A Touch Of Ethiopia In Israel


You can take the Jew out of Ethiopia, but you can’t take Ethiopia out of the Jew.

Even if the Jew is in Israel.

Even if the Jew is in Jerusalem.Even if the date is the 29th of Cheshvan, which Ethiopian Jews marked for centuries as Sigd, their unique holiday that expressed their desire to live in the Promised Land. Now that they live there, thousands of them still celebrate Sigd each year, in Jerusalem itself.

In Ethiopia, they would make a pilgrimage to the nearest hilltop, which substituted for Jerusalem, for a half-day fast and prayers and dancing and a festive meal. The Ethiopians’ version of Shavuot, Sigd, which fell on Monday, marks the giving of the Torah: the word in Amharic means "prostrating oneself."

In Jerusalem, some Ethiopians meet at the Western Wall, and others congregate at Haas Overlook, a promenade that affords a clear look at the Old City. Traffic is congested in the city as busloads of Ethiopians arrive from around the country.

Led by kessim, above, Ethiopian Jewish religious leaders identified by their white turbans, members of Israel’s Ethiopian community recited prayers this week. Young Ethiopians, inset, play with balloons while older relatives pray.