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Beta Israel - Africa's Jewish Community

God has revealed His love and grace to mankind from the beginning and continues to do so throughout th earth. God rains down grace on all mankind through the beauty and wonders of nature that encounter and experience in our daily lives. God the Father, Christ Jesus and the Person of the Holy Spirit helps us individually through the sufferings and trials of life, blessing us even when we desire no blessing. All these things are common graces. That same common grace is extended to people groups who faithful and obedient to Him!

The Ethiopian Jews, known as Beta Israel is one such example of God preserving His people. I hope the articles and videos below bring you a greater understanding of God's ongoing grace and mercy!

Africa's Secret Jewish Community: The Beta Israel

Video from Joshoid

"In the East African nation of Ethiopia, there exists an ancient Jewish community who refer to themselves as the Beta Israel. The Beta Israel have lived in the area currently divided between the modern-day Amhara and Tigray regions of Ethiopia for centuries and have been isolated from mainstream Jewish communities for at least a millennium. The origins of the Beta Israel are shrouded in mystery and myth, however, the Beta Israel believe that their ancestors were members of the tribe of Dan, which was one of the twelve tribes of Israel. According to their traditional narratives, the ancestors of the Beta Israel fled to Egypt and later migrated to Ethiopia, following the Babylonian conquest of the ancient Kingdom of Judah and the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in the year 586 B.C.E. These Israelites were welcomed by the King of Ethiopia at the time and were provided with land in the Gondar region of Northern Ethiopia. Over time, these Israelites intermarried with the local Ethiopian population, and their descendants became known as the Beta Israel. Alternative accounts state that the Beta Israel descend from members of the Israelite tribe of Dan who fled southwards from the Kingdom of Israel to Ethiopia during a civil war which took place between Rehoboam, the legitimate successor of the previous King of Israel, and Jeroboam the first, a former administrative official of the previous King. Some members of the Beta Israel community believe that their origins date back to the time of Moses and claim that they are the descendants of members of the Israelite tribe of Dan who had parted from other Israelite tribes after their exodus from Egypt and moved southwards to Ethiopia. A very small portion of the Beta Israel community believes that they are descended from members of Israelite tribes who came to Ethiopia along with Menelik the first, who was the first king of Ethiopia and is believed to have been the son of the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Today, modern scholars believe that the Beta Israel are likely descended from local Agaw people groups who were converted to Judaism in the 4th century C.E. by Jewish merchants and missionaries from the Middle East, particularly Yemen, who traveled to Ethiopia during the reign of the Aksumite empire and established a Jewish community in the city of Axum. This community came to be known as the Beta Israel and maintained the Jewish religion and traditions and passed them down from generation to generation. The Beta Israel formed several small villages throughout northern Ethiopia and lived alongside populations that were predominantly Christian and Muslim. The Beta Israel community remained largely isolated from the mainstream Jewish world until the 20th century, when a significant number of Ethiopian Jews began immigrating to Israel due to political instability and famine in Ethiopia. In the year 1984, the Israeli government launched Operation Moses, which saw the transport of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel via passenger planes and military transport planes. In later years, the Israeli government initiated Operation Solomon, which saw over 14,000 members of the Beta Israel community airlifted out of Ethiopia and brought to Israel within 36 hours. The Beta Israel primarily adhere to a branch of Judaism known colloquially as Haymanot. Haymanot Judaism is centered around the belief in one God and the importance of observing the Torah and other Jewish laws. Unlike Rabbinic Judaism, adherents of Haymanot Judaism do not follow the Talmud, but observe the Hebrew Bible as their source of law and tradition. Although adherents of Haymanot Judaism share many similar holidays with mainstream Jewish communities such as Passover and Purim, they also celebrate a few unique holidays that are not found in mainstream Judaism. One particularly prominent Haymanot holiday is Sigd, which is celebrated on the Hebrew month of Cheshvan and commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and the return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon. The Beta Israel have historically spoken Qwara and Kayla, both of which are dialects of the Agaw language group, but now primarily speak Tigrinya or Amharic. In recent years, many members of the Beta Israel community have now immigrated to the state of Israel and have widely adopted Hebrew as their daily language, however, they still maintain a connection to their Ethiopian heritage and culture, particularly through the use of Ethiopian languages in their homes and communities. Timestamps: Introduction - 00:00:00 Hypothetical Origins - 00:00:20 Immigration to Israel - 00:02:46 Religion - 00:03:27 Religious Holidays - 00:03:51 Languages - 00:04:18" from video introduction

The Beta Israel: The Return of a Lost Tribe

The history of Ethiopian Jewry goes back millennia. For almost 2,000 years, the Beta Israel had their own community – even their own kingdom and army – in the Simien Mountains region of Ethiopia.

