Wednesday, February 07, 2007

moses and solomon

Attended "A Celebration of Ethiopian Jewry" tonight at Beit Hillel.

Jews have lived in Ethiopia for thousands of years, some dating their roots back to the Queen of Sheba and believing themselves to be of the lost tribe of Dan. They follow Judaism as based on the laws of Torah, not Torah Ba'al Peh (Oral Law), and therefore not the Talmud, which came long after their existence in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Jewry was "found" in the 1950s, and Prime Minister Menachem Begin began efforts to bring the Beta Israel to the State of Israel in the 1970's when they began to be threatened by the communist government. The two most notable relocation operations were Operation Moses (November 18, 1984 - January 5, 1985--almost 8,000 Jews were rescued and brought to Israel) and Operation Solomon (1990/1). The journey from Ethiopia to Israel was tragic for many Jews. Integration into Israeli society has also been difficult for the Beta Israel, with most recent examples being Magen David Adom refusing Ethiopian blood donations.*

Danny, the Associate Director of the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews gave a small speech, discussing his personal history and the situation of Ethiopians in Israel.

"When my father told me that we were going to go to Jerusalem, it is like someone saying to you that you are going straight to heaven."

Casa, an Ethiopian Israeli I know from Ramah, spoke on a panel about Ethiopians in Israel.
"Before I came to Israel, I never knew there could be a white Jew."
"My parents used to tell me that in Jerusalem everything is made by G-d. The only G-d I see here is the G-d of the Muslims."

Danny spoke further on the reception of Ethiopians into Israeli society, discussing how other Israelis immediately view Ethiopian Jews as backwards and stupid, consistently expressing surprise when one speaks good Hebrew or knows English or is bright.
"Who is the primitive here?"
At the Hebrew University, there are over 24,000 students. Only 40 of them are Ethiopian.

*more sources on the history of Ethiopian Jewry:
Jewish Virtual Library
Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (Jews still in Ethiopia)
Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews


Kate said...

Only 40, are you serious??? 1. I see them all the time. 2. Ahron I think said 70 that one day.

And what does it do for religion when one group of Jews is saying that Torah Sh'baal Peh was given at Sinai and another group of Jews never got it?

Rebecca said...

point A- yeah, Casa, who is the leader of the Ethiopian group on campus, said there are only 40.

point B- cacah zeh b'hayim shlenu.