Ethiopian Jews celebrating Sigd in Jerusalem

For thousands of years, Ethiopian Jews dreamed about celebrating Sigd in Jerusalem. Finally their dreams have come true.

Sigd – Holiday of Ethiopian Jews

https://www.knesset.gov.il/lexicon/eng/sigd_eng.htm

Sigd is a holiday of the Ethiopian Jewish community, known as “Beta Israel”. The name of the holiday is derived from the Hebrew word for prostration, “sgida”.

During Sigd, which is celebrated on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Heshvan – 50 days after Yom Kippur (similar to the holiday of Shavuot, celebrated 50 days after Passover), the community marks the renewal of the covenant between the Jewish people, God and His Torah. On Sigd, Ethiopian Jews pray to God and plead to return to Zion. The community also holds communal introspection – in addition to the individual self-examination during Yom Kippur – because, according to tradition, in order to be worthy to return to Jerusalem from exile, the public must engage in communal introspection and repentance. Sins of the community members are forgiven during Yom Kippur and the following 50 days. On the 50th day, following communal introspection, the community returns to the Yom Kippur experience with prayers and a fast.

Today, since most members of the Ethiopian Jewish community have made Aliyah to the State of Israel, during the holiday members of the community travel to Jerusalem and visit the Wailing Wall and the promenade in the city’s “Armon Hanatziv” neighborhood. The holiday serves as an annual gathering of the entire Ethiopian community, and its members view it as an opportunity to strengthen the connection with their roots and culture.

The Kessim (Ethiopian Jewish religious leaders), dressed in their traditional robes, carry the Torah scrolls while holding multi-colored umbrellas. They stand on an elevated stage, read excerpts from the Bible and recite prayers before members of the community, also in Hebrew. Public officials attend the celebration and greet the audience, and many of the community members continue to fast until late in the afternoon.

The Knesset legislated the Sigd Law-2008, declaring the 29th of Heshvan as a national holiday.

Sigd holiday brings thousands to Jerusalem to celebrate

Traditional Ethiopian Jewish celebration can help Israeli society ‘ understand that Ethiopian Jews are of the same flesh as all Jews from all over the world.’

Sigd in Jerusalem

Sigd in Jerusalem

By JEREMY SHARON NOVEMBER 27, 2019 21:52 https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Sigd-holiday-brings-thousands-to-Jerusalem-to-celebrate-609205

Thousands of Ethiopian- Israelis, known as Beta Israel, traveled from across the country to the Haas Promenade facing the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday to celebrate the Sigd holiday together with the community’s elders, senior ministers, MKs and the mayor of Jerusalem.

Sigd, whose roots are found in the biblical Book of Nehemiah, is marked 50 days after Yom Kippur.
The day of prayer and fasting culminating with a banquet began with the recitation of traditional prayers and excerpts from the Bible, followed by addresses from Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, and a video message from President Reuven Rivlin.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post at the event, Chief Rabbi of the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel Rabbi Reuven Wabshat said that after the mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel the decision had been taken by the community to continue to celebrating the holiday, even though its essence is about the yearning to return to Jerusalem.

Wabshat said that the decision was made so that the community would not forget the “powerful heritage of Ethiopian Jewry,” and to help Israeli society understand the travails experienced by the Ethiopian Jewish community throughout their history in Africa before their return to Israel.

The rabbi asserted that it was crucial for broader Israeli society to understand the Ethiopian Jewish community’s heritage and that it is an integral part of the Jewish people because of the “difficulties” the community has experienced in Israel.

The community has frequently complained of discrimination and racism against it, and in particular has suffered from over-policing and a disproportionate number of arrests and indictments relative to its 121,000 members.

The recent death of Solomon Tekah following an altercation between a group of youths and a police officer led to renewed claims of police brutality, as well as protests and riots by members of the Ethiopian community.

>A previous bout of protests was sparked when video footage emerged of police officers beating an IDF soldier from the Ethiopian Jewish community.

“As you know, in recent years, the Ethiopian Jewish community has had difficult experiences, because people do not know and do not appreciate what Ethiopian Jews went through, and looked at things which are not relevant such as differences in place of origin, but not the internal aspects of Ethiopian Jewry,” said Wabshat.

