Ethopia -

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The Chag HaPischa

This festival is in the early summer near to the holiday of Shavuot. The holiday starts on the14th of the month called Megbut (Sivan) and lasts for 7 days. Before the holiday the people must clean their houses and make new dishes. During the holiday people have to eat KITA which is like a Matza, and after midnight there is a sacred ceremony. Everyone in the community gathers together in the prayer house. The 'Kessim conducts the prayers and the sacrifice of a lamb. After the sacrifice the Kessim gives everyone a piece of the meat they put it on KITA and the 'Kessim bless it.

During this week they try not to cook food that takes a long time in the cooking and not to work as usual. The week long holiday ends by making bread and beer.

The Chag Habaharn

This holiday starts on the 1st of Tishrei. This is a holiday of the sunlight and it symbolise the New Year that brings with it a lot of new light. It is also called Abrahams memorial day to remember the sacrifice of Issac. The holiday is celebrated for only one day. The people clean themselves in the river before it starts. In the evening they go to pray together and they play music along with the prayers. It is similar to Rosh Hashana.

The Chag Astaryou

This holiday starts on the 10th day of the month of Tishrei. It is a day of fasting and asking forgiveness from G-d.

The Chag Hatzeil

This hoIiday falls on the 15th of Tishrei and is called the Tzeil Holiday (Shade). The villagers start building a sukkah and host each other in their Sukkoth for 8 days.


In Ethiopia the society was generally patriarchal with tasks divided according to clear, defined gender roles.

A hierarchical structure existed within the family with the father/husband holding the senior position.

This role made him responsible for handling the family's finances and making important decisions.

The wife/mother was responsible for housework, i.e. cooking, cleaning, collecting water from the well, raising the children, etc.

The children also had clear tasks divided according to gender roles. The parents held a central role in the family and were treated with much respect by the children. The family unit included the extended family and the connection between all relatives was very strong. When troubles would arise between the parents in a family the Hashmaglitz, one of the old leaders of the community that is considered as the authority of solving problems in the family, would help them reach a compromise.

On the journey to Israel and during the absorption process, the family structure has undergone very dramatic changes. The role of the extended family has lost almost all of its meaning. This has led to a redefinition of relationships within.

Ethiopian songs

The Shva group is made up of Ethiopian children of different ages and their musical director Shlomo Gronich. He has written and composed songs taken from the stories the children and their families told to him. They are all told from the Ethiopian point of view on life in Israel and the journey from Ethiopia to Israel.

Below is the translation of two of their songs:

The journey to Israel by Haim Adisis

The moon shines high above

On my back the small food bag

The desert is underneath

You can not see its end

And my mother promises to my little brothers:

Soon, a little bit more

Move your feet up

Just one more step before Jerusalem.

Hold on moonlight

We lost our food bag

The desert is endless

You can hear jackals howling

And my mother is calming my little brothers:

Soon, a little bit further

Soon we will be free

We will not stop walking until the land of Israel

In the night robbers attacked

With a knife and a long sword

In the desert my mother lays.

The moon is my witness

And I promise to my little brothers:

Soon just a little further

The dream will come true

Soon we will be in the land of Israel

In the moonlight I can see my mothers face

Looking at me, mummy please dont go away

If she was here next to me

She could have convinced them that Im Jewish

Soon, just a little bit further

We will be free very soon

We will not stop walking till we get to the land of Israel.

Soon, just a little bit more

Move your feet up

Last few steps before Jerusalem

In the caravan

Father and mother are still dreaming about the land of Israel.

In the caravan

Father and mother love the land of Israel

In the caravan

Father is unemployed and for mother it is very hard

In the caravan

No clothes to wear and nothing to cook

In the caravan

Father and mother still dream about Israel.

In the caravan

Father and mother love Israel

In the caravan

Father believes that the hard times are temporary

In the caravan

My mothers face is full of wrinkles

In the caravan

In Ethiopia they called me Elimove

In Hebrew they call me Lidor

In school they call me Negro

But they mean black

It is not too bad my mother says, we will overcome it

In the caravan

It is just a matter of time, little by little my father says

In the caravan

Father is sad and mother is discouraged

We have no hope but we have a homeland

In the caravan

My sisters name is Lamlam, in Hebrew they call her Limor

And a year ago she was thrown out from the kindergarten

Because her colour is black

Father and mother are dreaming about the land of Israel

In the caravan

Father and mother want to be delivered from the land of Israel

In the caravan

So father will have work and Limor will return to the kindergarten

Mother will smile and my name will be Lidor

In the caravan.