"Two words sum up the dramatic ongoing saga of a lost tribe’s return to the Jewish world: Miracle and Mission.

Let’s begin with the Miracle. The history of Ethiopian Jewry goes back millennia. For almost 2,000 years, the Beta Israel had their own community – even their own kingdom and army – in the Simien Mountains region of Ethiopia. Their main city was Gondar, and their king was said to be a descendant of the kohen gadol, the High Priest Zadok. Their Golden Age was from 850 to 1270 CE, when the community flourished and they lived autonomously.

While the Beta Israel was cut off from the rest of the Jewish world – indeed, they believed they were among the only Jews left on earth after the Temple’s destruction! – slowly, word of their existence began to filter out. Marco Polo and Benjamin of Tudela wrote of the existence of an independent Jewish nation, a “Mosaic kingdom lying on the other side of the rivers of Ethiopia.” Eldad Ha-Dani, a ninth-century merchant and traveler, told at length the story of the Lost Tribes of Israel, including that of the ancient tribe of Dan, who lived in Kush, the “land of gold,” mentioned in the first book of the Torah. They had the five books of Moses (Chumash), he reported, but not the Talmud we have today..." from the article: The Beta Israel: The return of a lost tribe

Təʾəzazä Sänbät, a work from the Greater Betä Ǝsraʾel Canon, translated and cantillated in Masoretic Hebrew

"The Betä Ǝsraʾel community of Ethiopia has an extensive and complex collection of scripture, known as the Mäṣḥäf Ḳədus (literally: Holy Books). Outside of the Orit (or Octateuch — the holiest part of the Mäṣḥäf Ḳədus, including the Five Books, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth) they also preserve all of the books of the Septuagint and many deuterocanonical books, as well as books unique to their community. One of these books has already been posted here. But this is another, often considered the crown jewel of the Betä Ǝsraʾel-specific books. Təʾəzazä Sänbät, or the Commandments of the Sabbath, is a unique and fascinatingly eclectic work, combining Enochic and aggadic material with an almost kabbalistic personification of Shabbat, and influence from Islamic and Christian texts. Attributed to Abba Ṣabra, a famed 15th-century convert to Judaism, it is a compilation of texts meant to be studied and considered on Shabbat, alongside unique and striking visualizations of divine cosmology, heaven and hell, and midrashim found nowhere else. The English text here was translated directly from the Gəʿəz by well-known Ethiopic scholar and Holocaust survivor Wolf Leslau (z”l), and the Hebrew was translated and cantillated by the editor. While the editor has access to the Gəʿəz text recorded by Joseph Hálevy, many scholars consider his text to be unreliable, and Leslau’s translation is based on MS d’Abbadie, 107, fol. 105r° ff., a manuscript at the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris. Anyone who has access to a high-quality transcription of said manuscript, or who would like to commission another work, should contact the editor through his website at or email him at his work email. We have added section numbers to the work corresponding to the nineteen sections Wolf Leslau describes in his “Synopsis” to Təʾəzazä Sänbät. (Find below, in brackets.) Note: the divine name in the Hebrew text is vocalized יֶהִוַהֵ. This is meant to reflect the traditional Gəʿəz epithet in place of the Divine Name, ʾƎgziʾäbəḥer. When chanted aloud, it is intended by the editor that ʾƎgziʾäbəḥer is used where other texts might use Adonai.

An Introduction to the Təʾəzazä Sänbät (Wolf Leslau 1951).." from the article: Təʾəzazä Sänbät, a work from the Greater Betä Ǝsraʾel Canon, translated and cantillated in Masoretic Hebrew

Ethiopian Handwritten Coptic Manuscript
Ethiopian Handwritten Coptic Manuscript

African tribe descended from Jews, DNA tests show

"Tribe's customs similar to Jewish ones, including male circumcision, ritual animal slaughter, abstaining from eating pork and wearing skull caps.

DNA tests on the Lemba tribe of central Zimbabwe and northern South Africa show that they are of Jewish or Semitic origin, the BBC reported.

The tribe's customs are similar to Jewish ones, including male circumcision, ritual animal slaughter, abstaining from eating pork and wearing skull caps. And their oral tradition claims they are descended from seven male Jews who left Israel 2,500 years ago and married African women, according to the BBC.

Their prized religious artifact is a replica of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant known as the ngoma lungundu, meaning "the drum that thunders," the BBC reported. Their sacred prayer language is a mixture of Hebrew and Arabic.." from the article: African tribe descended from Jews, DNA tests show

Beta Israel
Beta Israel

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