The Beauty of Israel





"Yael Angadia is a first-generation Israeli born to Ethiopian parents who made Aliyah in the early 90s. She joined The Jewish Agency's Service-year Program to spend a year volunteering with the Jewish community in Johannesburg, South Africa, working with children–teaching Hebrew and Israeli culture–to create more everlasting bonds between Israel and the diaspora." from the You Tube Channel: הסוכנות היהודית לארץ ישראל


Beta Israel ( בֵּיתֶא יִשְׂרָאֵל) - Once they were kings in a nation a half million strong. Through faith, tanacity and endurance they came to rule the mountain highlands around Lake Tana, Ethiopia. They called themselves Beta Israel  – the house of Israel – and used the Torah to guide their prayers and memories and imaginings of Jerusalem as they lived in their thatched huts in Ethiopia.The cultures around them called them Falashas – the alien ones, the invaders. Three hundred years of rule over one of Africas greatest empires did not make the Jews of Ethiopia secure.

For centuries, most of the world was unaware that a community of black Jews existed in Ethiopia. It was not until the early 1980’s, and the famine in North Africa that drove many Jews to seek an escape route in the Sudan, that the Beta Israel became widely known to the world. The Ethiopian Jews were also unaware that Jews lived anywhere else and were shocked to learn of the existence of white Jews.

The Ethiopian Jews have continued to practice Judaism for centuries. Because of their isolation the brand of Judaism they practice differs from that practiced elsewhere. The most significant difference, from a theological perspective, is that the Ethiopian Jews base their beliefs on the Written Law (the Torah) and some oral traditions passed from generation to generation. The rest of the Jewish world bases its practices on both the Written Law and the Oral Law. The Oral Law is the interpretation of the written law by rabbis that was codified by the year 400 in the Talmud. Since the Ethiopian Jews were unaware of the Oral Law, they were not familiar with it's practices, rituals and interpretations developed over the centuries by the rabbis. The Ethiopian Jews also had their own interpretations of the Written Law and therefore did not fulfill many of the biblical commandments: the wearing of prayer shawls (tzitzit), posting of mezuzot on doorposts or sounding the shofar on Rosh Hashanah for example.

The Ethiopians did not speak or write Hebrew, most are illiterate. The language of most Jews is Modern Hewbrew, the official language of Ethiopia Jews in the region of Tigre is Tigrinya. Their holy books are written in Geez, which is a language considered Holy and used also by Ethiopian Christians. Their Torah is handwritten on parchment as a book, rather than as a scroll. The Beta Israel share with other Jews the belief in one God who has chosen them to receive His law at Mount Sinai. Most of the Ethiopian Jews know little about their faith as their priests (kessim) are usually the only ones who have an extensive knowledge of the Jewish tradition and they do not generally teach others what they know.


The Jewish Agency has been instrumental in founding and building the State of Israel and continues to serve as the main link between the Jewish state and Jewish communities everywhere. This global partnership has enabled us to address the Jewish People’s greatest challenges in every generation. Today, we connect the global Jewish family, bringing Jews to Israel, and Israel to Jews, by providing meaningful Israel engagement and facilitating Aliyah. We build a better society in Israel - and beyond - energizing young Israelis and their worldwide peers to rediscover a collective sense of Jewish purpose. To learn more or find out how you can participate, please visit http://jewishagency.org


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