Archive for the ‘Ethiopian Jews’ Category

Israel’s Ethiopian Jews keep ancient language alive in prayer – Al-Monitor

New Jewish immigrants are seen during a welcoming ceremony after arriving on a flight from Ethiopia at Ben-Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 29, 2012.(photo byUriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Author:Mordechai Goldman Posted June 29, 2017

On June 7, another group of about 70 Falash Mura (peopleof Jewish origin) immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia. Their arrival revived discussions ofthe preservation of Ethiopian Jewry’s ancient traditions, particularlytheir language,Ge’ez.

Ge’ez is an ancient Semitic language with its own unique alphabet. Itserved as the national language of the Ethiopian Empire until about one thousand years ago. It is survived by its close relatives,the contemporary Semitic languages of Ethiopia:Tigre, Tigrinyaand Amharic. With the penetration and growth of Amharic, Ge’ez was increasingly marginalized. Now, it is only usedas the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Church, the Eritrean Churchand the Ethiopian Jewish community.

Samai Elias, therabbi or “kes”of the Ethiopian community of Rishon LeTzion and chairman of the Spiritual Council of Kessim (Rabbis), told Al-Monitor,”Ge’ez is not a spoken language at all today. It is the language of our prayers and our Torah scrolls. Kessimlearn the language, but as a spoken tongue, it is in danger of immediate extinction. What gives it a longer shelf life is that our prayers are still recited in it. These prayers preserve the language, if only on a low flame.”

“You could say that the relative survival of theGe’ez language could be credited mainly to the Jews of Ethiopia,” addedAbeje Medhani, the documentation coordinator at the Israeli State Center for Ethiopian Jewish Heritage. He is responsible for various projects working onthe preservation, documentation and recognition of the culture and heritage of Ethiopian Jewry. “Although it is a sacred language for the church as well, only we have continued to use it in our prayers for the past thousand years. Knowing Ge’ez is, in effect, the threshold that anyone who wants to become a kes must pass. A kes must know the prayers and the Torah in the Ge’ez language. Modern researchers make frequent use of Jewish materials to study the Ge’ez language. Jewish monks in the 15th century composed the prayers and religious law books of the Jewish community in Ge’ez.”

While Ge’ez is being preserved in some way, the Qwara language, which originated in the Qwara province of Ethiopia, has almost completely disappeared, though it was once considered the “Yiddish” (a colloquial and colorful language mixof Hebrew and German) of the Ethiopian Jewish community. “Until a few years ago, elders of the community who arrived from the Qwara region still knew the language, which was once in general use among the Jews of Ethiopia. Missionaries and researchers who visited the region in the 18th and 19th centuries testifiedthat it was used by most Ethiopian Jews,” saidMedhani. “Today, however, you could say that the language is completely extinct.”

Elias added, “The Qwara language is unique to the Jews of Ethiopia. As far as I know, there is no one in the world today who speaks Qwara or even knows Qwara. I am envious of Yiddish, which has enjoyed something of a renaissance and revival recently. I think that in contrast, the fate of Qwara is sealed.”

Medhani, who speaks Ge’ez, recently published a Ge’ez prayer book, though according to Ethiopian tradition, prayers are recited by heart and not read. “I reached the conclusion that preserving the language will occur through the liturgy,” he said, “if Ge’ez isn’tbrought back to use.” Medhani is now working on an Amharic-Ge’ez dictionary. His dream is to see the first nonreligious text published in Ge’ez.

When asked about why it is so important to preserve the heritage of the Ethiopian exilesonce the community immigratesto Israel, Elias stressed,”It is an ancient Jewish heritage that cannot be dismissed.”

“We are talking about prayers that were recited by Jews for hundreds of years. Their forms and melodies are unique. They were not copied from other communities or religions. We have a variety of original material. That obligates us to preserve the language. Similarly, the Kaddish prayer is recited in Aramaic, and that has not been changed over the years. We are preserving a heritage,” he added.

This desire to preserve Ethiopian culture, especiallythe Ge’ez language, has intensified in recent years, oncethe Ethiopian immigrant community became establishedand startedintegrating into Israeli society. “With the first waves of immigration, there was a very strong tendency to sever ties with our roots and to distance ourselves from our language and traditions. There were concerns that people would stop praying in that language. Over the last decade, however, there has been something of a return to itand a larger quest for Ethiopian identity,” saidMedhani.

Elias is convinced that the reasonmany young Ethiopians are returning to their traditional practices, such as using Ethiopian names and embracing Ge’ez cultural activities,has to do with the discriminationthe communityfaces. “What changed thingswas the attitude of the government, which refused to recognize the spiritual leadership of the Ethiopian Jewish community. This had a boomerang effect,” he explained. “Israel’s Chief Rabbinate revoked the authority of the kessim. They are not allowed to perform marriage ceremonies for young members of the community or to grant kosher certification, based on the community’s customs and norms. Young people today want to show that the community has not abandoned the kessim. That is the source of the revival of tradition.”

Elias added, “We’ve been in Israel for 30 years now. During the first 15 years, not a single kes was ordained in Israel. In the last 15 years, 30 new kessim, some born in Israel, were ordained. In 2010, the government decided to recognize the 15 kessimwho were ordained in Israeland granted them the authority to serve their communities. We are now facing a much bigger struggle, not only to obtain government salaries for them, but also to recognize kessim as Jewish spiritual leaders with authority over matters of marriage and kashrut. Much to our surprise, there was a certain readiness in the government to consider the issue seriously and to give it a voice. They see that the younger generation has no plans to give up.”

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Israel’s Ethiopian Jews keep ancient language alive in prayer – Al-Monitor

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A Legendary Photographer Visits an Isolated Christian Community in Ethiopia – Smithsonian

We were very tired, Sebastio Salgado recalls. He was on a 500-mile, 55-day hike though some of the most inaccessible passages in the Ethiopian highlands, a region known as the roof of Africa, where the elevations range from a few thousand feet to almost 15,000. We had to climb, to climb, to climb, he says in his Portuguese-accented English. Finally he and his porters and guides reached a village. It was about 2 p.m., very hot. Very few people.

But slowly, slowly people start to come out, says Salgado, one of the worlds premier photographers. Among the villagers were two ladies with a kind of basin, wood basin, and with water. They came beside my feet, they took off my boots, my socks, and they washed my feet. Oh boy, I felt the humility of the beginning of the Christians.

This sacred encounter, reminiscent of the biblical scene in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, was a highlight of the extraordinary journey that led Salgado to create the pictures on these pages. They commemorate a peoples profound connection to both the heavens and the earth.

It was 2008, and Salgado, a native of Brazil, was 64 years old. His monumental projects Workers (1993) and Migrations (2000) had established his pre-eminence as a chronicler of conflict, dislocation and environmental degradation. Then, as an antidote to despair, he embarked on an eight-year quest involving some 30 trips all over the globe to seek out places and peoples untouched by modernity, including the highlanders of Ethiopia.

Why would a man risk his 64-year-old knees on terrain so difficult that it killed five of his expeditions rented donkeys? In every step we discovered new things, Salgado explains. You feel the power there.

The highlands hold traces of ancient Jewish communities, though most of Ethiopias Jews emigrated to Israel in the 1980s and 90s to escape famine, persecution and civil war. Some of the worlds oldest Christian communities persist there, populated by the spiritual descendants of an Ethiopian court official who, according to the New Testament, was converted to the faith a few years after the death of Christ. Today, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians make up 44 percent of the countrys population; Sunni Muslims, who are concentrated in the east, make up 34 percent.

Sectarian and civil conflict still wrack other parts of Ethiopia, but not this one. Setting out from Lalibela, with its 11 renowned monolithic medieval churches, Salgado headed southeast and then turned northwest, to Simien Mountains National Park. Some people he had consulted before his trip advised him to hire armed guards, so he did. Two guys with Kalashnikovs, he says. After one week we sent them back, because we felt that the people would take this as an offense. When you come to a place, everyone brings a gift to you, they are so kind.

He, too, brought giftsknives and tools to trade for lamb meat to supplement the food he packed in for himself and his retinue of 17 guides, porters and donkey-tenders. So few people tread the path they took that we had no guide capable to come with us from the beginning to the end, he says. When one guides knowledge of the way ahead ran out, Salgado hired someone who could pick up the trail. With local expertise, plus a GPS-equipped satellite telephone, they stayed on track. With solar panels, he kept his phone and camera batteries charged. But above all else, he says, he valued his hiking shoes.

