of being Zionist spies and Ethiopian Jewish rabbis, known as Kesim, were constantly harassed by the Ethiopian government. Furthermore, forced military conscription took Jewish boys as young as 12 years old away from their families, who often never heard from their children again. Yet, to make matters even worse, a famine erupted around this time period as well.

Ethiopian Synagogue in Wolleka

While over 8,000 Ethiopian Jews came to Israel between 1977 and 1984, most Ethiopian Jews were still in Ethiopia in 1984. Although Operation Moses which occurred between November 18, 1984 and January 5, 1985 brought 7,000 Jews to Israel, it came at a great humanitarian cost. In order to reach Israel, Ethiopian Jews were forced to march to Sudan at night, while hiding during the day from robbers and soldiers. 4,000 Ethiopian Jews would perish trying to make Aliyah, either from the poor sanitary conditions in the refugee camps in Sudan, from starvation along the way, disease, or from murder, and countless Ethiopian Jewish women were raped while trying to reach Israel.

However, after that point, the remainder of Ethiopian Jews, principally the elderly, the sick and small children who were unable to flee to Sudan, were stranded in Ethiopia. Over 1,600 Ethiopian Jewish children did not know the fate of their parents. It was only when rebels overthrew the Mariam dictatorship that Israel was able to rescue an additional 14,324 Ethiopian Jews from Ethiopia, during Operation Solomon, in 1991. Today, over 36,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel.

By Rachel Avraham

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The History of Ethiopian Jewry | United with Israel

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Israeli Government Admits to Sterilizing Ethiopian Jews …

February 21, 2012 According to recent Forbes and Haaretz articles, the Israeli government has been pursuing a long term plan of sterilization of immigrant Ethiopian Jews. The Depo-Prevara injections were enforced upon women in transit camps in Ethiopia. One might ask: why? At this point, no absolutely clear answer can be given. There are, of course, speculations about racial motives; that is, with the Israeli ruling class being mainly of Ashkenazi back ground, while the Ethiopian Jews are not. The outrage eventually led to the Israeli government suspending injections unless the women understood the ramifications. The shots have led to a drop in the Ethiopian Jewish birth-rate byabout 20%. According to the UK Independent: The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive. as well as noting: Sharona Eliahu Chai, a lawyer for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), said: Findings from investigations into the use of Depo Provera are extremely worrisome, raising concerns of harmful health policies with racist implications in violation of medical ethics. The Ministry of Healths director-general was right to act quickly and put forth new guidelines. The Ethiopian Jewish community of course has its past shrouded in mystery. Different theories abound as to its origins. However, despite dispute about their ability to legally come to Israel, it was decided that those Ethiopian Jews who agreed to undergo a conversion to Orthdoox Talmudic Judaism would be allowed entry. The Ethiopian Jewish community has left in large numbers from Ethiopia, especially since the culture was hostile to them (for example, prior to the over-throw of the old imperial system, they could not own property).

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Ethiopian Jews in Israel – My Jewish Learning

Ancient traditions in a new Jewish State. By Atira Winchester The Jews of Ethiopiaknown as the Beta Israelhave experienced a long history of famine, religious oppression, and civil war. But in the 20th century the community went through some major changes as it was transplanted into Israel. In 1974, following a coup detat, Ethiopia came under the Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Under Mariams regime, anti-Semitism rose, and physical conditions worsened for the Beta Israel, with starvation across the country. In May 1977, Israeli President Menachem Begin started selling arms to Mariams government, hoping to secure freedom for Ethiopias Jews. Later that year, Israel took 200 Jews out of Ethiopia on a plane that had emptied its arms cargo for Mariams use. Mariam agreed to the airliftgiven his reliance on Israels arms, he could hardly refuse. Between 1977 and 1984, a total of 8,000 Ethiopian Jews came to Israel in a number of small airlifts, all authorized, albeit grudgingly, by the Ethiopian government. Large-scale aliya started in 1984 with Operation Moses, a mission that brought 8,000 Jews to Israel in just a few months. The operation, which began in November, 1984, ended prematurely in January 1985 when news of the airlift reached Ethiopias Arab allies. In March 1985, another 650 Jews were rescued in Operation Joshua, but approximately 15,000 Beta Israel still remained in Ethiopia, many of them elderly, sick, or weak. Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization. Please consider making a donation today. Atira Winchester is a journalist who worked for many years as an editor for The Jerusalem Post. She currently lives in London, England where she works as a freelance writer, specializing in arts, culture and contemporary Israeli life. The Jews of Ethiopiaknown as the Beta Israelhave experienced a long history of famine, religious oppression, and civil war. But in the 20th century the community went through some major changes as it was transplanted into Israel. In 1974, following a coup detat, Ethiopia came under the Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Under Mariams regime, anti-Semitism rose, and physical conditions worsened for the Beta Israel, with starvation across the country. In May 1977, Israeli President Menachem Begin started selling arms to Mariams government, hoping to secure freedom for Ethiopias Jews. Later that year, Israel took 200 Jews out of Ethiopia on a plane that had emptied its arms cargo for Mariams use. Mariam agreed to the airliftgiven his reliance on Israels arms, he could hardly refuse. Between 1977 and 1984, a total of 8,000 Ethiopian Jews came to Israel in a number of small airlifts, all authorized, albeit grudgingly, by the Ethiopian government. Large-scale aliya started in 1984 with Operation Moses, a mission that brought 8,000 Jews to Israel in just a few months. The operation, which began in November, 1984, ended prematurely in January 1985 when news of the airlift reached Ethiopias Arab allies. In March 1985, another 650 Jews were rescued in Operation Joshua, but approximately 15,000 Beta Israel still remained in Ethiopia, many of them elderly, sick, or weak. The final and most dramatic large-scale operation was Operation Solomon. 14,325 Beta Israel were airlifted to Israel in 36 hours on May 24 -25, 1991 amid political turmoil that forced Mariam to flee the country. By the end of 1991, only a handful of Beta Israel remained in Ethiopia, although many thousands of Falasha Mura, whose Jewish identity has been disputed, still remain today. While the operations that brought about Beta Israels exodus were dramatic and swift, integration into Israeli society has been painstakingly slow. Even today, the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel is still grappling with problems: they are marginalized socially, religiously, geographically, and professionally. When they first arrived, housing was often provided in mobile homes located in Israels peripheral areas. Housing conditions were regularly squalid, inadequately heated in the winter or cooled in the summer. Ethiopians were isolated and disempowered, with children far from decent schools. Life in an industrialized, modern society baffled many of the older community members, and adjusting to simple things like electricity was often difficult. Israelis were not always quick to help make the transition easier. For example, Yehuda Dominitz, then Director General of the Jewish Agencys Department of Immigration and Absorption, declared in 1980 that, [taking] a Falasha out of his village, its like taking a fish out of waterIm not in favor of bringing them [to Israel].

