Libmonster ID: SE-305
Author(s) of the publication: F. GEORGI, D. STEP

During my last trip to Jerusalem, I happened to visit the Ethno Yisrael cafe of Ethiopian Jews, located in the very center of the city, and talked about the life of falash, or Bethe Yisrael, as they call themselves, 1 with its owner, Moshe. When he found out that I was from Russia, he immediately informed me that the great Russian poet A. S. Pushkin was also descended from his people.

In fact, there are many versions about the origin of Abraham Hannibal. So, supporters of the" Eritrean " version claim that Pushkin's ancestor was born in what is now Eritrea, in the family of one of the numerous princes in Abyssinia at that time. According to another version, the birthplace of Hannibal is the area of the Logon River, which flows through the territory of Chad and Cameroon. He was allegedly taken to Ethiopia at the age of six or eight by the Berbers, from where he was then sold as a slave to the Turks. And already through Istanbul, Abraham Hannibal came to the court of Peter the Great. Thus, there is still no convincing evidence of his "Jewish" origin.

Relatively little is known about falasha. In the encyclopedic reference book "Africa", for example, they are given only five sentences. Their past and present are connected with myths. Their origins are still unclear, and many Israelis view them with prejudice.

MOSAIC OF DIASPORAS

Modern Israeli society is a mosaic of diasporas (the so-called "edot"), each of which contributes to the political, economic and cultural life of the country. One of the small pieces of this puzzle is the diaspora of immigrants from Ethiopia. In Israel and Ethiopia, they are called "falasha". The Ethiopian diaspora in Israel, with its distinctive features and customs, is very different from the rest of the population, most of which are from Europe or Arab countries.

Anthropologically, Ethiopian Jews belong to the small Ethiopian race - their appearance combines Caucasian and Negroid features. In Israel, the Falasha are a relatively closed social group, which, however, is typical to one degree or another for some other diasporas. For centuries, the Falasha spoke one of the Agau dialects of the Kushite language family, but by the twentieth century this dialect was gradually replaced by the dominant Semitic Amharic language in the region of their residence. When they arrive in Israel, they, like all other repatriates, have to learn Hebrew.

ETHIOPIAN JEWS

Until now, there is no clear answer to the question of how a Jewish community could have emerged on the territory of Ethiopia. Adherents of Judaism, as scientists believe, have been living in this country for more than one and a half thousand years. The Falasha themselves claim to be descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Some scholars believe that Bethe Yisrael is one of the" lost " tribes of Israel, the tribe of Dan. Initially, the descendants of Dan settled in the area of modern Tel Aviv. Having come into conflict with the Philistines in the tenth century BC, this tribe was defeated and was forced to leave the inhabited territory. Part of the tribe of Dan went south, but where exactly is unknown.

The Falasha practice so-called "pre-Talmudic" Judaism, which is very different from traditional Judaism. The holy books of black Jews are the Orit (Torah) and the Old Testament in the ancient Ethiopian language geez, as well as apocryphal literature in the same language (for example, one of the versions of the Book of Enoch). Sacrifices and prayers took place in their huts-temples, called masgid (compare the Arabic Masjid - "mosque"), the religious mentor was called kes 2. Girls, like boys, were circumcised by falasha, which, however, is customary among many African peoples. Traditionally, the Falasha community in Ethiopia was a "closed" community that lived in the Lake Tana area. The situation began to change towards the end of the 17th century, when the Falasha, due to the events described below, gradually began to assimilate into the emerging Ethiopian Empire.

page 62

Historical information about the Jews of Ethiopia in the Middle Ages is very sparse and is based on occasional references to falash in Ethiopian chronicles dating back to the tenth century. Until the sixteenth century, there were independent Jewish principalities, of which, however, almost nothing is known. In the second half of the 16th century, after the Falasha came out as allies of the Muslims during the Islamic invasion led by Ahmed Gran, the Ethiopian Negus (rulers) launched punitive campaigns against them in 1580, and then in 1596.3 In the early 17th century, the Falasha participated in the Agau rebellion against the Susnyos Negus (1607-1632). In 1616. Susnyos defeated the rebels, killed many men, women, and children, and ordered the conversion of Falash to Christianity.4 The defeats of the black Jews marked the end of their independence. The Falash lands were confiscated and they were forced to lease them.5 Over time, they were allowed to return to their former religion. There were no more wars, but since then the Falasha community has been undergoing degradation.

IN THE PROMISED LAND

After the establishment of the Jewish state, the Falasha began to emigrate to Israel in the 1960s. The main peak of emigration occurred in the last decade and a half of the XX century. In 1985 and 1991, the Israeli government conducted secret operations "Moses" and "Solomon", as a result of which several tens of thousands of people from Ethiopia were flown to Israel.

Currently, more than 80,000 former Ethiopian citizens and their children born here live in Israel; Ethiopian Jews in Israel are characterized by a high percentage of natural growth, in 1986-1998 it was more than 3% per year.

Despite the fact that almost 20 years have passed since their resettlement to Israel, the process of assimilation of Ethiopian Jews into Israeli society has not yet been completed. Due to fairly widespread prejudices, the Falasha are still not recognized as a "full-fledged piece" of the mosaic of Israeli society.

Religious Jews who came from European countries are suspicious of Falash Judaism. Mixed marriages are almost never practiced in the religious community. Moreover, not all Falashas have passed the rite of confirmation of Judaism. Ethnic and cultural differences also prevent marriage among the secular population.

While there is a huge abundance of media in Israel, only two magazines are published in Amharic with the support of the Ministry of Education: one monthly, the other bi-monthly. Only one radio station, Reka, by the way, is focused mainly on Russian-speaking repatriates, as it broadcasts in Russian, and broadcasts in Amharic for two hours a day.

Only the younger generation of Falash and those who were already born in Israel have made any progress in terms of assimilation. They are more easily integrated into the life of Israeli society. These people already speak mostly Hebrew and don't wear traditional African clothing.

In addition to the problem of the relationship of the Ethiopian community with the rest of Israeli society, there is another problem - the crisis state of the community itself.

Traditional black Jewish community associations in Israel have collapsed, and their elders, who led Jewish communities in the villages of Ethiopia, have lost their social status and authority. The desire of the younger generation to integrate into Israeli society has created a cultural barrier between children who have received a modern education and their parents who live in the traditions of their abandoned homeland. However, the social and cultural assimilation of the Falash leads to the loss of their centuries-old cultural identity.


1 Bethe Yisrael (transl. from the language of gyiz or geez) - "house of Israel".

2 Kes (in transl. from the ancient Ethiopian Geez and modern Amharic languages) means priest, priest. This term usually implies a Christian priest, but also a Jewish one.

Istoriya Afrika v litsakh [History of Africa in Faces], Moscow, 2002, p. 93.

4 Ibid., p. 94.

5 Ibid., p. 95.


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