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

By Gadi Benezer | Go to book overview

2

THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY

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.


ETHNOGRAPHY: BETA ISRAEL IN ETHIOPIA

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


The structure of the Jewish village

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

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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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