Other Ethiopian music

During the last few years in Israel the awareness to the Ethiopian music started to rise. People had become more willing to listen to a different type of music. In the year 2002 Idan Richel, a young Israeli musician, produced an album of Ethiopian music, in which he included Ethiopian musicians, Ethiopian lyrics and music and also new songs he wrote to the original music. This is one of the examples from his album.

Sad Roses

Lyric: Idan Richel

Music: Tigset Datasa

There, in the mountains above our village

There is a rose garden

Tomorrow early in the morning with the sound of birds

Ill go and bring my lover a flower from the red field there

And he will know that Im his forever

I came from the mountains to our village

In my hair there are roses,

But my lover wasnt home; there was only silence between the rooms;

There, on the river next to our village.

My lover did not come back at night

He found himself a new love

And my heart broke down.

Oh, G-d make him come

Im waiting for him day and night

No, I dont have the strength for another day to come

The roses are sad because he is not here.

Operation Moses

Covert operations by Israeli operatives smuggling Ethiopian Jews into Israel had begun as early as 1980. By the end of 1982, some 2,500 Ethiopian Jews had been resettled in Israel and over the course of 1983 another 1,800 left Sudan on foot. In order to operate more quickly, Israeli agents began using Hercules transport planes each with a holding capacity of 200 immigrants per flight.

The large number of Jews crossing on foot into Sudan was taking a horrible human toll and creating dangerous conditions in the refugee camps. Israeli agents realized that a large-scale operation was necessary. Operation Moses thus began on November 21, 1984. Refugees were bussed directly from the Sudanese camps to a military airport near Khartoum. Under a shroud of secrecy established by a news blackout, they were then airlifted directly to Israel. Between November 21, 1984 and January 5, 1985, approximately 8,000 Ethiopian Jews came home to Israel.

News leaks ended Operation Moses prematurely, as Arab nations pressured the Sudanese government to refuse to allow Ethiopian Jews to cross Sudanese territory. About 1,000 Jews were left behind in Sudan, and tens of thousands more remained in Ethiopia. Babu Yakov, a community leader summed up the situation in saying that many of those left behind were the ones unable to make the dangerous trek across Sudan - women, children and the elderly. He continued, "Those least capable of defending themselves are now facing their enemies." Approximately 4,000 Ethiopian Jews died on the overland, on-foot journey through Sudan.

In 1985, then Vice President George Bush initiated a CIA follow-up called Operation Joshua to bring 800 of the 1,000 remaining in Sudan to Israel. During the next five years however, negotiations to continue operations fell on deaf ears among the Mariam administration.

In Israel, Ethiopian Jews began learning Hebrew and beginning the long process of absorption and integration into Israeli society, spending between six months and two years in absorption centres. Ethiopian immigrants began training to prepare themselves for living in an industrialised society.

The barriers erected by social and cultural differences were difficult for many to overcome. Ethiopian Jewish refugees came from a developing nation with a rural economy, into a western nation with a high-tech market economy. Integration and social equality often escaped newcomers and problems involving their religious status, employment, education and housing remain to this day. Immigration brought changes in family life, community life and social status patterns. Assimilation and acculturation with regards to religious and oral traditions, social and cultural practices and language took their toll as well. The joy of returning to "Zion" was therefore tinged for many with the anxiety and depression of departure and separation. Approximately 1,600 Ethiopian children became "orphans of circumstance," separated from their parents, brothers, sisters and extended families who were left behind.

Operation Solomon

In 1990, Ethiopia and Israel came to an agreement under which Ethiopian Jews would be allowed to leave under the auspices of family reunification. As word spread, thousands began leaving Gondar for Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian government enacted quotas based on time spent in Sudan, in Addis Ababa, ill-health, age, position within the community and other similar factors.

In 1991, the political and economic situation in Ethiopia had deteriorated as Eritrean and Tigrean rebels mounted increasingly successful offensives against the Mariam regime. In May, rebels took control of Addis Ababa and Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam fled. In late 1990, worried about what might happen to Ethiopian Jews during a political transition period, aliyah and aid workers, the Jewish Agency, Israeli government and IDF had already made covert preparations to airlift and absorb Ethiopian Jews. On Friday May 24th, as the rebels closed in, Operation Solomon began.

Over the course of 36 hours, a total of 34 El Al Hercules c-130s - with their seats removed to maximize passenger capacity - flew non-stop. 14,325 Ethiopian Jews came home to Israel, to be greeted by thousands of Israelis who gathered at temporary absorption centres, hotels and hostels to welcome their brethren. Operation Solomon
saw the rescue of twice the number of Ethiopian Jews in Operations Moses and Joshua put together.

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