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June 16, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Ethiopia Virtual Jewish Tour | Jewish Virtual Library

Once they were kings. A half million strong, they matched their faith with fervor and out-matched the Moslem and Christian tribesmen around them to rule the mountain highlands around Lake Tana. They called themselves Beta Israelthe house of Israeland used the Torah to guide their prayers and memories of the heights of Jerusalem as they lived in their thatched huts in Ethiopia. But their neighbors called them Falashasthe alien ones, the invaders. And even three hundred years of rule, even the black features that matched those of all the people around them did not make the Jews of Ethiopia secure governors of their destiny in Africa (Falashas: The Forgotten Jews, Baltimore Jewish Times, 9 November 1979). For centuries, the world Jewish community was not even aware of the existence of the Jewish community of Ethiopia in the northern province of Gondar. The miracle of Operation Solomon is only now being fully understood; an ancient Jewish community has been brought back from the edge of government-imposed exile and starvation. But once they were kings. . . – History – Modern Contact – The Mengistu Threat – Operations Moses & Joshua – Operation Solomon – Authentic Jews – Jewish Apathy & its Defeat – Operation Dove’s Wings – Recent Developments Christianity spread through the Axum dynasty of Ethiopia in the 4th century CE. By the 7th century, however, Islam had surpassed Christianity and had separated Ethiopia from its Christian African neighbors. Prior to this, the Beta Israel had enjoyed relative independence through the Middle Ages. Their reign was threatened in the 13th century CE under the Solomonic Empire, and intermittent fighting continuing for the next three centuries with other tribes. In 1624, the Beta Israel fought what would be their last battle for independent autonomy against Portuguese-backed Ethiopians. A graphic eyewitness account described the battle: Falasha men and women fought to the death from the steep heights of their fortress… they threw themselves over the precipice or cut each other’s throats rather than be taken prisonerit was a Falasha Masada. [The rebel leaders] burned all of the Falasha’s written history and all of their religious books, it was an attempt to eradicate forever the Judaic memory of Ethiopia (Righteous Jews Honored by Falasha Supporters, AAEJ Press Release, 1981). Those Jews captured alive were sold into slavery, forced to be baptized, and denied the right to own land. The independence of the Beta Israel was torn from them just as it was from their Israeli brethren at Masada centuries before. The first modern contact with the now oppressed community came in 1769, when Scottish explorer James Bruce stumbled upon them while searching for the source of the Nile River. His estimates at the time placed the Beta Israel population at 100,000, already greatly decreased from an estimate from centuries before of a half-million. Little additional contact was made with the community, but in 1935 their stability was greatly threatened as the Italian army marched into Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s ruler, Emperor Haile Selassie fled his country and actually took refuge in Jerusalem for a short time. Selassie returned to power in 1941, but the situation for the Beta Israel improved little. In 1947, Ethiopia abstained on the United Nations Partition Plan for the British Mandate of Palestine, which reestablished the State of Israel. By 1955, the non-governmental Jewish Agency of Israel had already begun construction of schools and a teacher’s seminary for the Beta Israel in Ethiopia. In 1956, Ethiopia and Israel established consular relations, which were improved in 1961 when the two countries established full diplomatic ties. Positive relations between Israel and Ethiopia existed until 1973, when, in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, Ethiopia (and 28 African nations) broke diplomatic relations with Israel under the threat of an Arab oil embargo. Months later, Emperor Selassie’s regime ended in a coup d’etat. Selassie was replaced by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose Marxist-Leninist dictatorship increased the threat to the Beta Israel. During the weeks surrounding Mariam’s coup, an estimated 2,500 Jews were killed and 7,000 became homeless. Soon Mariam instituted a policy of villagization, relocating millions of peasant farmers onto state-run cooperatives which greatly harmed the Beta Israel by forcing them to share their villagesthough they were denied the right to own the landwith non-Jewish farmers, resulting in increased levels of anti-Semitism throughout the Gondar Province. According to the Ethiopian government, over 30% of the population had been moved from privately owned farms to cooperatives as of 1989. After taking office in 1977, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was eager to facilitate the rescue of Ethiopia’s Jews, and so Israel entered into a period of selling arms to the Mariam government in hopes that Ethiopia would allow Jews to leave for Israel. In 1977, Begin asked President Mengistu to allow 200 Ethiopian Jews to leave for Israel aboard an Israeli military jet that had emptied its military cargo and was returning to Israel. Mariam agreed, and that may have been the precursor to the mass exodus of Operation Moses. In the early 1980’s, Ethiopia forbade the practice of Judaism and the teaching of Hebrew. Numerous members of the Beta Israel were imprisoned on fabricated charges of being Zionist spies, and Jewish religious leaders, Kesim,(sing. Kes) were harassed and monitored by the government. The situation remained exceedingly bleak through the early 1980’s. Forced conscription at age 12 took many Jewish boys away from their parents, some never to be heard from again. Additionally, with the constant threat of war, famine, and horrendous health conditions (Ethiopia has one of the world’s worst infant mortality rates and doctor to patient ratios), the Beta Israel’s position became more precarious as time progressed. The government began to slightly soften its treatment of the Jews, however, during the mid-1980’s when terrible famines wreaked havoc on the economy. Ethiopia was forced to ask Western nations for famine relief, including the United States of America and Israel, allowing them both to exert a modicum of pressure for the release of the Beta