The highland villages are so far removed from the rest of the world, Salgado says, that in most of them he was the first outsider to visit in memory. And theyre so cut off from one another that they speak different dialects. But they are linked by the same God, he says. These communities are Christians from the beginning of time. In these communities, he saw churches fashioned from caves, Bibles written on animal skins and traditions that reflect Christianitys Judaic roots, such as forgoing milk and meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. He was especially taken with the highlanders terraced farms: I looked at all this incredible, sophisticated agriculture, I said, We had these 10,000 years ago.

For him, the villages bespeak a continuity over millennia, and the landscapewith its blazing shafts of sunlight and a river-carved canyon deeper, at points, than the Grand Canyoninspires a connection to eons past.

That river, the Tekez, ultimately nourished the Blue Nile Delta, hundreds of miles away. All that fertile land energy came from there, eroded from there, Salgado says, and boy, me walking there, seeing this, doing my task inside the beginning of our history, was something amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing.

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A Legendary Photographer Visits an Isolated Christian Community in Ethiopia – Smithsonian

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Opinion Natan Sharansky: Aliyah List is a partnership for the future – Jewish News

Were experiencing a renaissance in aliyah, an action that for years was associated with images of Jews fleeing persecution and adversity in their countries of origin.

The numbers were made up of Holocaust survivors, Jews from Arab countries, Ethiopian Jews and Jews from the former Soviet Union. They all came to Israel seeking refuge from the hardships they left behind.

In recent years, however, we have witnessed a dramatic shift: aliyah from Western, democratic countries now accounts for greater numbers than immigration from the rest of the world.

A high-tech superpower with a booming economy and low unemployment, Israel has come to be viewed as an attractive destination for Western Jews seeking a brighter future for their families.

And as increasing numbers of young people experience life in Israel through Jewish Agency programmes like Masa Israel Journey and Onward Israel, they come to understand that Israel is both an integral part of their Jewish identity and a place in which they can celebrate that identity comfortably and fully. If in the past the bulk of Jewish immigration to Israel was aliyah of rescue, today it is very much aliyah of choice. It is the product of an affirmative decision to lead a fully Jewish life in the Jewish state.

British Jewry has long been a leading force within British society. From the earliest days of Jewish settlement in Britain until the present day, British Jews have risen to the highest echelons of British culture, journalism, business, politics, and arts. Indeed, this year we will celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, one of British Jewrys proudest achievements.

I personally remember British Jews extraordinary contributions to our struggle for freedom in the Soviet Union, including the invaluable role played by the London-based Womens Campaign for Soviet Jewry, known as the 35s.

Similarly, there was the work of Royal Navy veteran Michael Sherbourne, who coined the term refusenik and served as our primary channel of communication with the outside world.

And yet, despite the British Jewish communitys full integration into British society and its significant involvement in both national and international affairs, thousands of British Jews have chosen to realise their Zionist dreams by making aliyah, tying their personal fates to that of the Jewish state.

In recent years, in fact, we have seen the number of British immigrants to Israel grow by more than 30 percent.

From diplomats to artists, journalists to lawyers, immigrants from Britain have contributed richly to Israeli society and they continue to do so today, serving as a bridge between the UK and Israel and bringing the dynamic energy of British Jewry with them.

Perhaps one of the most notable contributions of British immigrants in recent years has been the introduction of that most cherished British Jewish institution, Limmud, to Israeli audiences.

Earlier this month. I was pleased to join president Reuven Rivlin and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat in celebrating Limmuds unique impact on Israel and world Jewry with the 2017 Jerusalem Unity Prize.

As we honour the contributions of British immigrants to the Jewish state, I encourage you to nominate outstanding British olim for inclusion in the Aliyah List, a partnership between the Jewish Agency and Jewish News.

And as we look forward to celebrating Israels 70th birthday, I invite you to learn about the Jewish Agencys programmes and about all that life in Israel has to offer and I look forward to seeing you next year in Jerusalem.

Article by Natan Sharansky, Chairman, The Jewish Agency

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Opinion Natan Sharansky: Aliyah List is a partnership for the future – Jewish News

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Obituary: Donald M. Robinson / Internationally known photographer, philanthropist enriched Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Obituary: Donald M. Robinson / Internationally known photographer, philanthropist enriched Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
While chairman of the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee, he traveled to Ethiopia to visit a Jewish community. It was there that he captured one of his favorite photographs: a procession of Ethiopian Jews carrying Torahs in traditional robes

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President Rivlin honors outstanding Israeli reserve soldiers in special ceremony – i24NEWS (press release) (registration)

A pilot from one of the units told i24NEWS of the great honor

On May 24, 1991, 14,000 Ethiopian Jews gathered in Addis Ababa and boarded 35 flights to Israel as part of Operation Soloman, the Israeli government’s airlift of Jews.

At one point, 28 aircraft were in the air at the same time, crammed with passengers two or three to a seat – one plane set the world record for single-flight passenger load when it was discovered that children hiding in their parents clothes took the manifest number to 1,087.

The whole operation was planned under strict military censorship, and Lt. Col. Ilan of the Israeli Air Force’s “Yellow Bird” squadron was one of those who took part in the airlift.

Speaking to i24NEWS ahead of the squadron’s special award from President Rivlin, he explained how he feels knowing that he now has neighbors who were brought to Israel on those flights.

“It was a very significant operation. For two days, all the squadron and all the aircraft flew to Ethiopia and it brought thousands of Jews to Israel. I flew on the last aircraft that took off from Israel and almost the last plane that left Ethiopia – it was a very special flight.”

The Yellow Bird squadron was one of the 16 outstanding reserve units honored by Rivlin on Tuesday, also for its participation in the Entebbe Operation, as well as airlifting supplies and portable field hospitals to India and Turkey after earthquakes, and to Cyprus following wildfires.

Soldiers in the unit do reserve duty for one day a week, and Ilan spoke of how that level of commitment added to the privilege of having their service recognized.

“I think its an honor. I am happy for the squadron because its something very special. You dont get to go to the Presidents house every day. For all of us, for twenty or more years, coming each week for one day or so, its an honor.”

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President Rivlin honors outstanding Israeli reserve soldiers in special ceremony – i24NEWS (press release) (registration)

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Israeli-Ethiopian grounded groove – The Jerusalem Post

Ground Heights has that rare fusion of sound and energy that leaves a wake of joy on the dance floor wherever they go. The seven-member band consists of lead singer Hewan Meshesha, guitarist Yotam Cohen, saxophonist Lior Grayevsky, percussionist Shalev Neeman, bassist Roee Cohen, keyboardist Omer Kenan and drummer Micha Korkus. Hewan, an Ethiopian Israeli, incorporates her heritage into the sound, with robustly soulful results. Ground Heights will play with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra on June 29 at Heichel Hatarbut in Tel Aviv. They are also preparing to release their debut album in August, with more shows in the works. Hewan sat down with The Jerusalem Post to discuss singing in the army, having your parents help write lyrics, and the balance of keeping feet on the ground with eyes to the heights.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a singer?

Growing up, music was always a part of my life. Knowing that I wanted to do something about it and actually become a musician didnt come until later when I was serving in the army. I met this amazing person, who became one of my dearest friends. I was 19 or 20 and we were in the middle of a night shift. She encouraged me to sing, after I said no so many times.

Then when I finally did it, she told me that this is what I needed to do. It made me realize that singing was what I wanted to do. When I was growing up, I never knew that I wanted to become a singer.

Were you born in Israel?

Yes I was raised in Kiryat Yam near Haifa. Its a small town, really cozy, simple people.

How did you go from singing for your friend to forming Ground Heights? After I finished the army, I ended up performing at an event. Someone came up to me and encouraged me to go and study music because he said I really had something. I hesitated, but decided to do it. I looked into [The] Rimon [School of Music] and decided that it was the time to check it out and see if this is really what I want to do. I went to an audition for Rimon, which went terribly… but they invited me to do the audition again. Everything evolved since then.

Did you meet your bandmates at Rimon?

I met Shalev [Neeman] there and we were in an Afro-Pop ensemble.

Later, we became Ground Heights.

Now we are seven musicians all together. We have percussion, drums, bass, electric guitar, bass, saxophone, keyboard and myself.

I cant say that we always knew we wanted it to be seven and that these are the exact instruments we wanted to have, but it just evolved this way.

How did you choose the name Ground Heights?

The story of it is amazing. Shalev suggested a lot of names and Ground Heights was one of them.

It was such a natural fit because it refers to how we as a band are so many different people from different ethnic and musical backgrounds.

We came together to do this one important and holy thing.

It also refers to our inspiration, which is the ground where we came from and where we began.

The heights are where do we want to go; where do we see ourselves? Our goal is to be fulfilled. I think you can hear it in the music. We have so many styles combined together to create this one, pure thing. We hope that the audience feels that way too.

