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

By Gadi Benezer | Go to book overview

5

THE THEME OF SUFFERING

Suffering is a major theme in the stories of the exodus from Ethiopia. In this chapter I shall consider both the physical and the psychological suffering experienced during the journey. I shall describe these within the three phases of the passage of the Ethiopian Jews: those of setting out, of the journey within Ethiopia, and the experiences in Sudan.


The phase of setting out

A major source of pain and distress which many of the adolescents relate is that of separation. The different aspects of the separation, which were experienced as painful, are discussed below.

The first and most painful aspect was the rupture of the bond with their parents. Parting with their mothers and fathers, and sometimes with other relatives with whom they maintained very close contact, was felt to be hard and the cause of great grief. They knew that it was a separation that might last for a longer period than they had ever experienced before. They were hurt at the prospect of being far away from their parents, from their love and protection. This was especially hard in view of the fact that familial relations in Ethiopia, parental in particular, are extremely intense and a person without a family feels incomplete. 1 As Daniel recounts: 'Separating from our parents, parting from our loved ones, this was very hard. We parted in tears!' And Isaiah narrates:

Separating from one's parents at the age of 15 was a very difficult thing. Hard and hurting! My parents accompanied me a bit. At that time I cried…everyone was crying. My mother-I could not separate myself from her. I could not go forward. I would turn round, see her and cry. I turned round, saw her and wow, wow!

The second aggravating aspect of the separation was the disintegration of the families. Since the family is the social unit which Ethiopians consider the most important and in which they invest the most emotion, its breaking up during the process of setting out was experienced as greatly upsetting and emotionally disruptive. Agonising decisions and impossible choices within both nuclear and

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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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