Israel. Over 8,000 Beta Israel came to Israel between 1977 and 1984. But these efforts pale in comparison with the modern exodus that took place during 1984’s Operation Moses. Under a news blackout for security reasons, Operation Moses began on November 18, 1984, and ended six weeks later on January 5, 1985. In that time, just over 7,000 Jews were rescued and brought to Israel. But the mission was not without problems. Because of news leaks (blamed primarily on a December 6 article in the Washington Jewish Week and full page advertisements placed by the United Jewish Appeal), the mission ended prematurely as Arab nations pressured the Sudanese government to prevent any more Jews from using Sudan to go to Israel. Almost 15,000 Jews were left behind in Ethiopia. Thus, by the end of Operation Moses in January 1985, almost two-thirds of the Beta Israel remained in Ethiopia. They were comprised almost entirely of women, young children, and the sick, since only the strongest members of the community were encouraged to make the harrowing trek to Sudan where the airlift would actually occur. In addition, many young boys were encouraged to make the dangerous trek to freedom due to the low age of conscription, often as young as age twelve. As Babu Yakov, a Beta Israel leader, summed up, Those who could not flee are elderly, sick, and infants. Those least capable of defending themselves are now facing their enemies alone. In 1985, then Vice President George Bush arranged a CIA-sponsored follow-up mission to Operation Moses. Operation Joshua brought an additional 500 Beta Israel from Sudan to Israel. But in the following five years, a virtual stalemate occurred in the rescue of Ethiopian Jewry. All efforts on behalf of the Beta Israel fell on the closed ears of the Mariam dictatorship. Meanwhile, those Jews who did escape during Operation Moses were separated from their loved ones while attempting to adjust to Israeli society. The new arrivals spent between six months and two years in absorption centers learning Hebrew, being retrained for Israel’s industrial society, and learning how to live in a modern society (most Ethiopian villages had no running water or electricity). Suicide, all but unheard of in their tukuls in Ethiopia, even claimed a few of the new arrivals due to the anxiety of separation and departure. Over 1,600 orphans of circumstance lived day to day separated from their families, not knowing the fate of their parents, brothers, sisters, and loved ones. The grim prospect of thousands of Jewish children growing up separated from their parents in Israel almost became a reality. Little could be done to persuade the Mariam government to increase the trickle of Jews leaving Ethiopia in the years between Operations Joshua and Solomon. But in November 1990, Ethiopia and Israel reached an agreement that would allow Ethiopian Jews to move to Israel under the context of family reunification. It soon became clear, however, that Mengistu was willing to allow Ethiopian Jews to leave outside of the guise of reunification. November and December, 1990, showed increased numbers of Ethiopians leaving for Israel. The Ethiopian Jews were finally ready to come home. In early 1991, Eritrean and Tigrean rebels began a concerted attack on Mengistu forces, meeting with surprising success for the first time since the civil war began in 1975. With the rebel armies advancing each day, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam fled his country in early May. Rebels claimed control of the capital Addis Ababa shortly thereafter, and the situation of the Beta Israel took top priority in Israel. The Likud government of Yitzhak Shamir authorized a special permit for the Israeli airline, El Al, to fly on the Jewish Sabbath. On Friday, May 24, and continuing non-stop for 36 hours, a total of 34 El Al jumbo jets and Hercules C-130sseats removed to accommodate the maximum number of Ethiopiansbegan a new chapter in the struggle for the freedom of Ethiopian Jewry. Operation Solomon, named for the king from whom one of the theories suggest that the Beta Israel draw their lineage, ended almost as quickly as it began. Timing was crucial, since any delay by Israel could have allowed the rebels to hold the Jews as bargaining chips with Israel or the United States. A total of 14,324 Ethiopian Jews were rescued and resettled in Israel, a modern exodus of the grandest design. Operation Solomon rescued nearly double the number of Jews as were saved during Operation Moses and Joshua, and it did so in a mere fraction of the time. More than 36,000 Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel and despite both economic and social hardships, their community has an integral part in Israeli society. In 1999, Avraham Yitzhak became the first Ethiopian immigrant to earn an MD degree from an Israeli medical school. In 2011, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed Rachamim Elazar as Israel’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, making him the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent to ever serve as an ambassador for the State of Israel. There are still many problems within the Ethiopian community in Israel – poverty, lack of education, etc – but large strides are being made every day. Because much of the Beta Israel’s history is passed orally from generation to generation, we may never truly know their origins. Four main theories exist concerning the beginnings of the Beta Israel community: 1) The Beta Israel may be the lost Israelite tribe of Dan. 2) They may be descendants of Menelik I, son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. 