Yeah, I was feeling that way when trying to describe your sound because it is somewhat indescribable.

Exactly, we have reggae, soul, rock, progressive, dub, Ethiopian and African roots, all combined together in hopefully a good way.

Did you always know that you wanted to incorporate Ethiopian sounds into your music?

Actually I did. The moment that I realized that this is what I wanted to do, I knew that even if I tried to avoid it, I would never succeed.

This is who I am. I carry a long tradition and I couldnt do it without this heritage and my ancestors who did so much so that I would finally be here. I have the history of the Ethiopian Jews in me and I couldnt avoid it. I didnt want to; its a part of me. I always knew that it would be in my music.

I love your Ethiopian songs because they allow me as a listener to connect in a way that transcends words.

Thats amazing. To me, when someone who was in the audience says that they didnt understand the words, but they could feel the connection, this is the best compliment that we could ever ask for because the bottom line is that what flows from us to the audience is the language of music. Thats a language that everyone understands.

The most important thing to us as a band is our cohesiveness.

The first time that I brought an Ethiopian song to the band, it was by Mahmoud Ahmed, one of Ethiopias greatest artists. The band listened and enjoyed it. I wasnt sure, but then I saw how they connected and it felt so good. Music speaks to people. Music is music. I knew that if my band could connect to it, then everyone would.

How do your parents feel about you being a musician?

They are happy, I have to say.

They are something; they never pushed me. Im really lucky. They accept what I do and are proud of me. They actually helped us write lyrics to one of our songs. The title in English is The Circle of Life. We had the music already, Shalev wrote a chorus, but we got stuck. First it was in Hebrew and then English. Something wasnt working. So our producer suggested that we try it in Amharic. We wanted the song to be about life. I came with it to my uncle, dad and mom, and they wrote wonderful lyrics.

What kind of reaction have you gotten from the Ethiopian community?

I was really nervous at first about that because I didnt know how Ethiopian people would react, but they love it. They groove to it and really enjoy it. Its a great feeling for me. If they didnt like it, they wouldnt dance to it, but they do.

We passed that test! Where are you guys in the process of releasing your debut album? We finished the recording and its supposed to be out this summer.

Its in the mastering process now. Then we have all the PR stuff to do. Sometime in the summer, we want to have a big performance to celebrate the birth of this wonderful album, which contains each and every one of the seven people in it who made it what it is. For more information on Ground Heights, including upcoming shows and the debut album release, please visit: www.facebook.com/groundheights.

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June 25 2017: Those who wait – The Jerusalem Post mobile website

Those who wait

Tamara Zieves excellent As dribs of Ethiopian olim trickle in, many wonder when their turn will come (June 22) ably discusses the failure of Israel to implement government decisions mandating the rapid aliya of the Beta Israel remaining in Gondar and Addis Ababa. However, it lets the American Jewish community off too easily.

The principal cause of the suffering certainly is the heartless delay in aliya. However, the degree of suffering could be significantly ameliorated if the Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee fulfilled their institutional roles to help Diaspora Jews in distress.

Neither of these organizations, nor Jewish federations, has thus far provided any assistance to the Beta Israel communities in Gondar and Addis. They have turned a blind eye to the suffering even though they were asked to provide assistance some months ago in a letter by the heads of the relevant Knesset committees and other MKs who had conducted on-site inspection tours.

Thus far, the only organization to respond to the MKs letter is the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ), a small group providing medical care to children under the age of five in Gondar, and which will shortly provide supplemental nutrition to malnourished children under the age of three. Funding limitations prevent it from caring for all of the children.

In the past, the Joint Distribution Committee provided medical care to all of the Ethiopians awaiting aliya in Gondar and Addis. The Jewish Agency, when it ran the compounds, provided food for the children under age five.

Currently, these organizations provide no assistance. One can only hope that they will at last hear the cries of the children, and if not, that the Jewish federations will fund the SSEJ or any other organization willing to help until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally allows these people to reunite with their families in Israel.

JOSEPH FEIT Lawrence, New York The writer, an attorney, was a counsel to the SSEJ and a past-president of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry. Suing SFSU

Shouting down speakers is one example of the threatening ugliness that regularly trumps civility and rationality in a variation of might makes right at SFSU (NGO, group of students file suit against San Francisco State University for antisemitism, June 21). The consistent normalization of this deplorable behavior at SFSU violates everything a university is supposed to stand for.

But then again, consider this statement, captured on video, of what university president Leslie Wong believes SFSU stands for: GUPS [General Union of Palestine Students] is the very purpose of this great university.

Perhaps those filing the lawsuit against SFSU disagree.

JULIA LUTCH Davis, California

San Francisco State University is part of the California university system, and everyone knows that the system is rife with antisemitic diatribes. The best way to fight such blatant hatred is through the pocketbook. This works well everywhere, even at the UN.

I would further suggest that a lawyer as articulate and prominent as Alan Dershowitz be the one to make the case for the Jewish students and the Land of Israel. It would be a landmark in the way academia is forced to deal with freedom of speech for Jewish students.

No more discrimination against Jews and Israel.

TOBY WILLIG Jerusalem

Drawing conclusions

Gil Troy draws certain conclusions from two seemingly unrelated news topics: intermarriage and imposed academic restrictions (Bring Judaism and freedom into the eternal fourth dimension, Comment & Features, June 21).

With regard to intermarriage, he points out the futility of attempting to disrupt a romantic liaison between interfaith lovers.

This battle, Prof. Troy explains, should be fought preemptively, decades earlier, during the childrens nurturing.

The second issue relates to Prof. Asa Kashers proposed academic code of ethics, discouraging professors from politicizing the classroom. Though this proposal is laudatory, the chance of professors complying with it is as likely as growing hair on ones palms. Prof. Kasher appears to be a babe in the woods to think that any code can restrict a professors free speech.

If it is an objective educational environment that he is striving to attain, a more logical approach would be to choose educators equally from both sides of the political spectrum (in place of the present preponderance of left-oriented professors). Then let our youth be exposed to the two sides of a given subject. ROBERT DUBLIN Jerusalem

Familiar smell

Lindsay Gabow asks: When does criticism of Israel become antisemitic? (Comment & Features, June 20).

There is no need for intensive debate. One usually can smell it.

A practical example is the recent annual Al Quds Day demonstration in London, where no attempt was made to arrest protest leaders chanting that the Grenfell Tower fire had been the work of the Zionists, a familiar blood libel.

That such a demonstration was even permitted to take place at the instigation of the political wing of Hezbollah defies belief.

The UK government has promised to combat antisemitism, but instead it permits its police to stand idly by in the pretense (fed by the EU) that somehow there is a difference between the military and political wings of Hezbollah and its financial sponsor, Iran.

By permitting an antisemitic hate-fest in the streets of London, does Prime Minister Teresa Mays recent loss of a majority in the House of Commons have to be the complete collapse of any moral authority to govern?

PETER SCHWEITZER Tel Aviv

Cant be trusted

It is apparent that former prime minister Ehud Olmert again has made a laughing stock of our justice system, this time by allowing crucial classified documents out of his prison cell for the purpose of profiting from a proposed memoir.

Your June 19 editorial Policing books is too soft on him. He is a jailed felon and should be treated as such. In my opinion, he is a dangerous man armed with highly classified information to the detriment of the Jewish people.

How can an individual with Olmerts corrupt background be trusted with such material? There should be no sympathy for this charlatan who promoted bribery, greed and graft big time.

JACK DAVIS Jerusalem

What a disgrace!

Whoever was responsible for organizing this years Jerusalem International Book Fair deserves to be sacked.

First of all, why did this event have to be located at the First Station rather than the far more accessible Jerusalem International Convention Center, its location in past years?

Second, why on Earth were two different events the book fair and Hebrew Book Week made to overlap in the same location? As a result, after entering the First Station, one had to walk a considerable distance, past the Hebrew Book Week stands, in order to find the glorified hangar in which overseas exhibitors displayed their books.

Third, why was no provision made for a kiosk selling hot or cold drinks somewhere inside? Anyone feeling thirsty had to schlep nearly all the way back to the entrance.

Further evidence of poor planning (or slight regard for the International Book Fairs importance) could be found in the lack of advance publicity. Only advertisements in The Jerusalem Post by two publishers, Gefen and Koren, brought this event to my and the publics attention.

What a disgrace!

GABRIEL A. SIVAN Jerusalem

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Higher health risks for Israeli Ethiopian immigrants – The Jerusalem Post

A memorial ceremony for Jewish immigrants who died on the way to Israel from Ethiopia, June 5, 2016. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Immigrants of Ethiopian origin have a 2.4-fold risk of developing type-2 diabetes and a 1.5 higher risk of contracting schizophrenia than other Israelis, according to a recent discussion in the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee.

