Background: The Jewish community in Ethiopia goes back many thousands of years. There are different theories on the origins of Ethiopian Jews. Some say they are descendants of a union between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The Redbaz (Rabbi David ben Zimra), an important posek of the 16th century, wrote that the Ethiopian Jews were descendants of the tribe of Dan, and that they may be accepted as full Jews provided that they learn Jewish laws and customs.
In Ethiopia the Jews are called “Falashas” – a derogatory word meaning “separate” (which also happens to be the meaning of the Hebrew word “Kadosh”) The Ethiopian Jews call themselves Beta Yisrael. For many centuries they lived in the Northern part of the county called Gondar. They were involved mainly in agriculture and crafts and began to suffer persecution in the 1600’s when their lands were confiscated by the Christian rulers.
The Beta Yisrael observe all the laws mentioned in the written Torah, such as Shechita and Shabbat, but until recently were not familiar with the Mishna or the Talmud. Their Tanach is written in “Geez”, an ancient Ethiopian language, and only upon their arrival in Israel have they been exposed to Hebrew.
As early as 1921, Rav Kook wrote of the need to save these Jews from persecution, but little action was taken. Finally, in 1985, as the Beta Yisrael suffered the effects of civil war and famine in Ethiopia, Israel launched the secret mission “Operation Moses” which rescued over 8000 Jews. News of the mission was leaked to the public and the operation had to be stopped. Finally in May 1991, “Operation Solomon” was launched. Over 14,000 Jews were airlifted from Addis Ababa to Israel within the course of two days. These Jews left all their money and possessions behind and crowded into converted planes with no seats. They traveled to a completely foreign county with hope and prayers. There are still hundreds of Jews left or lost in Ethiopia.
Game 1: Choose your Own Adventure
This game is a role playing game. Please cut out the cards and make multiple copies of each. Place them in various stations around the Beit Knesset. Make some sort of map to show where each station is. (you can use the map of Ethiopia to draw on, as an added shtick. This way the chanichim will see the struggle and distance that the Jews in Ethiopia went through in order to reach Israel as they play the game.) Encourage the Madrichim to make the kdis think and discuss each solution. Divide the kids up into small groups and have each one accompanied by a madrich.
It is the late 70’s. You are an Ethiopian Jew, part of Beta Israel. Things are not so great in Ethiopia. Your neighbors believe that you have an evil spirit, buda, that causes things to go wrong (crops die, no rain.) They call you falasha, stranger. Your are poor, and there is a famine in the land. There is little food and water and much of it is contaminated Furthermore, due to the political situation, the government often arrests members of Beta Israel. You are being blamed on all sides.
You have heard from other Falashas that it is possible to walk to Jerusalem. You know that in the Orit, the Torah, it is written that you should go to Israel. You and your family decide to go. You take with you food, water, and the clothing on your back. In addition you take some money and jewelry to bribe people on the way. You then start the long trek to Sudan, your connecting point to Jerusalem.
(please go to STATION #2)
You have been back in your village for three weeks regaining your strength. Now you and your family have decided to leave Ethiopia again. You will learn from your previous mistakes and give more thought to your decisions.
Continue, avoiding your mistakes (please go to STATION #2)
You have been walking for a couple of days in the hot desert sun. You have an opportunity to get a guide who says he will lead you to Sudan and fetch food for you. He looks honest buy you do not know if he can be fully trusted. He could turn you over to the shiftas (bandits) the government, or he might take they money and run. But it could be just as dangerous going on by yourself. When trying to buy food from villagers, they may realize that you are Falashas and attack you. And there is always the danger of yoru boys being adducted and forced into joining the army.
Should you send your guide to a nearby village hoping he will return (please go to STATION #3)
OR should you send a family member to a nearby village and hope s/he will not be caught? (Please go to STATION #4)?
You have decided to trust the guide. You give him money to buy food for you and your family. Your guide comes back with food but much less than you expected. You begin to worry that he is only as trustworthy as the amount of money you have. You want to abandon the guide, but the road is getting harder, and the guide knows the best path to Sudan.
Do you continue wit the guide (please go to STATION #5)
OR do you abandon the guide and continue on your own (please go to STATION #4)?
Having left the guide behind, you send one son and one daughter from your family to a nearby village to buy food. The children are nervous. As they pay a villager for some food, he realizes that they are Falashas. The villager begins to throw stones and scream “Buda, buda, get out of here.” He drives them out of the village.
Continue to STATION #16
You have been walking for two weeks. One morning you wake up and your guide is gone. There goes your money and your leader. While you are gathering the family to start n the journey you are ambushed by shiftas, bandits. Your two-year-old sister is killed, and the shiftas steal all of your family’s food. But you still have water, some money, and jewelry that you hid.
Do you go back to your village (please go to STATION #1a)
OR do you continue onward (please go to STATION #6)?
As you are walking, you and your family meet up with other Falashas. They ask you if you would like to join their group. There are advantages and disadvantages to joining them. Joining them would provide you with more provisions (food, guides, etc.) and they know the path better then you, and you would have a smaller chance of getting lost. On the other hand, being in a larger group may slow you down and there is a greater risk of being caught.
Do you take them up on their offer and continue with them (please go to STATION #7)
OR do you and your family continue on by yourselves (please go to STATION #8)?
You continue with the other group. You are worried because food is scarce. But the other Falashas know where food has been hidden. They tell you that the food was placed there by the Mossad. You are happy that other Jews are concerned and looking out for you.
