29 January 2013
An Ethiopian boy stands outside the Mevaseret immigrant absorption center near Jerusalem. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
A few years ago, we took a look at a particularly interesting demographic in the Holy Land: Jews who had moved to Israel from Ethiopia:
“Everything was difficult,” said Bat-El Ananey, a 28-year-old attorney, as she recalled her family’s culture shock when they first arrived in Israel from the African nation of Ethiopia.
“We came from a place with no toilets, no electricity, no telephones or television. I remember fetching drinking water from the river,” she continued. “And we had never seen white Jews before!”
Ms. Ananey and her family are among the 110,000 Ethiopian Jews, known as the Beta Israel, or House of Israel, who today call Israel home. For thousands of years, the Beta Israel lived in obscurity in northwestern Ethiopia, where they observed a form of Judaism that predates the rabbinical form practiced by most Jews since the Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. However, Ethiopia’s great famine in 1984 and the West’s response ended their relative isolation and irrevocably altered their fortunes.
Read more about Challenges For A Land of Immigrants in the November 2008 issue of ONE.
Tags: Ethiopia Israel Immigration Ethiopian Jews