Dr. Yonatan Reuven, who conducts research on Ethiopian Jewish health, said that due to lifestyle and nutrition changes, the diabetes risk is significantly higher even than Jews of Ethiopian origin who were born in Israel. The condition is often accompanied by hypertension, obesity and tooth decay.

The schizophrenia risk of the immigrants is twice as high as those of Israeli-born Ethiopian Jews. Although no explanation for this was given, 28% of the immigrants suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the men were significantly more likely to commit suicide.

A month ago, changes in regulations instituted by the Health Ministry went into effect, allowing some Ethiopian immigrants, homosexuals and elderly people to donate blood. The change resulted from new Israeli and foreign epidemiological data and the improvement in medical technologies and risk assessment.

For many years, Jews of Ethiopian heritage who were born in Israel have been able to donate blood without limitation.

However, those who were born in Ethiopia or if they spent over a year, since 1977, in a country where HIV was endemic, had been banned. It was also forbidden for people of any origin over the age of 65 to give a first blood donation.

Thanks to the new changes, restrictions on Ethiopian immigrants who were born there were dropped, except those who spent more than a year in an HIV-endemic country and less than a year has passed since they arrived in Israel.

The questionnaire filled out by all would-be donors about possible behaviors that could increase the risk of HIV infection such as homosexuality or intravenous drug use has been updated and is identical to those adopted by the US Food and Drug Administration and health authorities in Europe. The tests used here for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus are significantly more sensitive than the old ones, thus the window of infection is being narrowed to a few days between infection by a carrier and testing for these viruses. YALURONIC ACID IN CREAM, NOT INJECTION

A Bar-Ilan University research team has developed a unique technology that produces small molecules of anti-aging hyaluronic acid polymers that can be applied as a cream instead of injections. The team, headed by Prof. Rachel Lubart and Prof. Aharon Gedanken from the chemistry and physics departments and BIUs Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, have been involved in the past few years in the development of a technology for micronization and characterization of hyaluronic acid.

The skin, which plays an important role in protecting the bodys organs, is impenetrable.

Finding means to penetrate the skin barrier has challenged the medical field for years. Huge efforts have been made in developing ways to introduce hyaluronic acid into the skin, as it cannot penetrate it naturally.

Now, based on this development, para-medical cosmetics pioneer Hava Zingboim has produced the first formula that allows the hyaluronic acid to penetrate into the deeper skin layers by means of cream application and without injection.

A key property of hyaluronic acid, which is naturally present in the body, is its ability to adsorb large quantities of water. Hyaluronic acid is also an effective antioxidant, which means it can trap the free radicals formed in the skin during inflammatory processes or as a result of exposure to UV rays. These properties make it an important anti-aging agent.

The look of young skin can be measured by the amount of hyaluronic acid between the cells. As people age, the body gradually loses its ability to produce hyaluronic acid.

The decreasing availability of hyaluronic acid directly results in sagging skin, wrinkles and fine lines.

CAN OMEGA-3 HELP PREVENT ALZHEIMERS DISEASE?

Neuroimaging shows increased blood flow in regions of the brain associated with memory and learning for people with higher omega-3 levels.

According to a new study headed by Dr. Daniel Amen of Costa Mesa, California, published in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease, blood flow in specific areas of the brain rises in patients with high omega-3 levels. The incidence of Alzheimers disease (AD) is expected to triple in the coming decades, and no cure has been found.

Recently, interest in dietary approaches for prevention of cognitive decline has increased. In particular, the omega-3 fatty acids have shown anti-amyloid, anti-tau and anti-inflammatory actions in the brains of animals.

This study is a major advance in demonstrating the value of nutritional intervention for brain health by using the latest brain imaging, commented biology Prof. George Perry of the University of Texas at San Antonio and editor-in-chief of the journal.

When single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is used to measure blood perfusion in the brain, images acquired from subjects performing various cognitive tasks show higher blood flow in specific brain regions. When these images were compared to the Omega-3 Index a measure of the blood concentration of two omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) investigators found a statistically significant correlation between higher blood flow and higher Omega-3 Index.

Co-author Dr. William Harris of the University of South Dakota School of Medicine said, Although we have considerable evidence that omega-3 levels are associated with better cardiovascular health, the role of the fish oil fatty acids in mental health and brain physiology is just beginning to be explored. This study opens the door to the possibility that relatively simple dietary changes could favorably impact cognitive function.

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Higher health risks for Israeli Ethiopian immigrants – The Jerusalem Post

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Lessons from Begin: Is rescue no longer a Jewish imperative? – Canadian Jewish News (blog)

On June 10, 1977, an Israeli freighter, the Yuvali, captained by Meir Tadmor, responded to an SOS call from a leaking fishing boat that was adrift in the South China Sea. The boat held 66 Vietnamese, including 16 children under the age of 10. They were almost out of food. Water was being rationed at the rate of three teaspoons per child per day, and none for adults.

Ships from East Germany, Panama, Japan and even Norway had previously ignored its SOS calls. But Tadmor took them on board. He understood that helping ships in distress is the first law of maritime menschlichkeit, a point lost on gentile boats. Tadmor tried to get medical help for them in Hong Kong, then a British colony, but was not allowed to dock because he was not scheduled to call there. He next tried Yokohama, Japan, to no avail. In Taiwan, police boats surrounded the Yuvali lest someone surreptitiously try to get to shore.

If there is a rescue plan, we will also assume the burden, because rescue supersedes everything else

The previous month, on May 17, Menachem Begins Likud party had won the Israeli national election, taking 44 out of 120 seats (in Israel, it was considered a landslide). On June 20, he rose in the Knesset to make the speech asking for a vote of confidence for his new government. He quoted from the prophet Isaiah and spoke of the meaning of the Holocaust, in which his parents and brother were murdered. That was followed by speeches from other members of the Knesset. Toward midnight, the speaker of the Knesset, Yitzhak Shamir, formally gave Begin the floor once again.

At that point, Begin should have delivered his response to his nascent governments critics. But he did not. Instead, he offered a different message: On the basis of my assumption that tonight the Knesset will express confidence in the government and my confidence in the agreement of members of the Knesset across, or almost across, party lines, I announce that tomorrow, my first act as prime minister will be to give instructions to grant asylum in our country to refugees from Vietnam.

He continued: We all remember the ships with Jewish refugees in the 30s that wandered the surface of the seven seas, asking to enter a specific country, or any number of countries, only to encounter rejection. Today, there exists the state of the Jews. We have not forgotten. We will behave with humanity. We will bring these unfortunate people, refugees saved by our ship from drowning in the depths of the sea, to our country. We will provide them shelter and refuge.

And that is precisely what he did. The Vietnamese were thereupon flown to Israel and greeted on arrival by immigration minister David Levy. Israel thus gained the distinction of being the first country in the world to take in Vietnamese refugees. These were but the first group of Vietnamese to make aliyah. (Canada, by way of contrast, would not admit Vietnamese boat people until July 1979.)

By pure, bittersweet coincidence, June 21, 1977, was the 38th anniversary of the return to Europe of the MS St. Louis, with its 900 Jews who had escaped Nazism, only to be refused entry into Cuba, the U.S. and Canada. They were divided among four European countries, three of which were overrun by Hitler two years later.

At their first meeting, then-U.S. president Jimmy Carter publicly lauded Begin for taking in the refugees. Begin replied by situating the act in a continuum of Jewish history and universalism: We never have forgotten the boat with 900 Jews having left Germany in the last weeks before the Second World War travelling from harbour to harbour, from country to country, crying out for refuge. They were refused. Therefore, it was natural to give those people a haven in the Land of Israel.

For Begin, rescue was a Jewish imperative. In 1955, when the government debated excluding elderly and ill Moroccan Jews from aliyah because of financial hardships facing the young country, he delivered a stinging rebuke: If there is a rescue plan, we will also assume the burden, because rescue supersedes everything else.

He and Yitzhak Chofi, the farsighted head of Mossad, began the rescue of Ethiopian Jews, fulfilling the words of Isaiah (49:6): And I will give you as a light unto the nations to extend my salvation as far as to the ends of the earth (and even to the South China Sea).

Today, unfortunately, the story is quite different. Along its border with Egypt, Israel has built a fence that keeps out genuine Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean asylum seekers. When U.S. President Donald Trump signed the executive order to build a wall on the Mexican border, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israels southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.

We as Jews need to absorb the lesson of the Jerusalem Mishnah, Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter 4, Law 5, which recites how in capital cases, judges impressed upon the witnesses the importance of telling the truth and disregarding hearsay. They told them that killing someone also deprives his unborn descendants of life: Therefore was Adam created singly in the world (i.e., not en masse like the animals), in order to teach that he who destroys a single life is considered as if he had destroyed an entire world, and he who saves a single life is considered as if he had saved an entire world.

