LOS ANGELES (Jun. 26)
An increasingly desperate portrait of conditions facing Ethiopian Jewry in the northern Gondar province was presented here by Simcha Desta, an Ethiopian who recently fled his homeland. He delivered the keynote address at a rally marking the International Week of Solidarity with Ethiopian Jewry attended Sunday by some 200 community activists.
Desta, who escaped Ethiopia after months of imprisonment and torture, portrayed a worsening situation of the plight of the Ethiopian Jews, known as the Falashas. He said Jewish synagogues have been closed and the local religious leaders are subjected to continued threats of arrest and violence. These factors coupled with the severe drought affecting the region and the increased clashes between the military and rebel groups, have caused many Jews to flee the region.
“We are Beta Yisrael,” he declared. “We have used all of our wisdom and knowledge to survive. Our faith in God is strong, our spirit and our dream to go to our homeland Israel will not die. As I speak today many Jewish people in Ethiopia and many more in refugee camps continue to suffer, to sleep on the ground without blankets, to go hungry and without water, to be deprived of their rights to practice their Jewish religion. We need the help of our Jewish brothers around the world and from everyone concerned with human rights.”
Mayor Tom Bradley, in a message to the rally, lauded Israel’s efforts in rescuing Ethiopian Jews. “The life saving rescue of thousands of people who wish nothing more than to practice their religion in peace and comfort serve as a model to countries throughout the free world. Perhaps one day there will be no more need to rescue people from tyranny and oppression; until that day comes, I pledge to you my continued support ….”
Among the sponsoring organizations of the event were the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, the American Association for Ethiopian Jews, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Union for Saving Ethiopian Jewry.