THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY
Jewish identity is a major theme within the young people's narratives. It is experienced by the individuals in relation to themselves and their group as well as in relation to non-Jews. I shall attempt to discuss these experiences and their manifestation in four separate phases of the journey:
|1 The phase of decision, which includes the context in which the decision to set out occurred and, at its centre, the motivation for migration or the reasons for flight. |
|2 The phase of setting out, during which Ethiopian Jews actually left their homes and villages. Here I shall examine how Jewish identity and relations with their neighbours determined the type of leave-taking. |
|3 The phase of the walking journey, during which they were trekking within Ethiopia towards the border with Sudan. I shall examine whether their passage was influenced in any way by their Jewishness, i.e. beyond the experience of regular trekkers or even of other Ethiopian refugees fleeing to Sudan. |
|4 The phase in Sudan. Here I shall consider the Sudanese experience, trying to assess what were the major aspects of that phase and whether the fact of being Jews coloured their time in Sudan in any significant way. In particular, I shall try to explore the extent to which their Jewish identity was a risk or a resource for survival within the context of Sudan. |
The phase of decision
Jewish identity played a crucial role in the decision to migrate. This decision is described as a fulfilment of the ancient dream of the exiled person to return to Jerusalem. The Jews of Ethiopia perceived the return to Israel as a rectification of the situation of exile. They felt themselves to be a part returning to the whole, a drop, a stream or a river that will join the sea, so that no one could ever distinguish between river and sea. Henceforth, they believed that once in Israel, among their brethren, they would feel more 'complete'.