Murray Teitel is a Toronto barrister and freelance journalist.

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Lessons from Begin: Is rescue no longer a Jewish imperative? – Canadian Jewish News (blog)

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Israel’s Ethiopian Jews keep ancient language alive in prayer – Al-Monitor

New Jewish immigrants are seen during a welcoming ceremony after arriving on a flight from Ethiopia at Ben-Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 29, 2012.(photo byUriel Sinai/Getty Images) Author:Mordechai Goldman Posted June 29, 2017 On June 7, another group of about 70 Falash Mura (peopleof Jewish origin) immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia. Their arrival revived discussions ofthe preservation of Ethiopian Jewry’s ancient traditions, particularlytheir language,Ge’ez. Ge’ez is an ancient Semitic language with its own unique alphabet. Itserved as the national language of the Ethiopian Empire until about one thousand years ago. It is survived by its close relatives,the contemporary Semitic languages of Ethiopia:Tigre, Tigrinyaand Amharic. With the penetration and growth of Amharic, Ge’ez was increasingly marginalized. Now, it is only usedas the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Church, the Eritrean Churchand the Ethiopian Jewish community. Samai Elias, therabbi or “kes”of the Ethiopian community of Rishon LeTzion and chairman of the Spiritual Council of Kessim (Rabbis), told Al-Monitor,”Ge’ez is not a spoken language at all today. It is the language of our prayers and our Torah scrolls. Kessimlearn the language, but as a spoken tongue, it is in danger of immediate extinction. What gives it a longer shelf life is that our prayers are still recited in it. These prayers preserve the language, if only on a low flame.” “You could say that the relative survival of theGe’ez language could be credited mainly to the Jews of Ethiopia,” addedAbeje Medhani, the documentation coordinator at the Israeli State Center for Ethiopian Jewish Heritage. He is responsible for various projects working onthe preservation, documentation and recognition of the culture and heritage of Ethiopian Jewry. “Although it is a sacred language for the church as well, only we have continued to use it in our prayers for the past thousand years. Knowing Ge’ez is, in effect, the threshold that anyone who wants to become a kes must pass. A kes must know the prayers and the Torah in the Ge’ez language. Modern researchers make frequent use of Jewish materials to study the Ge’ez language. Jewish monks in the 15th century composed the prayers and religious law books of the Jewish community in Ge’ez.” While Ge’ez is being preserved in some way, the Qwara language, which originated in the Qwara province of Ethiopia, has almost completely disappeared, though it was once considered the “Yiddish” (a colloquial and colorful language mixof Hebrew and German) of the Ethiopian Jewish community. “Until a few years ago, elders of the community who arrived from the Qwara region still knew the language, which was once in general use among the Jews of Ethiopia. Missionaries and researchers who visited the region in the 18th and 19th centuries testifiedthat it was used by most Ethiopian Jews,” saidMedhani. “Today, however, you could say that the language is completely extinct.” Elias added, “The Qwara language is unique to the Jews of Ethiopia. As far as I know, there is no one in the world today who speaks Qwara or even knows Qwara. I am envious of Yiddish, which has enjoyed something of a renaissance and revival recently. I think that in contrast, the fate of Qwara is sealed.” Medhani, who speaks Ge’ez, recently published a Ge’ez prayer book, though according to Ethiopian tradition, prayers are recited by heart and not read. “I reached the conclusion that preserving the language will occur through the liturgy,” he said, “if Ge’ez isn’tbrought back to use.” Medhani is now working on an Amharic-Ge’ez dictionary. His dream is to see the first nonreligious text published in Ge’ez. When asked about why it is so important to preserve the heritage of the Ethiopian exilesonce the community immigratesto Israel, Elias stressed,”It is an ancient Jewish heritage that cannot be dismissed.” “We are talking about prayers that were recited by Jews for hundreds of years. Their forms and melodies are unique. They were not copied from other communities or religions. We have a variety of original material. That obligates us to preserve the language. Similarly, the Kaddish prayer is recited in Aramaic, and that has not been changed over the years. We are preserving a heritage,” he added. This desire to preserve Ethiopian culture, especiallythe Ge’ez language, has intensified in recent years, oncethe Ethiopian immigrant community became establishedand startedintegrating into Israeli society. “With the first waves of immigration, there was a very strong tendency to sever ties with our roots and to distance ourselves from our language and traditions. There were concerns that people would stop praying in that language. Over the last decade, however, there has been something of a return to itand a larger quest for Ethiopian identity,” saidMedhani. Elias is convinced that the reasonmany young Ethiopians are returning to their traditional practices, such as using Ethiopian names and embracing Ge’ez cultural activities,has to do with the discriminationthe communityfaces. “What changed thingswas the attitude of the government, which refused to recognize the spiritual leadership of the Ethiopian Jewish community. This had a boomerang effect,” he explained. “Israel’s Chief Rabbinate revoked the authority of the kessim. They are not allowed to perform marriage ceremonies for young members of the community or to grant kosher certification, based on the community’s customs and norms. Young people today want to show that the community has not abandoned the kessim. That is the source of the revival of tradition.” Elias added, “We’ve been in Israel for 30 years now. During the first 15 years, not a single kes was ordained in Israel. In the last 15 years, 30 new kessim, some born in Israel, were ordained. In 2010, the government decided to recognize the 15 kessimwho were ordained in Israeland granted them the authority to serve their communities. We are now facing a much bigger struggle, not only to obtain government salaries for them, but also to recognize kessim as Jewish spiritual leaders with authority over matters of marriage and kashrut. Much to our surprise, there was a certain readiness in the government to consider the issue seriously and to give it a voice. They see that the younger generation has no plans to give up.” Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/06/geez-language-only-left-in-lithurgy.html

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A Legendary Photographer Visits an Isolated Christian Community in Ethiopia – Smithsonian

We were very tired, Sebastio Salgado recalls. He was on a 500-mile, 55-day hike though some of the most inaccessible passages in the Ethiopian highlands, a region known as the roof of Africa, where the elevations range from a few thousand feet to almost 15,000. We had to climb, to climb, to climb, he says in his Portuguese-accented English. Finally he and his porters and guides reached a village. It was about 2 p.m., very hot. Very few people. But slowly, slowly people start to come out, says Salgado, one of the worlds premier photographers. Among the villagers were two ladies with a kind of basin, wood basin, and with water. They came beside my feet, they took off my boots, my socks, and they washed my feet. Oh boy, I felt the humility of the beginning of the Christians. This sacred encounter, reminiscent of the biblical scene in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, was a highlight of the extraordinary journey that led Salgado to create the pictures on these pages. They commemorate a peoples profound connection to both the heavens and the earth. It was 2008, and Salgado, a native of Brazil, was 64 years old. His monumental projects Workers (1993) and Migrations (2000) had established his pre-eminence as a chronicler of conflict, dislocation and environmental degradation. Then, as an antidote to despair, he embarked on an eight-year quest involving some 30 trips all over the globe to seek out places and peoples untouched by modernity, including the highlanders of Ethiopia. Why would a man risk his 64-year-old knees on terrain so difficult that it killed five of his expeditions rented donkeys? In every step we discovered new things, Salgado explains. You feel the power there. The highlands hold traces of ancient Jewish communities, though most of Ethiopias Jews emigrated to Israel in the 1980s and 90s to escape famine, persecution and civil war. Some of the worlds oldest Christian communities persist there, populated by the spiritual descendants of an Ethiopian court official who, according to the New Testament, was converted to the faith a few years after the death of Christ. Today, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians make up 44 percent of the countrys population; Sunni Muslims, who are concentrated in the east, make up 34 percent. Sectarian and civil conflict still wrack other parts of Ethiopia, but not this one. Setting out from Lalibela, with its 11 renowned monolithic medieval churches, Salgado headed southeast and then turned northwest, to Simien Mountains National Park. Some people he had consulted before his trip advised him to hire armed guards, so he did. Two guys with Kalashnikovs, he says. After one week we sent them back, because we felt that the people would take this as an offense. When you come to a place, everyone brings a gift to you, they are so kind. He, too, brought giftsknives and tools to trade for lamb meat to supplement the food he packed in for himself and his retinue of 17 guides, porters and donkey-tenders. So few people tread the path they took that we had no guide capable to come with us from the beginning to the end, he says. When one guides knowledge of the way ahead ran out, Salgado hired someone who could pick up the trail. With local expertise, plus a GPS-equipped satellite telephone, they stayed on track. With solar panels, he kept his phone and camera batteries charged. But above all else, he says, he valued his hiking shoes. The highland villages are so far removed from the rest of the world, Salgado says, that in most of them he was the first outsider to visit in memory. And theyre so cut off from one another that they speak different dialects. But they are linked by the same God, he says. These communities are Christians from the beginning of time. In these communities, he saw churches fashioned from caves, Bibles written on animal skins and traditions that reflect Christianitys Judaic roots, such as forgoing milk and meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. He was especially taken with the highlanders terraced farms: I looked at all this incredible, sophisticated agriculture, I said, We had these 10,000 years ago. For him, the villages bespeak a continuity over millennia, and the landscapewith its blazing shafts of sunlight and a river-carved canyon deeper, at points, than the Grand Canyoninspires a connection to eons past. That river, the Tekez, ultimately nourished the Blue Nile Delta, hundreds of miles away. All that fertile land energy came from there, eroded from there, Salgado says, and boy, me walking there, seeing this, doing my task inside the beginning of our history, was something amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing.

