Rabbi Eliyahu Habib greets me, and while Ethiopian Jews have blended in with the local population over the centuries and are dark-skinned, he does not at first glance belong to this so-called lost tribe.
Notebook of Zdenek Novák
“I was born here in Ethiopia, but I’m from Israel and grew up there. And my family is not of the original Ethiopian Jews. Most Ethiopian Jews left for Israel in the 1990s. Only a few families remained. Some because they had a job here. But that’s for another story,” he explains.
People from elsewhere
When I ask the rabbi about his contacts with the remnants of the local Jewish community, he corrects me: “They are not called Jews here. The local community is called Beta Yisrael, but they all left for Israel. The Ethiopians called them Falasha, which means a foreigner, a person from somewhere else, because from the point of view of the locals, the Jews came here from afar.”
The traditional Jewish community continued to live in the north of Ethiopia – in the places where the first Ethiopian Christian kingdoms were established in the Middle Ages.
“No one knows when or from where the members of Beta Yisrael came here. But the community settled in Gondar in the north. Later then here in Addis. But this is historically a different community, it came from Yemen,” says my guide.
Rabbi Eliyahu is in charge of one of the more modern communities in Addis Ababa: “There are about five thousand people here in total. I mostly work with foreigners – here in Addis Ababa is our embassy, there is a representation of the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations. And Jews are also a part of them.”
“This community changes a lot every year, and I love that. It is necessary to come up with joint activities that will unite us, create a community out of us,” he describes one part of his mission. “In addition, there are also Israelis who work for various companies.”
Slave ships took over 20 million people from Africa, five million from Angola. Today a museum stands there
Read the article
Space for traditions
Rabbi Eli mainly tries to create conditions for them to be able to live in accordance with the religious rules of Orthodox Jews.
“It’s not difficult to find kosher food in Europe or Israel, but it’s more difficult here now. So I go to the market and find out if this or that is produced in accordance with our tradition. And we also have a small prayer room here,” he says.
“Now I’m also handling the paperwork and we want to expand it here. Build a synagogue, a Jewish museum about the history of all Jews in Ethiopia. It will be for people who come here from Israel, for travelers, for everyone,” Rabbi Eliyahu outlines plans for further expansion of his community.
Zdeněk Novák, and
Share on Facebook
Share on LinkedIn
Copy the url address
Copy to clipboard