3) They may be descendants of Ethiopian Christians and pagans who converted to Judaism centuries ago. 4) They may be descendants of Jews who fled Israel for Egypt after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and settled in Ethiopia. Without regard as to which theory may actually be correct (and each theory has its support), the authenticity of the Jewishness of the community became an issue. As early as the 16th century, Egypt’s Chief Rabbi David ben Solomon ibn Avi Zimra (Radbaz) declared that in Halachic (Jewish legal) issues, the Beta Israel were indeed Jews. In 1855, Daniel ben Hamdya, a member of the Beta Israel, was the first Ethiopian Jew to visit Israel, meeting with a council of rabbis in Jerusalem concerning the authenticity of the Beta Israel. By 1864, almost all leading Jewish authorities, most notably Rabbi Azriel Hildsheimer of Eisenstadt, Germany, accepted the Beta Israel as true Jews. In 1908 the chief rabbis of forty-five countries had heeded Rabbi Hildsheimer’s call and officially recognized the Beta Israel as fellow Jews. In reaffirming the Radbaz’s position centuries before, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, stated in 1972, I have come to the conclusion that Falashas are Jews who must be saved from absorption and assimilation. We are obliged to speed up their immigration to Israel and educate them in the spirit of the holy Torah, making them partners in the building of the Holy Land. In 1975, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren wrote to the Beta Israel telling them, You are our brothers, you are our blood and our flesh. You are true Jews. Later that same year the Israeli Interministerial Commission officially recognized the Beta Israel as Jews under Israel’s Law of Return, a law designed to aid in Jewish immigration to Israel. The Beta Israel were ready to come home. Indeed, the Beta Israel were strictly observant in pre-Talmudic Jewish traditions. The women went to the mikvah, or ritual bath, just as observant Jewish women do to this day, and they continue to carry out ancient festivals, such as Seged, that have been passed down through the generations of Beta Israel. The Kesim, or religious leaders, are as widely revered and respected as the great rabbis in each community, passing the Jewish customs through storytelling and maintaining the few Jewish books and Torahs some communities were fortunate enough to have written in the liturgical language of Ge’ez. The struggle to free the Beta Israel was not fought solely against the Ethiopian government. Much like some timid Jewish leaders during the Holocaust, some recent Jews sought to prevent a shanda fur de goyim (an embarrassment in front of the non-Jews) by not stirring up waves over Ethiopian Jewry. The history of the Beta Israel’s rescue is at times open to debate regarding the heroes of the Ethiopian Jewry movement. As with many struggles to free oppressed Jewry around the world, many advocated and vocalized opposition to those responsible for the lack of action on their behalf. Others, however, argued for a more quiet diplomacy, void of the public demonstrations and arrests that marked the struggle for Soviet Jewry. Though over 8,000 Beta Israel managed to flee to Israel during his tenure, it was an Israeli official in charge of the Ethiopian Jews’ absorption who may best symbolize the insensitivity that an extreme minority of people once held. Yehuda Dominitz who served as Director General of the Jewish Agency’s Department of Immigration and Absorption, declared in 1980 that, [taking] a Falasha (sic) out of his village, it’s like taking a fish out of water…I’m not in favor of bringing them [to Israel]. Dominitz also refused to allow his agency to rent buses so Ethiopian Jews in Israel could travel to Jerusalem to observe their ancient holiday of Seged (Dominitz eventually relented, but had the buses take the Beta Israel to Haifa instead of Jerusalem). Malkah Raymist, a writer for the World Zionist Organization, wrote in 1956 in The Jewish Horizon (of the Hapoel Hamizrachi of America Movement) that, the reasons [for not bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel] are simple and weighty. On one hand, they are well off where they are, while their development and mental outlook is that of children; they could fall an easy prey of exploitation, if brought here without any preparation. On the other hand, being a backward element, they would be and it would take several years before they could be educated towards a minimum of progressive thinking. In an American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) press release, the AAEJ quoted its founder, Dr. Graenum Berger, as criticizing those who sought any delay in the rescue of the Beta Israel. Berger declared, Not when Jews are dying…these revelations show once again that the policy of influencing factions of the government of Israel always have been against the immigration of the Ethiopian Jews. And, the same people who controlled their immigration then are controlling it now. These are the same people who gave instructions to the Israeli Embassy in Ethiopia (1956-1973) not to issue immigration visas to any Jew from Ethiopia. Berger himself came under criticism for his outspoken remarks concerning the Israeli efforts to rescue the Beta Israel, showing that nobody was immune from the rhetoric surrounding the issue. In December 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to bring to the Jewish State the few thousands Jews remaining in the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia. Nicknamed Operation Dove’s Wings, the plan sought to fly a few hundred each month to Israel. The first flight brough 240 new Ethiopian immigrants. In July 2012, the government decided to increase the rate of aliyah from Ethiopia to 160 per month over the proceeding 10 months. In August 2013, the final two flights of Operation Dove’s Wings arrived in Israel with 450 immigrants. In a ceremony held at Ben-Gurion Airport, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said: “We are closing a 3,000-year-old circle.” To mark the occasion, Prime Minister Netanyahu released a statement saying, “I am proud that as Prime Minister, beginning in my first term, I upheld the Zionist and Jewish imperative of bringing to Israel our brothers and sisters from Ethiopia. I see this as a moral obligation.” More than 135,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, 92,000 of whom have been brought into the country. The Israeli government approved the entry of the last group of Ethiopian Jews in November 2015, aiming to finish what was started by Operation Moses 30 years prior. This announcement comes two years after Israeli government officials claimed that no Jews remained in Ethiopia. There have been several supposedly last groups of Ethiopian Jews that have made aliyah to Israel, with the most recent group of 450 arriving in Israel in 2013. It is estimated that this proposal approved the entry into Israel of approximately 9,100 Ethiopian Jews, most of whom were at the time living in refugee camps in Adis Ababa and Gondar. Sources: Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ). Written by the staff of PRIMER – Promoting Research in the Middle East Region; Israel Hayom (August 29, 2013); Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Israel approves ‘last’ round of Ethiopian immigration, Al Arabiya (November 15, 2015)