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Opinion Natan Sharansky: Aliyah List is a partnership for the future – Jewish News

Were experiencing a renaissance in aliyah, an action that for years was associated with images of Jews fleeing persecution and adversity in their countries of origin. The numbers were made up of Holocaust survivors, Jews from Arab countries, Ethiopian Jews and Jews from the former Soviet Union. They all came to Israel seeking refuge from the hardships they left behind. In recent years, however, we have witnessed a dramatic shift: aliyah from Western, democratic countries now accounts for greater numbers than immigration from the rest of the world. A high-tech superpower with a booming economy and low unemployment, Israel has come to be viewed as an attractive destination for Western Jews seeking a brighter future for their families. And as increasing numbers of young people experience life in Israel through Jewish Agency programmes like Masa Israel Journey and Onward Israel, they come to understand that Israel is both an integral part of their Jewish identity and a place in which they can celebrate that identity comfortably and fully. If in the past the bulk of Jewish immigration to Israel was aliyah of rescue, today it is very much aliyah of choice. It is the product of an affirmative decision to lead a fully Jewish life in the Jewish state. British Jewry has long been a leading force within British society. From the earliest days of Jewish settlement in Britain until the present day, British Jews have risen to the highest echelons of British culture, journalism, business, politics, and arts. Indeed, this year we will celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, one of British Jewrys proudest achievements. I personally remember British Jews extraordinary contributions to our struggle for freedom in the Soviet Union, including the invaluable role played by the London-based Womens Campaign for Soviet Jewry, known as the 35s. Similarly, there was the work of Royal Navy veteran Michael Sherbourne, who coined the term refusenik and served as our primary channel of communication with the outside world. And yet, despite the British Jewish communitys full integration into British society and its significant involvement in both national and international affairs, thousands of British Jews have chosen to realise their Zionist dreams by making aliyah, tying their personal fates to that of the Jewish state. In recent years, in fact, we have seen the number of British immigrants to Israel grow by more than 30 percent. From diplomats to artists, journalists to lawyers, immigrants from Britain have contributed richly to Israeli society and they continue to do so today, serving as a bridge between the UK and Israel and bringing the dynamic energy of British Jewry with them. Perhaps one of the most notable contributions of British immigrants in recent years has been the introduction of that most cherished British Jewish institution, Limmud, to Israeli audiences. Earlier this month. I was pleased to join president Reuven Rivlin and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat in celebrating Limmuds unique impact on Israel and world Jewry with the 2017 Jerusalem Unity Prize. As we honour the contributions of British immigrants to the Jewish state, I encourage you to nominate outstanding British olim for inclusion in the Aliyah List, a partnership between the Jewish Agency and Jewish News. And as we look forward to celebrating Israels 70th birthday, I invite you to learn about the Jewish Agencys programmes and about all that life in Israel has to offer and I look forward to seeing you next year in Jerusalem. Article by Natan Sharansky, Chairman, The Jewish Agency NOMINATE HERE:

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Obituary: Donald M. Robinson / Internationally known photographer, philanthropist enriched Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Obituary: Donald M. Robinson / Internationally known photographer, philanthropist enriched Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Post-Gazette While chairman of the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee, he traveled to Ethiopia to visit a Jewish community. It was there that he captured one of his favorite photographs: a procession of Ethiopian Jews carrying Torahs in traditional robes …

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President Rivlin honors outstanding Israeli reserve soldiers in special ceremony – i24NEWS (press release) (registration)

A pilot from one of the units told i24NEWS of the great honor On May 24, 1991, 14,000 Ethiopian Jews gathered in Addis Ababa and boarded 35 flights to Israel as part of Operation Soloman, the Israeli government’s airlift of Jews. At one point, 28 aircraft were in the air at the same time, crammed with passengers two or three to a seat – one plane set the world record for single-flight passenger load when it was discovered that children hiding in their parents clothes took the manifest number to 1,087. The whole operation was planned under strict military censorship, and Lt. Col. Ilan of the Israeli Air Force’s “Yellow Bird” squadron was one of those who took part in the airlift. Speaking to i24NEWS ahead of the squadron’s special award from President Rivlin, he explained how he feels knowing that he now has neighbors who were brought to Israel on those flights. “It was a very significant operation. For two days, all the squadron and all the aircraft flew to Ethiopia and it brought thousands of Jews to Israel. I flew on the last aircraft that took off from Israel and almost the last plane that left Ethiopia – it was a very special flight.” The Yellow Bird squadron was one of the 16 outstanding reserve units honored by Rivlin on Tuesday, also for its participation in the Entebbe Operation, as well as airlifting supplies and portable field hospitals to India and Turkey after earthquakes, and to Cyprus following wildfires. Soldiers in the unit do reserve duty for one day a week, and Ilan spoke of how that level of commitment added to the privilege of having their service recognized. “I think its an honor. I am happy for the squadron because its something very special. You dont get to go to the Presidents house every day. For all of us, for twenty or more years, coming each week for one day or so, its an honor.”

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Israeli-Ethiopian grounded groove – The Jerusalem Post

Ground Heights has that rare fusion of sound and energy that leaves a wake of joy on the dance floor wherever they go. The seven-member band consists of lead singer Hewan Meshesha, guitarist Yotam Cohen, saxophonist Lior Grayevsky, percussionist Shalev Neeman, bassist Roee Cohen, keyboardist Omer Kenan and drummer Micha Korkus. Hewan, an Ethiopian Israeli, incorporates her heritage into the sound, with robustly soulful results. Ground Heights will play with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra on June 29 at Heichel Hatarbut in Tel Aviv. They are also preparing to release their debut album in August, with more shows in the works. Hewan sat down with The Jerusalem Post to discuss singing in the army, having your parents help write lyrics, and the balance of keeping feet on the ground with eyes to the heights. Did you always know that you wanted to be a singer? Growing up, music was always a part of my life. Knowing that I wanted to do something about it and actually become a musician didnt come until later when I was serving in the army. I met this amazing person, who became one of my dearest friends. I was 19 or 20 and we were in the middle of a night shift. She encouraged me to sing, after I said no so many times. Then when I finally did it, she told me that this is what I needed to do. It made me realize that singing was what I wanted to do. When I was growing up, I never knew that I wanted to become a singer. Were you born in Israel? Yes I was raised in Kiryat Yam near Haifa. Its a small town, really cozy, simple people. How did you go from singing for your friend to forming Ground Heights? After I finished the army, I ended up performing at an event. Someone came up to me and encouraged me to go and study music because he said I really had something. I hesitated, but decided to do it. I looked into [The] Rimon [School of Music] and decided that it was the time to check it out and see if this is really what I want to do. I went to an audition for Rimon, which went terribly… but they invited me to do the audition again. Everything evolved since then. Did you meet your bandmates at Rimon? I met Shalev [Neeman] there and we were in an Afro-Pop ensemble. Later, we became Ground Heights. Now we are seven musicians all together. We have percussion, drums, bass, electric guitar, bass, saxophone, keyboard and myself. I cant say that we always knew we wanted it to be seven and that these are the exact instruments we wanted to have, but it just evolved this way. How did you choose the name Ground Heights? The story of it is amazing. Shalev suggested a lot of names and Ground Heights was one of them. It was such a natural fit because it refers to how we as a band are so many different people from different ethnic and musical backgrounds. We came together to do this one important and holy thing. It also refers to our inspiration, which is the ground where we came from and where we began. The heights are where do we want to go; where do we see ourselves? Our goal is to be fulfilled. I think you can hear it in the music. We have so many styles combined together to create this one, pure thing. We hope that the audience feels that way too. Yeah, I was feeling that way when trying to describe your sound because it is somewhat indescribable. Exactly, we have reggae, soul, rock, progressive, dub, Ethiopian and African roots, all combined together in hopefully a good way. Did you always know that you wanted to incorporate Ethiopian sounds into your music? Actually I did. The moment that I realized that this is what I wanted to do, I knew that even if I tried to avoid it, I would never succeed. This is who I am. I carry a long tradition and I couldnt do it without this heritage and my ancestors who did so much so that I would finally be here. I have the history of the Ethiopian Jews in me and I couldnt avoid it. I didnt want to; its a part of me. I always knew that it would be in my music. I love your Ethiopian songs because they allow me as a listener to connect in a way that transcends words. Thats amazing. To me, when someone who was in the audience says that they didnt understand the words, but they could feel the connection, this is the best compliment that we could ever ask for because the bottom line is that what flows from us to the audience is the language of music. Thats a language that everyone understands. The most important thing to us as a band is our cohesiveness. The first time that I brought an Ethiopian song to the band, it was by Mahmoud Ahmed, one of Ethiopias greatest artists. The band listened and enjoyed it. I wasnt sure, but then I saw how they connected and it felt so good. Music speaks to people. Music is music. I knew that if my band could connect to it, then everyone would. How do your parents feel about you being a musician? They are happy, I have to say. They are something; they never pushed me. Im really lucky. They accept what I do and are proud of me. They actually helped us write lyrics to one of our songs. The title in English is The Circle of Life. We had the music already, Shalev wrote a chorus, but we got stuck. First it was in Hebrew and then English. Something wasnt working. So our producer suggested that we try it in Amharic. We wanted the song to be about life. I came with it to my uncle, dad and mom, and they wrote wonderful lyrics. What kind of reaction have you gotten from the Ethiopian community? I was really nervous at first about that because I didnt know how Ethiopian people would react, but they love it. They groove to it and really enjoy it. Its a great feeling for me. If they didnt like it, they wouldnt dance to it, but they do. We passed that test! Where are you guys in the process of releasing your debut album? We finished the recording and its supposed to be out this summer. Its in the mastering process now. Then we have all the PR stuff to do. Sometime in the summer, we want to have a big performance to celebrate the birth of this wonderful album, which contains each and every one of the seven people in it who made it what it is. For more information on Ground Heights, including upcoming shows and the debut album release, please visit: www.facebook.com/groundheights. Share on facebook