“The Sigd holiday can bring people to the understanding and recognition that Ethiopian Jews are of the same flesh as all Jews around the world, and when the state recognizes Sigd, as it has, it means that we can all be one people.”

Among the kessim (spiritual leaders) who participated in the prayers was Kes Mentasnut Govze from Beersheba.

He explained to the Post how in Ethiopia the Jewish community would travel to and ascend a mountain on Sigd to “pray to God as one people with one heart that we would reach Jerusalem the next year and that the Temple would be rebuilt.”

Govze noted that although the community has now reached Israel and Jerusalem, the Jewish people’s mission is not yet finished.

“We still have not built the Temple and we must be clean. If we go on the correct path, the path of the Torah, God will help us, we will build the Temple and bring the sacrifices,” said the kes.

MK Pnina Tamano-Shata described the holiday as “a big gift for Israeli society” since, she said, it could help unite the Jewish people.

“It is so wonderful to see so many people here who are not from the Ethiopian community, and this holiday has become a holiday for all the Jewish people,” said Tamano-Shata.

“It is celebrated in kindergartens, schools, in the army, in local authorities, and the message is that this story is your story, it’s my story, and the story of all Jews, whether from Europe or from Arab countries.”

The MK said that the identity of the Ethiopian Jewish community was strong, but noted the problems it has faced including “difficulties which are connected to Israeli society such as police violence, discrimination, and racism,” but said that the community remained positive.

“We are positive and fully open to Israeli society, we are not in a place of antagonism even though we have had a very hard, challenging, and intensive year, and we are far from getting justice, nevertheless everything has its time and period,” she said.

>Michal Avera Samuel, director of the NGO Fidel, said that the thousands of people who came to the celebrations in Jerusalem came “to learn and understand the heritage of Ethiopian Jews which is an ancient heritage which every child should be proud of and pass on to the next generation.”

Our goal in Fidel is to promote this platform so the youth can teach those from the Ethiopian community and broader Israeli society.

Continued  Avera Samuel “The goal is that through studying in school and and youth groups, we can teach the heritage of Ethiopian Jews and build a courageous identity together with a sense of belonging within Israeli society.”

Operation Solomon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Solomon

Operation Solomon (Hebrew: מבצע שלמה, Mivtza Shlomo) was a covert Israeli military operation to airlift Ethiopian Jews to Israel from May 24 to May 25, 1991. Non-stop flights of 35 Israeli aircraft, including Israeli Air Force C-130s and El Al Boeing 747s, transported 14,325 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 36 hours.[1]

Operation Solomon:The operation set a world record for single-flight passenger load on May 24, 1991, when an El Al 747 carried 1,122 passengers to Israel (1,087 passengers were registered, but dozens of children hid in their mothers' robes).

Operation Solomon:The operation set a world record for single-flight passenger load on May 24, 1991, when an El Al 747 carried 1,122 passengers to Israel (1,087 passengers were registered, but dozens of children hid in their mothers’ robes).

The operation set a world record for single-flight passenger load on May 24, 1991, when an El Al 747 carried 1,122 passengers to Israel (1,087 passengers were registered, but dozens of children hid in their mothers’ robes).

History

Operation Solomon was the third Aliyah mission from Ethiopia to Israel. Before Operation Solomon, there was Operation Moses and Operation Joshua, which were two of the other ways that Ethiopian Jews could leave before they were forced to put an end to these type of programs. In between the time when these operations came to an end and Operation Solomon began, a very small number of Ethiopian Jews were able to leave and go to Israel.[2]

In 1991, the sitting Ethiopian government of Mengistu Haile Mariam was close to being toppled with the military successes of Eritrean and Tigrean rebels, threatening Ethiopia with dangerous political destabilization. World Jewish organizations, such as the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ), and Israel were concerned about the well-being of the Ethiopian Jews, known as Beta Israel, residing in Ethiopia. The majority of them were living in the Gondar region of the Ethiopian Highlands and were mostly farmers and artisans.[3] Also, the Mengistu regime had made mass emigration difficult for Beta Israel, and the regime’s dwindling power presented an opportunity for those wanting to emigrate to Israel. In 1990, the Israeli government and Israeli Defense Forces, aware of Ethiopia’s worsening political situation, made covert plans to airlift the Jews to Israel. America became involved in the planning of Operation Solomon after it was brought to the US government’s attention from American Jewish leaders from the American Association for Ethiopian Jews that the Ethiopian Jews were living in danger. [4]

