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Communities - Beta Israel of Ethiopia

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Ethiopian Jews

The story of the Ethiopian Jewish community, called Beta Israel, and their journey to the Holy Land is fascinating. The ancestry of this group is unclear; theories range that they descend from the lost tribe of Dan, which settled in Egypt during the period of the Divided Kingdom; from the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, though no mention of a marriage or sexual relations between them appears in the biblical text; from a community who settled in Egypt following the destruction of the First Temple; or from Ethiopian non-Jews who converted. Despite this uncertain lineage, the Beta Israel have been living in Ethiopia for centuries, unheard of in the outside world, and not knowing themselves that other Jewish communities existed.

A ninth century traveler, known as "Eldad HaDani," was one of the first documented Ethiopian Jews, describing the Beta Israel group in his writings and claiming they were descendants from Dan. A 16th century rabbi, Rabbi David ben Zimra, was the first rabbinical authority to rule this way as well.... Read more

Source: IFCJ.org

The Beta Israel - Ethiopian Jews in Israel

Today, there are about 130,000 Ethiopians living in Israel, of which more than 38,000 are Israeli-born. In the following we shall briefly outline the origins of these communities, their journeys to Israel and their status within contemporary Israeli society.

Origin and History of the Beta Israel

A variety of narratives exists, which outlines the origin of the Beta Israel (Hebrew: "House of Israel"), the Jewish communities of Ethiopia. According to one version the Beta migrated to Egypt after the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem. The community remained in Egyptian exile until the defeat of Cleopatra by Augustus Caesar, which threatened the well being of the minority group and led them to the decision flee once again. On different routes, it is said, they migrated and ended up in today's Ethiopia.... Read more.

By Miri

Ethiopian Jewish Women

Ethiopia 4 - still image [media]THE ETHIOPIAN JEWS: BACKGROUND

The Ethiopian Jews, men and women alike, were known as Falashas in Ethiopia, although in the last decade they have eschewed this appellation with its stigmatic connotation of “stranger”, implying low, outsider status. In Israel, they tend to be called Ethiopian Jews, whilst in Ethiopia they often referred to themselves—and are referred to in the academic literature—as Beta Israel (Weil, 1997a). The Beta Israel hail from villages in Gondar province, Woggera, the Simien mountains, Walkait and the Shire region of Tigray. They are divided into two distinct linguistic entities speaking Amharic and Tigrinya respectively.

The origins of this ethnic minority in Ethiopia are obscure. Almost all researchers, including those who maintain that the Ethiopian Jews did not exist in Ethiopia until the Middle Ages, at the earliest, admit that Jews have lived in Ethiopia from early times (Kaplan 1992). Some say that they are descended from the union of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba; other theories refer to them variously as descendants of Yemenite Jews, Agaus, Jews who went down to Egypt and wandered south, or even an outgrowth of Jews who inhabited the garrison at Elephantine (Kessler, 1982). Some academic research suggests that they formed as a group under the influence of Ethiopian Christian monasticism in the fourteenth century (Kaplan 1992; Shelemay, 1986)... Read more.

By Shalva Weil

The True Hebrews

The Black Jews of Ethiopia known as the Falashas have maintained through the centuries a tradition and identity of Judaism of a very archaic kind. 

They called themselves Beta Yisrael because for centuries they believed that they were the last remnant of the ancient Israelites. In fact, in the nineteenth century when a French linguist named Joseph Halevy reached one of their villages on a mission from the Alliance Israelite Universelle, they did not believe that he, the European, could be a Jew. As Halevy described it, the Ethiopians said “What! You a Falasha! A white Falasha! You are laughing at us. Are there any white Falashas?”

Some scholars contend that Sheba was not a part of Ethiopia and was actually a part of present day Yemen. Geographically, the Arabian Peninsula is a peninsula of the African continent. Yemen and the ancient boundaries of Ethiopia are adjacent points, separated only by a very thin isthmus. Further, the renowned Jewish historian Flavius Josephus identified the ruler of Sheba as a “Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia.” This comports with the view that Sheba was a vassal state of Ethiopia.

If the Beta Israel are the product of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, then they have been in Ethiopia since at least the 10th Century BCE... Read more.


Source: the-truth-seekers.org


Villagers sell their possessions in haste, pack the little that is left, gather in small groups, leave the place they have lived for thousands of years and begin their journey by foot through Sudan to Holy Jerusalem. Old people and babies, pregnant women march together under the light of the night's moon, having to hide during the day from robbers and soldiers. The journey to Sudan took weeks and months while food and water gradually disappeared. Thousands of Jews from Ethiopian villages arrived at the Sudanese refugee camps. There they were stuck. They sat months and years waiting for their redemption, for the giant "iron bird" to fly them to the promised land. They left their close families behind, facing them their dream, while between them death closed in. Four thousand Ethiopian Jews died in these Sudanese refugee camps on this journey while Six thousand five hundred made it to Israel... Read more.

Source: nepheshtheatre.co.il


Beta Israel


Are ye not as the children of the Ethiopians unto Me,
O children of Israel, saith the Lord.
Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt,
And the Philistines from Caphtor,
And Aram (Syria) from Kir.

Amos 9: 7

Origins of Abyssinian Jews

The early days of the Beta Israel (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.... Read more.

Source: robtshepherd.tripod.com


The Long Road Home

Despite their nebulous origins, Israel eventually recognized the Beta Israel of Ethiopia as an ancient Jewish community and assisted her brethren in the wake of severe poverty, discrimination and political upheaval. The famous massive covert airlifts - Operation Moses in 1984-5 and Operation Solomon in 1991 - rescued and took in over 22,000 Beta Israel. Today, approximately 60,000 have moved to Israel, and the entire Ethiopian-Israeli population is close to 100,000.

Left behind

Yet in spite of these huge assisted migrations, thousands of Ethiopian Jews, some with relatives in Israel, were left behind. According to the Jerusalem Post (8 June 2005), nearly 20,000 Beta Israel currently remain in Ethiopia awaiting emigration. Known as Falash Mura to some.... Read more.

By Amy Cowen (2006)


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Creation date : 25/08/2013 @ 21:10
Last update : 26/08/2013 @ 16:29
Category : Communities
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