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June 25 2017: Those who wait – The Jerusalem Post mobile website

Those who wait Tamara Zieves excellent As dribs of Ethiopian olim trickle in, many wonder when their turn will come (June 22) ably discusses the failure of Israel to implement government decisions mandating the rapid aliya of the Beta Israel remaining in Gondar and Addis Ababa. However, it lets the American Jewish community off too easily. The principal cause of the suffering certainly is the heartless delay in aliya. However, the degree of suffering could be significantly ameliorated if the Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee fulfilled their institutional roles to help Diaspora Jews in distress. Neither of these organizations, nor Jewish federations, has thus far provided any assistance to the Beta Israel communities in Gondar and Addis. They have turned a blind eye to the suffering even though they were asked to provide assistance some months ago in a letter by the heads of the relevant Knesset committees and other MKs who had conducted on-site inspection tours. Thus far, the only organization to respond to the MKs letter is the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ), a small group providing medical care to children under the age of five in Gondar, and which will shortly provide supplemental nutrition to malnourished children under the age of three. Funding limitations prevent it from caring for all of the children. In the past, the Joint Distribution Committee provided medical care to all of the Ethiopians awaiting aliya in Gondar and Addis. The Jewish Agency, when it ran the compounds, provided food for the children under age five. Currently, these organizations provide no assistance. One can only hope that they will at last hear the cries of the children, and if not, that the Jewish federations will fund the SSEJ or any other organization willing to help until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally allows these people to reunite with their families in Israel. JOSEPH FEIT Lawrence, New York The writer, an attorney, was a counsel to the SSEJ and a past-president of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry. Suing SFSU Shouting down speakers is one example of the threatening ugliness that regularly trumps civility and rationality in a variation of might makes right at SFSU (NGO, group of students file suit against San Francisco State University for antisemitism, June 21). The consistent normalization of this deplorable behavior at SFSU violates everything a university is supposed to stand for. But then again, consider this statement, captured on video, of what university president Leslie Wong believes SFSU stands for: GUPS [General Union of Palestine Students] is the very purpose of this great university. Perhaps those filing the lawsuit against SFSU disagree. JULIA LUTCH Davis, California San Francisco State University is part of the California university system, and everyone knows that the system is rife with antisemitic diatribes. The best way to fight such blatant hatred is through the pocketbook. This works well everywhere, even at the UN. I would further suggest that a lawyer as articulate and prominent as Alan Dershowitz be the one to make the case for the Jewish students and the Land of Israel. It would be a landmark in the way academia is forced to deal with freedom of speech for Jewish students. No more discrimination against Jews and Israel. TOBY WILLIG Jerusalem Drawing conclusions Gil Troy draws certain conclusions from two seemingly unrelated news topics: intermarriage and imposed academic restrictions (Bring Judaism and freedom into the eternal fourth dimension, Comment & Features, June 21). With regard to intermarriage, he points out the futility of attempting to disrupt a romantic liaison between interfaith lovers. This battle, Prof. Troy explains, should be fought preemptively, decades earlier, during the childrens nurturing. The second issue relates to Prof. Asa Kashers proposed academic code of ethics, discouraging professors from politicizing the classroom. Though this proposal is laudatory, the chance of professors complying with it is as likely as growing hair on ones palms. Prof. Kasher appears to be a babe in the woods to think that any code can restrict a professors free speech. If it is an objective educational environment that he is striving to attain, a more logical approach would be to choose educators equally from both sides of the political spectrum (in place of the present preponderance of left-oriented professors). Then let our youth be exposed to the two sides of a given subject. ROBERT DUBLIN Jerusalem Familiar smell Lindsay Gabow asks: When does criticism of Israel become antisemitic? (Comment & Features, June 20). There is no need for intensive debate. One usually can smell it. A practical example is the recent annual Al Quds Day demonstration in London, where no attempt was made to arrest protest leaders chanting that the Grenfell Tower fire had been the work of the Zionists, a familiar blood libel. That such a demonstration was even permitted to take place at the instigation of the political wing of Hezbollah defies belief. The UK government has promised to combat antisemitism, but instead it permits its police to stand idly by in the pretense (fed by the EU) that somehow there is a difference between the military and political wings of Hezbollah and its financial sponsor, Iran. By permitting an antisemitic hate-fest in the streets of London, does Prime Minister Teresa Mays recent loss of a majority in the House of Commons have to be the complete collapse of any moral authority to govern? PETER SCHWEITZER Tel Aviv Cant be trusted It is apparent that former prime minister Ehud Olmert again has made a laughing stock of our justice system, this time by allowing crucial classified documents out of his prison cell for the purpose of profiting from a proposed memoir. Your June 19 editorial Policing books is too soft on him. He is a jailed felon and should be treated as such. In my opinion, he is a dangerous man armed with highly classified information to the detriment of the Jewish people. How can an individual with Olmerts corrupt background be trusted with such material? There should be no sympathy for this charlatan who promoted bribery, greed and graft big time. JACK DAVIS Jerusalem What a disgrace! Whoever was responsible for organizing this years Jerusalem International Book Fair deserves to be sacked. First of all, why did this event have to be located at the First Station rather than the far more accessible Jerusalem International Convention Center, its location in past years? Second, why on Earth were two different events the book fair and Hebrew Book Week made to overlap in the same location? As a result, after entering the First Station, one had to walk a considerable distance, past the Hebrew Book Week stands, in order to find the glorified hangar in which overseas exhibitors displayed their books. Third, why was no provision made for a kiosk selling hot or cold drinks somewhere inside? Anyone feeling thirsty had to schlep nearly all the way back to the entrance. Further evidence of poor planning (or slight regard for the International Book Fairs importance) could be found in the lack of advance publicity. Only advertisements in The Jerusalem Post by two publishers, Gefen and Koren, brought this event to my and the publics attention. What a disgrace! GABRIEL A. SIVAN Jerusalem Share on facebook

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June 27, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Higher health risks for Israeli Ethiopian immigrants – The Jerusalem Post

