The Ethiopian Jewish Exodus: Narratives of the Migration Journey to Israel 1977-1985

By Gadi Benezer | Go to book overview

8

ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL

Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel with a heightened sense of Jewish identity and an already emerging Israeli identity. They felt that as individuals and as a community they had been tested, selected and purified through their suffering and had therefore earned their 'right' to enter Israel, God's land, and to participate in Israeli society. 1 They had developed and consolidated a self-concept of a brave and resourceful people who had successfully stood up to the many challenges of the journey. They saw their arrival in Israel as a return, as a restoration from the state of exile, and viewed themselves as a part joining its main body, to become a 'whole' again. In Israel, they believed, among their fellow Jews, they would feel more complete.


Myths in Israeli society

The above developments in self-perception corresponded to the ethos and myths central to Israeli society: the ethos of Jewishness, the myth of suffering, and that of bravery and heroism.

In extensive surveys by Simon Herman (1970, 1979), it was found that a sense of Jewish identity ('Jewishness') was very important among Jewish Israeli youngsters. In fact, it was rated second only to their overall sense of 'Israeliness'. It seems that in the Israel of the 1970s and 1980s (and probably to the present) there still existed a heightened sense of the relevance of Jewishness and the importance of its role in the lives of many Israelis. This is in spite of the fact that most Jews living in Israel (more than 80 per cent) are secular Jews (sometimes described as non-religious, non-observant or non-practising Jews). It seems, then, that the ethnic identity of Jewish Israelis is connected to their Jewish origins, even if it is felt and expressed in the form of a continuation of cultural heritage rather than religious practice. Notwithstanding, official holidays are celebrated according to the Jewish calendar and working days are arranged accordingly The Sabbath is the state's official day of rest during the week. The national airline, E1-A1, does not fly on that day, nor on the Jewish holidays, and there are streets or whole neighbourhoods which are closed for traffic on the Sabbath. In the state education system, Bible studies are obligatory for all children up to and

-180-

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The Ethiopian Jewish Exodus: Narratives of the Migration Journey to Israel 1977-1985
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Note on Transliteration and Form xii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Context of the Journey 16
  • 3 - Interviewing and Interpreting in Crosscultural Research 39
  • 4 - The Theme of Jewish Identity 60
  • 5 - The Theme of Suffering 87
  • 6 - The Theme of Bravery and Inner Strength 120
  • 7 - The Impact of the Journey 152
  • 8 - Ethiopian Jews Encounter Israel 180
  • Concluding Remarks 199
  • Appendix 203
  • Notes 206
  • Bibliography 225
  • Index 247
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