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

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

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

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


Between 1977 and 1985, some 20,000 Ethiopian Jews left their homes in Ethiopia and - motivated by an ancient dream of returning to the land of their ancestors, 'Yerussalem' - embarked on a secret and highly traumatic exodus to Israel. Due to various political circumstances they had to leave their homes in haste, go a long way on foot through unknown country, and stay for a period of one or two years in refugee camps, until they were brought to Israel. The difficult conditions of the journey included racial tensions, attacks by bandits, night travel over mountains, incarceration, illness and death. A fifth of the group did not survive the journey.This interdisciplinary, ground-breaking book focuses on the experience of this journey, its meaning for the people who made it, and its relation to the initial encounter with Israeli society. The author argues that powerful processes occur on such journeys that affect the individual and community in life-changing ways, including their initial encounter with and adaptation to their new society. Analysing the psychosocial impact of the journey, he examines the relations between coping and meaning, trauma and culture, and discusses personal development and growth.


A growing dissatisfaction with quantitative methods over the past two decades has brought about a 'quiet methodological revolution' in the social sciences (Denzin and Lincoln 1994; Vidich and Lyman 1994; also see Richardson 1996; Boyatzis 1998). Social methodologists (R. Turner 1974; Filstead 1970; Brenner 1981) believe that the measurements of social phenomena directed by the paradigm of 'causal laws' fail to describe adequately the social world, and therefore most social research remains irrelevant to people's experiences (Yanai 1986). They believe that social scientists distort the empirical world by trying to make reality fit their methods. As Filstead (1970) writes: 'Most sociologists seem to have forgotten that reality exists only in the empirical world and not in the methods sociologists use to measure it' (cited in Yanai 1986:66). in 1971 Goffman dismissed the scientific claims of positivism altogether: 'A sort of sympathetic magic seems to be involved, the assumption being that if you go through the motions attributable to science then science will result. But it hasn't' (Goffman 1971:xvi, cited in Vidich and Lyman 1994:40).

Speaking of sociological methods, Robert Nisbet (1977) recalls:

While I was engaged in exploration of some of the sources of modern sociology [it occurred to me] that none of the great themes which have provided continuing challenge and also theoretical foundation for sociologists during the last century was ever reached through anything resembling what we are to-day fond of identifying as 'scientific method'. I mean the kind of method, replete with appeals to statistical analysis, problem design, hypothesis, verification, replication, and theory construction, that we find described in textbooks and courses on methodology.

(cited in Vidich and Lyman 1994:24)

This growing discontent with the positivistic and statistically oriented methods, and with their claim for exclusivity in 'doing science' was felt in the various disciplines of the social sciences. Thus, for example, by the 1970s a dissatisfaction established itself concerning epistemological claims as well as the latent or secretive political uses of the mainstream perspectives of both sociology and

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