Go on to the next station (please go to STATION #18)
The government catches you and your family. You are all tortured and sent back to your village. Sorry. (Please go back to STATION 1a.)
After traveling for three weeks and three hundred miles on foot, you finally reach the Sudanese refugee camp. You and your family are sick from eating so little during your travels, but you are happy to be so much closer to fulfilling the prophecies, so much closer to Jerusalem.
The refugee camp is made up of people from all over, not just Falashas. Many hate Falashas just as much as the Ethiopians in Gondar. You have heard rumors that some Falashas who had admitted to being Jews have even been poisoned.
Do you pretend that you are not from Beta Israel and hide amongst the other refugees hoping that somehow you will be allowed to go to Israel (Please go to STATION #11)
OR do you admit to being Jews but risk persecution by other refugees in the camp? (please go to STATION #10)?
You are happy that you have admitted to being from Beta Israel. There are many other Falashas in the camp who are waiting to go to Jerusalem as well. Every day you pray that this will be the day that God takes you to Israel. The refugee camp is filled with people and there is little food. Water must be brought in by donkey because there is no well in the Falasha section of the camp. Many people have died because this water carries germs and has infected many of those who were already weak.
You hear about a plan by a French volunteer, Concolato, to take Falasha to Jerusalem. He is planning to airflift Jews from Khartoum, but in order to go there you need special authorization from the Amnul Dawla, the Sudanese State Security. Concolato is planning on sneaking Jews across.
Do you go with Concolato, risking being sent back to the camp or imprisoned (please go to STATION #12)
OR do you stay n the camp and wait for a better option (please go to STATION #13)?
You have decided to pretend that you are not a Jew but rather a regular refugee. As such you see that leaving the Sudan is going to be very difficult. Every country has some sort or requirement for immigrants and so far you have not met any of them. All around you people are starving and many have died. You and your family wonder if identifying yourselves as Jews would have been better. It seems that your dream of walking to Jerusalem has been halted.
Here ends your journey from Gondar. Ask your madrichim what happens next.
You have decided to go along with Concolato’s plan, despite the risks. While there were some tense moments on the bus to Khartoum, you and your family made it safely. Before you, you see something out of the Orit, the Torah. You realize that your dream, to go on the wings of eagles to Jerusalem is coming true. As you board the plane with your family you think “L’Shana Habaah b’Yerushalayim…” You are witnessing the beginning of the redemption of Am Israel, through your own actions.
Ask your madrichim what to do next.
You have decided not to go with Concolato because of the risks involved. But as time passes, and food becomes scarcer, you and your family wonder if you should have gone with him. You hear of another group, an independent rescue mission that is leaving for Jerusalem. You also hear about a Mossad mission which has been organized to take Beta Israel to Israel.
Do you go with the independent mission (pleas go to STATION #14) OR do you go with the Mossad mission (please go to STATION #15) OR do you return to your village because of the hardships in the camp? (Please go to STATION #1a.)?
You have decided to go with the independent rescue mission. Everything seems to be going well. You are bussed to a plane, happy that you will finally see Jerusalem. But someone tips the Sudanese police off and everyone is arrested. Unfortunately, no one has proper travel documents and everyone is in the Sudan illegally. You and your family are sent back to your village (please go to STATION 1a)
You have decided to go with the Mossad group to Jerusalem. You are lucky; they are successful. As you enter the plane, which will take you to Israel, you think about what the elders have taught, of flying to Jerusalem on the wings of eagles. You know that when you land you will be in Israel and will learn about your new life in the land of the Jews.
Ask your madrich what to do next.
The daughter is hit by the rocks. She has lost a lot of blood, and the son carries her back to your family. Your family has little food left, and now an injured daughter.
Do you wait till she regains strength and then continue (please go to STATION #17)
OR do you go back to your village in Ethiopia (Please go to STATION 1a)?
You decide to continue, supporting your injured, but the burden is heavy. You continue walking, through the desert to Sudan. One day, as you are walking you meet up with another group of travelers. They are also Falashas, and they ask you if you would like to travel with them.
You and your family weigh the pluses and minuses of doing so. If you travel with more people, it is less likely that the shiftas, robbers, will attack your group. But it is also more likely that you will be spotted by the government and that could mean serious trouble for you, since it is illegal to try and reach “racist Israel.” And there is also the danger that your boys will be conscripted into the army.
Do you continue with the other group (please go to STATION #7) OR do you go on by yourself (please go to STATION #9)?
You have been traveling with these other Falashas for over a week. Your water supply is running low. You replenish your water jugs from a nearby well. Unfortunately the water is tainted and 25% of your group perishes.
Do you go back to your village (please go to STATION 1.a) OR do you go onward (please go to STATION #9)?
Have a game prepared for those who finish more quickly, to take up time while the others are completing the game. This game should take up a large amount of the time in snif.
Game 2: Red Light, Green Light
All Chanichim line up on one side of the room. One person is IT and goes to the other side. He faces away from the group and says “Red light, green light, 1,2,3” and then turns around. Meanwhile, all the others are trying to approach IT with the eventual goal of tagging him/her. However, if when IT turns around, s/he sees someone moving, that person must return to the wall and begin again
Explanation: In this game, there is a LAW OF RETURN- if you get caught, you go back to the beginning. Israel has its own Law of Return – any Jew may return to Israel and instantly become an Israeli citizen. In America, you must wait at least 5 years to become a citizen. But in Israel, any Jew can move there and instantly become a citizen. That is because it is our homeland, no matter where we are. Israel was created to give all Jews and homeland and a place where they could be safe.