Since this study deals with the migration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, I wish in this chapter to familiarise the reader with the Ethiopian Jewish people and with the historical context of their emigration. I shall, therefore, briefly discuss their existence in the Ethiopian context as well as their relations with Jews in other parts of the world and with the state of Israel.
In this ethnographic account I choose to focus on certain aspects of Ethiopian Jewish society in the twentieth century, namely the structure of their villages, their material culture, the life cycle and their informal and formal education. Some other aspects of their way of life will be included in the relevant points along this study (e.g. the various Jewish communities in Ethiopia, their religious leadership and leadership patterns within the society, communication codes, and so forth). 1
A typical Beta Israel village is located on top of a hill or on a mountainside, always near a water source. There are four types of structures: dwellings (tukul), a synagogue (masgid, ce'lot bet), isolation huts for ritually impure women (mergam bet) and sheds for livestock.
The typical dwelling (tukul) is a round hut with a conical roof. The walls are made of branches reinforced with clay and ashes to prevent fires. These huts are six to twelve metres in diameter, depending on the social standing of the owner, and the walls are about three metres high. The pillar supporting the roof divides the space into living quarters and areas for cooking and storage. All along the walls there are wooden benches for sleeping, covered with animal skins and blan-kets. The hut has one door and no windows and is furnished with a straw table, stools, hooks along the walls (to hang up belongings) and a number of very large containers. Food and kitchen implements are kept near the fire, which is used for