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

By Gadi Benezer | Go to book overview

7

THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY

Psycho-social issues

Meaning and coping

As we have seen, there are three central themes within the Ethiopian Jews' narratives of the journey: Jewish identity, suffering, and bravery/inner strength. These themes constitute the major dimensions of meaning of the journey. It is interesting to see how these themes are brought together under one image which is developed and consolidated during the journey and which turns into a core symbol of it: that of the Israelites' Exodus out of Egypt. The Ethiopian Jews perceived that they were reliving the myth of the original Exodus of their ancestors the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt.

Shaul describes a particularly moving experience when he had already been some years in Israel, and was invited-though he was still very young-to lead the Passover ceremony for fellow Ethiopian Jews who had just arrived. A major aspect of this ceremony is the reading of the Haggada, the mythical story of the Exodus of the Israelites. At a certain point every person present is asked to feel as if he or she were the one going out of Egypt. When Shaul reached that passage he said to them: 'I don't have to explain to you what it means to go out of Egypt.' He then continued: 'In their faces I saw full agreement to that sentence. They had really felt the Exodus out of Egypt. There was a lot of excitement and emotion on their faces.' Other interviewees associated various experiences on their journey with those of the Israelites in the desert. Brehanu recalled:

When we went out of Ethiopia, the haste in which the food was prepared reminded me of my father's stories of how the Israelites prepared their matzot [unleavened bread]. I said to my father: 'This is like the Exodus out of Egypt.' He replied: 'This is true, and it is good that you recalled it. It is exactly the same.'

Marito, a 9-year-old girl, recounts how they had been safe on their way because the clouds covered them:

It was summer then, a very intense summer, yet all the time that we walked, whenever we were out of the bush, we were covered by clouds so that the sun never touched us. We said: 'God is making this happen.'

-152-

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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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