A memorial ceremony for Jewish immigrants who died on the way to Israel from Ethiopia, June 5, 2016. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) Immigrants of Ethiopian origin have a 2.4-fold risk of developing type-2 diabetes and a 1.5 higher risk of contracting schizophrenia than other Israelis, according to a recent discussion in the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee. Dr. Yonatan Reuven, who conducts research on Ethiopian Jewish health, said that due to lifestyle and nutrition changes, the diabetes risk is significantly higher even than Jews of Ethiopian origin who were born in Israel. The condition is often accompanied by hypertension, obesity and tooth decay. The schizophrenia risk of the immigrants is twice as high as those of Israeli-born Ethiopian Jews. Although no explanation for this was given, 28% of the immigrants suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the men were significantly more likely to commit suicide. A month ago, changes in regulations instituted by the Health Ministry went into effect, allowing some Ethiopian immigrants, homosexuals and elderly people to donate blood. The change resulted from new Israeli and foreign epidemiological data and the improvement in medical technologies and risk assessment. For many years, Jews of Ethiopian heritage who were born in Israel have been able to donate blood without limitation. However, those who were born in Ethiopia or if they spent over a year, since 1977, in a country where HIV was endemic, had been banned. It was also forbidden for people of any origin over the age of 65 to give a first blood donation. Thanks to the new changes, restrictions on Ethiopian immigrants who were born there were dropped, except those who spent more than a year in an HIV-endemic country and less than a year has passed since they arrived in Israel. The questionnaire filled out by all would-be donors about possible behaviors that could increase the risk of HIV infection such as homosexuality or intravenous drug use has been updated and is identical to those adopted by the US Food and Drug Administration and health authorities in Europe. The tests used here for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus are significantly more sensitive than the old ones, thus the window of infection is being narrowed to a few days between infection by a carrier and testing for these viruses. YALURONIC ACID IN CREAM, NOT INJECTION A Bar-Ilan University research team has developed a unique technology that produces small molecules of anti-aging hyaluronic acid polymers that can be applied as a cream instead of injections. The team, headed by Prof. Rachel Lubart and Prof. Aharon Gedanken from the chemistry and physics departments and BIUs Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, have been involved in the past few years in the development of a technology for micronization and characterization of hyaluronic acid. The skin, which plays an important role in protecting the bodys organs, is impenetrable. Finding means to penetrate the skin barrier has challenged the medical field for years. Huge efforts have been made in developing ways to introduce hyaluronic acid into the skin, as it cannot penetrate it naturally. Now, based on this development, para-medical cosmetics pioneer Hava Zingboim has produced the first formula that allows the hyaluronic acid to penetrate into the deeper skin layers by means of cream application and without injection. A key property of hyaluronic acid, which is naturally present in the body, is its ability to adsorb large quantities of water. Hyaluronic acid is also an effective antioxidant, which means it can trap the free radicals formed in the skin during inflammatory processes or as a result of exposure to UV rays. These properties make it an important anti-aging agent. The look of young skin can be measured by the amount of hyaluronic acid between the cells. As people age, the body gradually loses its ability to produce hyaluronic acid. The decreasing availability of hyaluronic acid directly results in sagging skin, wrinkles and fine lines. CAN OMEGA-3 HELP PREVENT ALZHEIMERS DISEASE? Neuroimaging shows increased blood flow in regions of the brain associated with memory and learning for people with higher omega-3 levels. According to a new study headed by Dr. Daniel Amen of Costa Mesa, California, published in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease, blood flow in specific areas of the brain rises in patients with high omega-3 levels. The incidence of Alzheimers disease (AD) is expected to triple in the coming decades, and no cure has been found. Recently, interest in dietary approaches for prevention of cognitive decline has increased. In particular, the omega-3 fatty acids have shown anti-amyloid, anti-tau and anti-inflammatory actions in the brains of animals. This study is a major advance in demonstrating the value of nutritional intervention for brain health by using the latest brain imaging, commented biology Prof. George Perry of the University of Texas at San Antonio and editor-in-chief of the journal. When single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is used to measure blood perfusion in the brain, images acquired from subjects performing various cognitive tasks show higher blood flow in specific brain regions. When these images were compared to the Omega-3 Index a measure of the blood concentration of two omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) investigators found a statistically significant correlation between higher blood flow and higher Omega-3 Index. Co-author Dr. William Harris of the University of South Dakota School of Medicine said, Although we have considerable evidence that omega-3 levels are associated with better cardiovascular health, the role of the fish oil fatty acids in mental health and brain physiology is just beginning to be explored. This study opens the door to the possibility that relatively simple dietary changes could favorably impact cognitive function. Share on facebook

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June 25, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Lessons from Begin: Is rescue no longer a Jewish imperative? – Canadian Jewish News (blog)

On June 10, 1977, an Israeli freighter, the Yuvali, captained by Meir Tadmor, responded to an SOS call from a leaking fishing boat that was adrift in the South China Sea. The boat held 66 Vietnamese, including 16 children under the age of 10. They were almost out of food. Water was being rationed at the rate of three teaspoons per child per day, and none for adults. Ships from East Germany, Panama, Japan and even Norway had previously ignored its SOS calls. But Tadmor took them on board. He understood that helping ships in distress is the first law of maritime menschlichkeit, a point lost on gentile boats. Tadmor tried to get medical help for them in Hong Kong, then a British colony, but was not allowed to dock because he was not scheduled to call there. He next tried Yokohama, Japan, to no avail. In Taiwan, police boats surrounded the Yuvali lest someone surreptitiously try to get to shore. If there is a rescue plan, we will also assume the burden, because rescue supersedes everything else The previous month, on May 17, Menachem Begins Likud party had won the Israeli national election, taking 44 out of 120 seats (in Israel, it was considered a landslide). On June 20, he rose in the Knesset to make the speech asking for a vote of confidence for his new government. He quoted from the prophet Isaiah and spoke of the meaning of the Holocaust, in which his parents and brother were murdered. That was followed by speeches from other members of the Knesset. Toward midnight, the speaker of the Knesset, Yitzhak Shamir, formally gave Begin the floor once again. At that point, Begin should have delivered his response to his nascent governments critics. But he did not. Instead, he offered a different message: On the basis of my assumption that tonight the Knesset will express confidence in the government and my confidence in the agreement of members of the Knesset across, or almost across, party lines, I announce that tomorrow, my first act as prime minister will be to give instructions to grant asylum in our country to refugees from Vietnam. He continued: We all remember the ships with Jewish refugees in the 30s that wandered the surface of the seven seas, asking to enter a specific country, or any number of countries, only to encounter rejection. Today, there exists the state of the Jews. We have not forgotten. We will behave with humanity. We will bring these unfortunate people, refugees saved by our ship from drowning in the depths of the sea, to our country. We will provide them shelter and refuge. And that is precisely what he did. The Vietnamese were thereupon flown to Israel and greeted on arrival by immigration minister David Levy. Israel thus gained the distinction of being the first country in the world to take in Vietnamese refugees. These were but the first group of Vietnamese to make aliyah. (Canada, by way of contrast, would not admit Vietnamese boat people until July 1979.) By pure, bittersweet coincidence, June 21, 1977, was the 38th anniversary of the return to Europe of the MS St. Louis, with its 900 Jews who had escaped Nazism, only to be refused entry into Cuba, the U.S. and Canada. They were divided among four European countries, three of which were overrun by Hitler two years later. At their first meeting, then-U.S. president Jimmy Carter publicly lauded Begin for taking in the refugees. Begin replied by situating the act in a continuum of Jewish history and universalism: We never have forgotten the boat with 900 Jews having left Germany in the last weeks before the Second World War travelling from harbour to harbour, from country to country, crying out for refuge. They were refused. Therefore, it was natural to give those people a haven in the Land of Israel. For Begin, rescue was a Jewish imperative. In 1955, when the government debated excluding elderly and ill Moroccan Jews from aliyah because of financial hardships facing the young country, he delivered a stinging rebuke: If there is a rescue plan, we will also assume the burden, because rescue supersedes everything else. He and Yitzhak Chofi, the farsighted head of Mossad, began the rescue of Ethiopian Jews, fulfilling the words of Isaiah (49:6): And I will give you as a light unto the nations to extend my salvation as far as to the ends of the earth (and even to the South China Sea). Today, unfortunately, the story is quite different. Along its border with Egypt, Israel has built a fence that keeps out genuine Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean asylum seekers. When U.S. President Donald Trump signed the executive order to build a wall on the Mexican border, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israels southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea. We as Jews need to absorb the lesson of the Jerusalem Mishnah, Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter 4, Law 5, which recites how in capital cases, judges impressed upon the witnesses the importance of telling the truth and disregarding hearsay. They told them that killing someone also deprives his unborn descendants of life: Therefore was Adam created singly in the world (i.e., not en masse like the animals), in order to teach that he who destroys a single life is considered as if he had destroyed an entire world, and he who saves a single life is considered as if he had saved an entire world. Murray Teitel is a Toronto barrister and freelance journalist.

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June 24, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed


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