For the Jews of Ethiopia, the exodus to Israel is finished

Posted on August 27, 2013


On August 28, the return – Aliyah – Ethiopian Jews in Israel will end. While the last Falasha prepare their cases for thousands of others, access to Israel is now uncertain.

On the edge of the road, a few kilometers from Gondar in northern Ethiopia, a handful of kids hail 4X4 few tourists who venture despite the heavy rain. Two large panels placed on the asphalt wear a blue Star of David and announce the “village of Falasha”. But Ethiopian Jews – the Falashas – that lived there are still twenty years Woleka village, leaving only the cemetery and craftsmanship. For the rest, it is the Orthodox who have “taken the business” of tourism, mainly from Israel.

And if citizens of the Jewish state continues to flow in Gondar, the historic capital of the Jews of Ethiopia, the reverse will be true soon. August 28, Aliyah (the right of return of Jews in the holy land) is terminated for the Falasha. Thirty-eight years after the recognition of the Jewishness of Israel.

Genealogy and bitterness

Blessed are those who have managed to prove to the Jewish Agency – the government agency responsible for immigration to Israel – their Jewishness before that fateful date. This is the case of Bogalech Kasi and Kimen Addis. For sixty years, both, they will finally be able to join their children, they have been separated for seven years. They were married in the Orthodox, who were forced to convert to be allowed to go with them. In Hebrew, they know that “shalom”, “hello”. They know nothing of Israel, not even place on a map. Slowly, they head to the prayer room for the morning service. Fully wrapped in their gabi, these large traditional veils worn by Orthodox, they struggle to hide the Christian cross tattooed on their foreheads. Whatever, they pulled the winning ticket.

* Solomon is a professor at the Beta Israel school. He speaks fluent Hebrew and knows the fingertips culture of the country to which he aspires. But it will only watch others go from the tarmac. Big, strong, sad look and fixed it regrets not being able to obtain a visa, because they could not prove exactly the religion of his ancestors. “Who are they to say who is a Jew or not? When Hitler slaughtered them, he did not ask them before if both parents were Jewish,” loose Solomon embittered.

Complex issue

For Asher Seyum, Israeli consul in Gondar, the issue is more complex. “Establish the Jewishness of someone is not easy. It must be able to prove his genealogy. Yet over time, the Falashas were mixed with Christians, bathed in Orthodox culture, and all families contenders initially are now interfaith. It is for this reason that the Aliyah ends. They are no longer Falasha but Falash Mura (Ethiopian Jews converted to Christianity, Ed). ” Solomon is not an isolated case, and although no reliable figures exist, they would still be between 10,000 and 15,000 Ethiopian Jews in Gondar, including nearly 8,000 remain after August 28. After this date, immigration will be case by case.

Necho, voice raised and shoulders square already despite his 14 years, said his family was waiting “for seven years for permission to leave.” Some have been waiting for more than 20 years. Soon Netcho will sail for Israel. His friend Temeskel will not have this opportunity. “Where can I go to learn Hebrew and pray after I do not know if I can migrate one day. This is terrible. Some come to take drugs to khat. They are depressed. Others reject same religion, thinking that God has abandoned them, “said the young man, bundled up in a T-shirt printed with a Star of David. But he knows his lesson by heart, “Israel is a holy land, developed with a powerful army in which I would commit myself.” But this lesson will serve him soon. In two weeks, the Beta Israel school has closed its doors. As the synagogue and the help center, where the last bound adults receive some painfully basic Hebrew.

Anthony Galindo and Justine Boulo in Gondar

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