The American government was also involved in the organization of the airlift. The decision of the Ethiopian government to allow all the Falshas to leave the country at once was largely motivated by a letter from President George H. W. Bush, who had some involvement with Operations Joshua and Moses. [4] Previous to this, Mengistu intended to allow emigration only in exchange for weaponry.[1]

Also involved in the Israeli and Ethiopian governments’ attempts to facilitate the operation was a group of American diplomats led by Senator Rudy Boschwitz, including Irvin Hicks, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Robert Frasure, the Director of the African Affairs at the White House National Security Council; and Robert Houdek the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States Embassy in Addis Ababa. Boschwitz had been sent as a special emissary of President Bush, and he and his team met with the government of Ethiopia to aid Israel in the arranging of the airlift. In addition, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen also played an important role, as he was the international mediator of the civil war in Ethiopia.[5] Cohen struck a deal with Mengistu that as long as Ethiopians would have an understanding with the rebels, change their human rights and emigration policy and change their communist economic practice.[4] In response to the efforts of the diplomats, acting President of Ethiopia Tesfaye Gebre-Kidan made the ultimate decision to allow the airlift.[6] The negotiations surrounding the operation led to the eventual London roundtable discussions, which established a joint declaration by the Ethiopian combatants who then agreed to organize a conference to select a transitional government.[5] $35 million was raised by the Jewish community to give to the government in Ethiopia so that the Jews could come over to Israel. The money went to the airport expenses in Addis Ababa.[7]

Operation

The operation was overseen by the Prime Minister at the time, Yitzhak Shamir.[3] It was kept secret by military censorship.[1] Operation Solomon was sped up with tremendous help from the AAEJ. In 1989, the AAEJ accelerated the process of the Aliyah because Ethiopian-Israeli relations were in the right place. Susan Pollack, who was the director of the AAEJ in Addis Ababa, fought for Operation Solomon to happen sooner rather than later. Israel, who had a gradual plan for this operation, and the US were given a graphic report from Pollack that informed both countries of the terrible conditions that the Ethiopian Jews were living in.[4] The organization went right ahead and got transportation like buses and trucks to have the people of Gondar quickly come to Addis Ababa.[3] To get the Jews in Addis Ababa, many of the Jews that came from Gondar had to venture hundreds of miles by car, horses, and by foot.[12] Some had things taken by thieves on the way, and some were even killed. By December 1989, around 2,000 Ethiopian Jews made their way by foot from their village in the Gondar highlands to the capital and many more came to join them by 1991.[4]

In order to accommodate as many people as possible, airplanes were stripped of their seats, and up to 1,122 passengers were boarded on a single plane. May 24, 1991, also happened to be a Friday which falls on Shabbat for Jews.[13] On Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, transportation is not used. This made it easier to complete the operation. The Jewish Religious Law mentions that one can break the Sabbath traditions if it is for saving lives.[14]

Many of the immigrants came with nothing except their clothes and cooking instruments, and were met by ambulances, with 140 frail passengers receiving medical care on the tarmac. Several pregnant women gave birth on the plane, and they and their babies were rushed to the hospital.[15] Before Operation Solomon took place, many of the Jews there were at a high risk of infection from diseases, especially HIV. The Jews that were left behind had an even higher risk at the infection because the rate of it kept increasing.[4] After a few months, around 20,000 Jews had made their way over. While they were there, they were struggling for basic resources like food and warmth. They thought they would see their families right away.[3]

Upon arrival, the passengers cheered and rejoiced. Twenty-nine-year-old Mukat Abag said, “We didn’t bring any of our clothes, we didn’t bring any of our things, but we are very glad to be here.”[1]

Operation Solomon airlifted almost twice as many Ethiopian Jews to Israel as Operation Moses. The operation set a world record for single-flight passenger load on May 24, 1991, when an El Al 747 carried 1,122 passengers to Israel (1,087 passengers were registered, but dozens of children hid in their mothers’ robes). “Planners expected to fill the aircraft with 760 passengers. Because the passengers were so light, many more were squeezed in.”[16] Five babies were born aboard the planes.[1]

Between 1990 and 1999, over 39,000 Ethiopian Jews entered Israel.[2]

“Journey to the Promised Land” 1991 – Operation Solomon

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*