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Friends of Ethiopian Jews

Friends of Ethiopian Jews, Inc. (FEJ) supports grassroots Ethiopian-Israeli organizations working to create full integration and successful absorption in Israel for the Ethiopian Jewish community. FEJ was founded in 1998 by members of theAmerican Association for Ethiopian Jews(AAEJ) and other veteran activists dedicated to assisting the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel. Through supporting programs and projects led by Ethiopian-Israelis themselves, FEJ strives to empower the community, to help improve opportunities for Ethiopian-Israelis and to help create a just society in Israel overall. FEJ supports organizations that are effective, well-managed grassroots groups, which are achieving measurable, successful results. Today, FEJ helps sixEthiopian-Israeli groups, and welcomes donations on behalf of these outstanding organizations: Friends by Nature Community EmpowermentFriends by Nature (FBN)Community Empowerment is a non-profit Israeli organization that was established in 2005 by a diverse group of Ethiopian-Israelis and veteran Israelis, secular and religious..Read More Olim Beyahad Or Bandelay Woodelay (in Amharic), or Rising Together (in English) integrates members of the Ethiopian Israeli community as a normative and important part of Israeli life in the areas of employment, residence, education, and social life. ..Read More Tech-Career Computer Training for Ethiopian-Israelis For over 25 years, Ethiopian-Israelis have been attempting to break out of the harsh socio-economic reality in which they live and integrate into Israeli society. According to the latest ..Read More Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ) The Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ),directed and run by Ethiopians, is a unique advocacy organization and formidable voice for, and defender of, the Ethiopian community in..Read More Tebeka Advocacy for Equality & Justice for Ethiopian-Israeli.TEBEKA, (Amharic for Advocate of Justice), is the legal aid organization serving Israels 120,000-member Ethiopian-Israeli community. It was founded in 2000 by Itzik Dessie, the first ..Read More

