Israelis Mark Ethiopian Holiday
Staff Writer
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Every year on the 50th day after Yom Kippur, Ethiopian Jews mark Sigd, a unique Ethiopian Jewish fast day, with prayers and Torah readings. The holiday, which means “prostration” in Ethiopia’s Ge’ez language, marks the day when, according to the Ethiopian Jewish tradition, God first revealed himself to Moses.

On Sigd, Ethiopian Jews symbolically re-accept the Torah.

In Israel, where the majority of Ethiopian Jews have settled in the last three decades, the Ethiopian Jewish community has grown to more than 100,000.

Sigd, which became an official holiday in Israel in 2008, was marked recently, and is growing in recognition. This year, the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews offered classes that taught the traditional Sigd prayers. The classes took place at the Armon Hanatziv promenade — also known as the tayelet, or the Haas Promenade — where many Ethiopian Jews gather each year on the holiday, the walls of the Old City in the background.

The Ethiopian Jew above prays on Sigd at the promenade.

“I have learned about the leaders and traditions of your magnificent community, and I have studied about your cultural and religious wealth,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this year in an official Sigd statement. “I think that the time has come for the entire Israeli public to recognize the beauty and uniqueness of the Ethiopian community. No less important than this is to assist you in your long journey to integrate into Israeli society.”

His remarks followed a recent announcement that Israel is increasing the monthly pace of bringing Ethiopia’s remaining Jews — members of the Falash Mura group, whose forebears converted to the country’s dominant Christian religion a century ago — to Israel. All Falash Mura whom Israel recognizes as Jews will, according to schedule, be in Israel by Rosh HaShanah next year.

Last Update:

12/01/2012 - 14:12
Ethiopian Jews

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First of all, your writer misrepresented the reason for the existence of the holiday. It is a re-enactment of the renewal of the covenant at the time of the Return to Zion in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. It is traditionally a day of penitence and expresses a love of Zion, and also includes the reading of the giving of the Torah. In addition, the teaching tent for Ethiopian Jewish liturgy of the day (in the Geèz language) was operated for the seventh year in a row, by the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry. Our banner was displayed at the tent and it is our initiative. Ziva Mekkonen Degu, the director of the Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews has been an active partner in gathering the prayers and was my able teaching assistant this year, for the first time. Please print a correction. Shoshana Ben-Dor, NACOEJ-Israel Director

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