WASHINGTON (JTA) – Ethiopians, Israelis and American Jews celebrated their historic and cultural ties.
Wednesday’s event at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, timed in part to mark the end of Ethiopia’s first year in its third millennium, featured an Ethiopian vegetarian buffet and a performance by an Ethiopian Jewish singer and musician who now lives in the United States. The event was co-sponsored by the Israeli Embassy, the Washington chapter of the American Jewish Commitee and other organizations.
"This is a historic gathering" that celebrates "our sense of shared history and identity," Ethiopia’s U.S. ambassador, Samuel Assefa, told the 250 guests.
Asefa and other speakers noted that the founder of the Ethiopian empire in the eighth century BCE is said to be the son of King Solomon of Israel and the Queen of Sheba.
In an interview, Assefa noted that Ethiopia and Israel also have shared political and security interests, but that events like this create "people-to-people relationships" which build a "deeper foundation." He added that while the vast majority of Ethiopian Jews have left for Israel over the past 25 years, the country welcomes them back to visit and appreciates their contribution to Ethiopian culture.
Rafael Harpaz, the director of public affairs for the Israeli Embassy, in his remarks called the link between the two countries a "unique relationship" with "so many areas of cooperation." He noted in an interview how nice it was to now feel "Ethiopian culture" in the "daily life" of Israel.