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Ethiopian Jews in Israel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ethiopian Jews in Israel refers to the immigrants and descendants of the immigrants of the Beta Israel communities of Ethiopia, who now reside in Israel.[2][3][4] Most of the community made aliyah from Ethiopia to Israel in two waves of mass immigration assisted by the Israeli government: Operation Moses (1984) and Operation Solomon (1991).[5][6] Today Israel is home to the largest Beta Israel community in the world with about 125,500 citizens of Ethiopian descent in 2011,[1] who are mainly assembled in the smaller urban areas of central Israel.[7] The first Ethiopian Jews who settled in Palestine in the modern times came in 1934 along with the Yemenite Jews from Italian Eritrea. Between the years 1963 and 1975 a relatively small group of Beta Israel emigrated to Israel. The Beta Israel immigrants in that period were mainly very few men who have studied and came to Israel on a tourist visa and then remained in the country illegally. Several of their supporters in Israel, who recognized their “Jewishness” decided to assist them. These supporters began organizing in associations, among others under the direction of Ovadia Hazzi, an Eritrean born Yemeni Jew and former sergeant in the Israeli army. Several of those illegal immigrants managed to get a regularization with the Israeli authorities through the assistance of these support associations. Some agreed to “convert” to Judaism, which helped them regulated their personal status and remain in Israel. People who get their regularization often brought their families to Israel as well. In 1973, Ovadia Hazzi officially raised the question of the “Jewishness” of the Beta Israel to the Israeli Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The rabbi, who cited a rabbinic ruling from the 16th century David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra and asserted that the Beta Israel are descended from the lost tribe of Dan, and eventually acknowledged their “Jewishness” in February 1973. This ruling was initially rejected by the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who eventually changed his opinion on the matter in 1974. In April 1975, the Israeli government of Yitzhak Rabin officially accepted the Beta Israel as Jews, for the purpose of the Law of Return (An Israeli act which grants all the Jews in the world the right to immigrate to Israel). Later on, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin obtained clear rulings from Chief Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that they were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel did however initially require them to undergo pro forma Jewish conversions, to remove any doubt as to their Jewish status. Ethiopian Beta Israel are gradually becoming part of the mainstream Israeli society in religious life, military service (with nearly all males doing national service), education, and politics. Similarly to other groups of immigrant Jews, who made aliyah to Israel, the Ethiopian Beta Israel have faced obstacles in their integration to Israeli society. The Ethiopian Beta Israel community’s internal challenges have been complicated by the racism of Israeli society and the official establishment.[11] One study found that some social and cultural traditions have been treated as problems that need to be overcome.[12] Individual Ethiopian Beta Israel had lived in Eretz Yisrael prior to the establishment of the state. A youth group arrived in Israel in the 1950s to undergo training in Hebrew education and returned to Ethiopia to educate young Beta Israeli community members there. Also, Ethiopian Beta Israel had been trickling into Israel prior to the 1970s. The numbers of such Ethiopian immigrants grew after the Israeli government officially recognized them in 1973 as Jews, entitled to Israeli citizenship.[13]

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Jewish Virtual Library – Timeline of Ethiopian Jewish History

4th Century CE Christianity is introduced into the Axum dynasty in Ethiopia. 7th Century With the spread of Islam, Ethiopia is isolated from most of the Christian world. The Beta Israel enjoy a period of independence before the power struggles of the middle ages. 9th Century The earliest apparent reference to the Beta Israel appears in the diary of Eldad Hadani, a merchant and traveler claiming to have been a citizen of an autonomous Jewish state in eastern Africa inhabited by the tribes of Dan, Naftali, Gad, and Asher. 13th Century The Solominic dynasty (which claims decent from Solomon and Sheba) assumes control. During the next 300 years (1320-1620), intermittent wars are fought between the Christian kings of Ethiopia and those of the Beta Israel, which finally result in the Beta Israel’s loss of independence. 16th Century Rabbi David B. Zimra, known as the Radbaz, issues a legal response in Cairo declaring that “those who come from the land Cush (Ethiopia) are without a doubt the Tribe of Dan…” He confirms that Ethiopian Jews are fully Jewish. 1622 Christians conquer the Ethiopian Jewish Kingdom following 300 years of warfare. The vanquished Jews are sold as slaves, forced to baptize, and denied the right to own land. 1769 Scottish explorer James Bruce awakens the western world to the existence of the Ethiopian Jews in his travels to discover the source of the Nile. He estimates the Jewish population at 100,000. 1855 Daniel Ben Hamdya, an Ethiopian Jew, independently travels to Jerusalem to meet with rabbis. 1864 Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer, the Rabbi of Eisenstadt, Germany, publishes a manifesto in the Jewish press calling for the spiritual rescue of Ethiopian Jewry. 1867 Professor Joseph Halevy is the first European Jew to visit the Beta Israel, subsequently becoming an advocate for the community.

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Falasha Black Jews of Ethiopia – Tripod.com

