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August 31, 1979 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1979-08-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

6

Friday, August 31, 1919

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

r

7:1ANNY CHUDNOW'S

BETTER BUSINESS

EQUIPMENT CO.

DESKS
FILES
69.95
—40EI CASH REGISTER

Ethiopian Jews Remain a 'Community in Peril'

• (Continued from Page 1)

with those in Gemara and
Midrash are also found in
their writings.
The Falashas have
priests claiming descent
from Aaron, although any-
one of good character, well-
versed in the Bible and
prayers, can assume the
priestly functions. They

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also have monks and nuns
living in abstinence, who
dedicate their lives to the
service of the Creator. Their
prayers are in the Ge'ez
language, and they rigor-
ously observe Shabat, and
pay meticulous attention to
the laws of uncleanness and
purity, which is one reason
why they are not affected by
the venereal diseases which
ravage most tribes in
Ethiopia.
They are monogamous,
with adultery the only jus-
tification for divorce. As
well as circumcising their
sons on the eighth day after
birth, they follow African
custom in also circumcising
their daughters, although
this is done by women and
there is no fixed day or age.
The Falashas in Ethiopia
live in their own small vil-
lages of round huts covered
with conical straw roofs, in
beautiful highland' country
north of Lake Tana and the
Nile headwaters. They are
mainly farmers, but do not
own their land and must
hand over as much as 75
percent of their produce to
the landowners. They also
engage in crafts — pottery,
spinning, weaving, bas-
ketry and blacksmithing —
the last making them feared
and hated by neighboring
primitive tribes who believe
that this means they pos-
sess "the evil eye."
However, the Falashas
are a community in peril.
For the past 400 years,
while they remained iso-
lated and unknown to most
of world Jewry, they have
suffered poverty, discrimi-
nation, disease and pres-
sures to "convert or die."
Last January, an Is-


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EIGHT NINE ONE EIGHTEEN EIGHTEEN

A Falasha youth
prunes a tree on an Is-
raeli farm.

raeli government official
announced that 2,000
Falashas have been kil-
led or wounded by rebels
opposing the central
Ethiopian government to
which they remained
loyal. Another 7,000 have
been evicted from their
homes, many sold into
slavery or living as starv-
ing refugees on the out-
skirts of Gondar, the
former capital of
Ethiopia.
They are extremely vul-
nerable since government
soldiers are engaged in re-
mote Eritrea and in the
Ogaden. Rebel armies have
vowed to wipe them out be-
cause they refused to join
their insurrection. Even the
remnants of Haile Selassie's
army have been persecut-
ing them — the craftsmen
sold into slavery, the
women raped and mutilated
and the men castrated.
Recently, in Israel, the
small Falasha community
demonstrated in front of the
Knesset, pleading for help.
Appeals also went out to
English and American
Jewish organizations.
The Association of Ethio-
pian Jews in Israel claim to
be outraged by "the indif-
ference" of the Israel gov-
ernment, the Jewish
Agency and the Jewish
organizations around the
world, to the plight of the
Falashas in Ethiopia.
In Jewish tradition and
Halakha there is not and
never was a "race" or
skin color concept. In
fact, a black American
psychologist, Dr. Garcia,
who spent 15 months in
Israel doing a study on
this subject, concluded
that any prejudices in Is-
rael were cultural only —
that is, veteran Israelis
vs. new immigrants; reli-
gious vs. secular;
Ashkenazim vs. Sephar-
dim, etc. Israeli law
explicitly bans racial dis-
crimination.
Because of this, the ab-
sorption of the Falashas in
Israel should be uniquely
successful, and to a certain
extent it has been. There
are now 300 Falashas in Is-
rael, and all the adults are
employed. They do army

service like all other Jews,
10 are studying in univer-
sities, one became a rabbi
(receiving "smiha" from
Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef),
none have committed any
crimes, and none have left
Israel.
Why then did the desper-
ate Falasha community
demonstrate in front of the
Knesset in January? They
were pleading for help to get
their families out of
Ethiopia, insisting that no
preparations were being
made either for their arrival
or their absorption.
It is claimed that there
has been a veil of secrecy,
what they call "a conspiracy
of silence." When Emperor
Haile Selassie was in power,
they were told not to make
noise and let the Israel gov-
ernment handle things
quietly so as to keep rela-
tions between the two coun-
tries friendly. Now, with the
military government in
power, they say they are
still asked not to rock the _
boat.
There are 28,000
Falashas left in Ethiopia,
living under frightful
conditions. Before 1975,
the government and the
rabbinate did not offi-
cially proclaim them as
Jews, and thus they
could not be helped to
immigrate until then.
Meanwhile, the military
government seized
power and does not let

any of its citizens leave
the country.

In Israel, a government
spokesman maintains that
a great deal is being done,
but of necessity it must be
discreet. This applies both
to efforts to help the
Falashas come to Israel and
to aid for the refugees.

Yehudit Huebner, direc-
tor of the aliya department
in the Ministry of the Inter-
ior, stated that no Falasha
has ever been refused a visa

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