The Falash Mura are a subset of Ethiopian Jewry. Over the last 100 years, under economic and social pressures, some Jews converted to Coptic Christianity.
By David M. Elcott (The Jewish Chronicle) |
We met Demoz Deboch at services in Gondar, Ethiopia. It was Friday night in June of 2013 and we were surrounded by hundreds of white-clad Falash Mura, the descendants of Jews who were now living a Jewish life in neighborhoods near the Jewish compound set up by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Women stood and blessed candles chanting in Hebrew and Amharic. The service began; African melody but Hebrew words. White robes, white tzitzit and beautiful, delicate black faces. I sat among the young men. This was a dramatic moment. Israel had announced that the last Falash Mura would be flown on eagles’ wings to Israel, the end of an almost 3,000-year-old Jewish community. We were there to witness the event, to cheer on these men, women and children who were so passionately committed to Israel — to returning home.
I turned to this young man, Demoz, and spoke to him in Hebrew.
“When exactly are you leaving?” He turned his head as if in shame and replied, “Ani lo b’rishima,” I am not on the list. I was confused.
What list? And how could this young man, who wears a kippah, speaks beautiful Hebrew, keeps kosher and teaches the young kids at the compound — how could he not go to Israel? I turned to the young men on the other side and asked the same question. The same response all around me: None were “on the list.”
And so I learned a painful truth. The visiting Jewish leaders who had come for the ceremonial closing of the Jewish school were being thanked by students, teachers and youth leaders who were being left behind. And the health center, the food kitchen — even the Torah — were all being taken away, leaving 6,000 stranded Falash Mura in Gondar, as well as another 3,000 attached to the Jewish compound in Addis.
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