Origins of Abyssinian Jews The early days of the Beta ‘Esra’el (House of Israel) community in Abyssinia remain a mystery. There is no doubt that the roots of Judaism were influential in this part of Africa at a very early date –perhaps even as far back as the First Temple period. Since there are no factual data from those times, and given the Ethiopian Jews’ racial resemblance to native Ethiopians, various theories have been proposed concerning the origins of the community, based on superficial research of their traditions, customs and roots. Many aspects of Ethiopian culture still show traces of Judaic influence. The Abyssinian Church is considered very close to ancient Judaism, with customs such as circumcision, a form of Sabbath observance, dietary laws similar to those found in the Tora, and other practices preserved in its doctrine. We know that before the spread of Christianity in the 4th century CE, the Mosaic faith was practiced in Abyssinia, alongside the idol worship which still remains widespread. See Moses — was the lawgiver of Israel an Ethiopian? According to Ethiopia national legend, the founder of the royal dynasty, whose last monarch was Negus (Emperor) Haile Selassie –the symbolic and titular “Lion of Judah” –was the son of the Queen of Sheba (Makida, according to the legend) and King Solomon. See Solomon’s Temple. The son, Menelik, as an educated adult, returned to his father in Jerusalem, and then resettled in Ethiopia together with many members of the Israelite tribes, including priests and Levites. He also smuggled the Ark of the Covenant and the Tablets of the Law out from Jerusalem, and brought them to Aksum, capital of ancient Abyssinia. The Jews of Ethiopia do not generally accept this legend, and take it to be mere fabrication. However, this old tradition only strengthens what we know from other sources –that there was an early Jewish influence in Abyssinia . For Biblical ties, see http://robt.shepherd.tripod.com/spiritual-africa.html A 9th-century tradition, based on the story of Eldad ha-Dani (the Danite), maintains that during the rift between Rehoboam, son of Solomon, and Jeroboam, son of Nebat –leaders of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel respectively –the tribe of Dan chose not to be drawn into tribal disputes. To avoid the impending civil war they resettled in Egypt. Once there, the Danites continued southwards up the Nile to the historic Land of Cush (today in Sudan and Ethiopia) and found it to be rich in resources. Eldad ha-Dani himself was probably from this area. According to his report, members of the tribes of Naftali, Gad and Asher lived there together with the Danites, and he himself could trace his ancestry back to Dan, son of Jacob. This tradition, which may have a certain Biblical basis, is also found in other medieval sources. Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro came across two Abyssinian Jewish prisoners of war in Egypt in the late 15th century and wrote that they claimed to be descended from the tribe of Dan. Rabbi David ben-Zimra (RaDBaZ) ruled in his 16th century responsa that the Jews of Ethiopia were unquestionably Danites who had settled in Abyssinia, possibly even before the Second Temple period. The tradition appears to have been widely held by the Jews of Abyssinia and the surrounding areas until recently, though this is no longer the case today. At the time when the Ten Tribes were exiled to Assyria (during the reign of King Hosea, son of Elah of Israel, approximately one century before the First Temple was destroyed and Judah was exiled), the Prophet Isaiah prophesied the End of Days, when the dispersed people of Israel and Judah would be gathered in from their place of exile. Cush is one of the places mentioned. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord will set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, that shall remain from Assyria and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:11-12) The return of the people living “beyond the rivers of Abyssinia” to “the place of the name of the Lord of Hosts” is prophesied in detail in Isaiah 18:7 and Zephania 3:10. These sources are sufficient to demonstrate Jewish presence in Ethiopia towards the end of the First Temple period. After the destruction of the First Temple, the Jewish community in Egypt expanded. Findings discovered at the beginning of this century in Yev (Elephantine) in southern Egypt on the Nile, near Aswan (the area of Biblical Pathros) indicate there were Jewish communities near the Sudanese border dating at least to the Return to Zion in the Persian period. The Jews of Yev, like those of Abyssinia, built a temple and performed sacrifices, but did not reject the sanctity of Jerusalem and its Temple. Similarly, Onias’ Temple, in Lower Egypt, dates from the Second Temple period. Other similarities in traditions and special customs support the evidence of a link between the ancient Egyptian Jews and those of Ethiopia.

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Beta Israel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Beta Israel (Hebrew: , Beyte (beyt) Yisrael; Ge’ez: , Bta ‘Isr’l, modern Bte ‘Isr’l, EAE: “Bet srael”, “House of Israel” or “Community of Israel”[4]), also known as Ethiopian Jews (Hebrew: : Yehudey Etyopyah; Ge’ez: , ye-Ityoppya Ayhudi), are Jewish communities located in the area of Aksumite and Ethiopian Empires (Habesha or Abyssinia), currently divided between Amhara and Tigray regions.[5] Beta Israel lived in North and North-Western Ethiopia, in more than 500 small villages spread over a wide territory, among populations that were Muslim and predominantly Christian.[6] Most of them were concentrated in the area around Lake Tana and north of it, in the Tigray Region; among the Wolqayit, Shire and Tselemt and Amhara Region of Gonder regions; among the Semien Province, Dembia, Segelt, Quara, and Belesa. The Beta Israel made renewed contacts with other Jewish communities in the later 20th century. After Halakhic and constitutional discussions, Israeli officials decided on March 14, 1977 that the Israeli Law of Return applied to the Beta Israel.[7] The Israeli and American governments mounted aliyah operations[8] to transport the people to Israel.[9] These activities included Operation Brothers in Sudan between 1979 and 1990 (this includes the major operations Moses and Joshua), and in the 1990s from Addis Ababa (which includes Operation Solomon).[10][11] The related Falash Mura are the descendants of Beta Israel who converted to Christianity. Some are changing to the practices of Halakhic Judaism, and living together in communities. Beta Israel spiritual leaders, including Liqa Kahnet Raphael Hadane, have argued for the acceptance of the Falash Mura as Jews.[12] The Israeli government decided by a resolution in 2003 that descendants of Jewish mothers’ lineage have the right to migrate to Israel under the Entry Law; they may become citizens only if they formally convert to Orthodox Judaism.[13] This resolution has been controversial within Israeli society.[14][15][16][17] Most of the 119,500 Ethiopian Israelis as of 2009 were born in Israel. 38,500 or 32% of the community had at least one parent born in Ethiopia.[18] Throughout its history, the community has been referred to by numerous names. According to tradition the name “Beta Israel” originated in the 4th century CE, when the community refused to convert to Christianity during the rule of Abreha and Atsbeha (identified with Se’azana and Ezana), the monarchs of the Aksumite Empire who embraced Christianity.[19] This name stands opposite to “Beta Christian” (Christianity).[20][21] It did not originally have negative connotations, and the community has used it since as its official name. Since the 1980s, it has also become the official name used in the scientific literature to refer to the community.[22] The term Esra’elawi (Israelites)which is related to the name Beta Israelis used by the community to refer to its members.[22] The name Ayhud (Jews) is rarely used in the community, as the Christians used it as a derogatory term. The community only has begun to use it since strengthening ties with other Jewish communities in the 20th century.[22] The term ‘Ivrawi (Hebrews) was used to refer to the Chawa (free man) in the community, in contrast to Barya (slave).[23] The term Oritawi (Torah-true) was used to refer to the community members; since the 19th century it has been used in opposition to the term Falash Mura (converts). The major derogatory term, Falasha (foreigners/exiles), was given to the community by the Emperor Yeshaq in the 15th century. Agaw, referring to the Agaw people, the original inhabitants of northwest Ethiopia, is considered derogatory since it incorrectly associates the community with the pagan Agaw.[22] Haymanot (Ge’ez: ) is the colloquial term of the Jewish religion in the community.[24] Maf Kedus (Holy Scriptures) is the name for the religious literature. The language of the writings is Ge’ez. The holiest book is the Orit (from Aramaic “Oraita” “Torah”) which consists of the Five Books of Moses and the books Joshua, Judges and Ruth. The rest of the Bible has secondary importance. The Book of Lamentations is not part of the canon.

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The History of Ethiopian Jewry | United with Israel

The Ethiopian Jewish heritage is a rich and ancient one that deserves to be remembered. According to the Ethiopian historian Yohanes Zeleke, Ethiopian oral Jewish tradition maintains that Jews came to Ethiopia in stages, the earliest one being during the time of the famine in Canaan, when Abraham was forced to flee southwards. Ethiopian Jews believe that other waves include during the times of slavery in Egypt; during the reign of Manasseh of Judah, who sought to forcefully convert Jews into pagans; and another group came accompanying Melinik I, the son of King Solomon. Additional Jews are reported to arrive in Ethiopia following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem. From the 7th century BCE up until 330 AD, Judaism was the official state religion of Ethiopia. However, Ethiopia became a Christian country when the Ethiopian Emperor Ezana converted to Christianity. The Christians behaved very brutally to the Jews in Ethiopia, resulting in them revolting and overthrowing their Christian overlords. In the 9th century, Ethiopia became a Jewish country again under the leadership of Queen Yeodit. However, following three additional centuries of Jewish rule, Egypt grew wary of the growing power of Jewish Ethiopia and united with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to overthrow the Jewish government in Ethiopia. Following the regime change in Ethiopia, countless Ethiopian Jews were murdered, sold into slavery, or forcefully converted to Christianity. Judiths Field, an area of ruined buildings which according to tradition were destroyed by Queen Judith, a medieval Ethiopian Jewish queen From the 14th century onward, with the brief exception of the rule of one Jewish emperor named Tewodros II in the 1800s, the vast majority of Ethiopian Jews were forced to live as powerless and exploited landless peasants. However, in 1624, Jews did seek to regain their autonomy around the same time that Muslims in Ethiopia were also revolting against a policy of forced conversion, yet ended up instead committing a mass suicide that had an uncanny resemblance to Masada rather than be taken prisoner. At that time, all Ethiopian Jewish religious and history books were burnt as an attempt to eradicate Ethiopias Jewish heritage. In the 20th century, the plight of Ethiopian Jews was very dire. When Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam rose to power in a coup dtat, 2,500 Jews were slaughtered and 7,000 additional Jews became homeless. Mariams Marxist ideology encouraged anti-semitism within Ethiopia. In the 1980s, Ethiopia forbade the practice of Judaism and the teaching of Hebrew. Countless Ethiopian Jews were imprisoned on fabricated charges of being Zionist spies and Ethiopian Jewish rabbis, known as Kesim, were constantly harassed by the Ethiopian government. Furthermore, forced military conscription took Jewish boys as young as 12 years old away from their families, who often never heard from their children again. Yet, to make matters even worse, a famine erupted around this time period as well. Ethiopian Synagogue in Wolleka While over 8,000 Ethiopian Jews came to Israel between 1977 and 1984, most Ethiopian Jews were still in Ethiopia in 1984. Although Operation Moses which occurred between November 18, 1984 and January 5, 1985 brought 7,000 Jews to Israel, it came at a great humanitarian cost. In order to reach Israel, Ethiopian Jews were forced to march to Sudan at night, while hiding during the day from robbers and soldiers. 4,000 Ethiopian Jews would perish trying to make Aliyah, either from the poor sanitary conditions in the refugee camps in Sudan, from starvation along the way, disease, or from murder, and countless Ethiopian Jewish women were raped while trying to reach Israel. However, after that point, the remainder of Ethiopian Jews, principally the elderly, the sick and small children who were unable to flee to Sudan, were stranded in Ethiopia. Over 1,600 Ethiopian Jewish children did not know the fate of their parents. It was only when rebels overthrew the Mariam dictatorship that Israel was able to rescue an additional 14,324 Ethiopian Jews from Ethiopia, during Operation Solomon, in 1991. Today, over 36,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel. By Rachel Avraham

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