Breaking News: Addis-Ababa’s Last of The Traditional Synagogues Shut Down

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Outside the congregation Bete-Avraham in Kechene village, Addis-Ababa
Imagine a life of a foreigner in a place of your birth. Imagine a place where hiding your identity is a way of life. Imagine isolation from your people such that they no longer recognize you and they live so far that they are not even aware of your existence. A place where teachers refuse to teach you, a government refuses to provide you with services and a local population that wants you to forsake your only comfort, your only constant, your only protection, your God and your faith. Imagine that final hope, that sole protection that only comfort of your life and link to the universe and to all of your forefathers is taken away and there is no one to left to help you.

This is daily life in the community Bete-Avraham, where last month the last of the traditional synagogues of Addis-Ababa had been forcibly taken over by the Christian Church and permanently shut-down.  As of now, few people know that Ethiopian Jews exist, let alone they are suffering increasing persecution. There is a common misconception that all the Jews of Ethiopia are now in Israel, after thousands were flown to Israel in the eighties to be rescued from famine and oppression in what was to be called Operation Moses.  But many stayed behind, and those living near Addis-Ababa, although fortunate to have survived famine and drought, live in relative obscurity and struggle against an oppressive and anti-Semitic culture that forces them to hide their true identity in order to gain access to education and even a proper place for burial.

The was once a time in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and most populace city, when there were 44 synagogues, hidden in the narrow cobblestone streets of old amidst the mud houses of the surrounding hills. By the time I visited the Kechene village last year during rainy August, that number was down to about a dozen.  Now, there are none.   Because of the proximity to the capital, the Jews of Addis-Ababa have been living in absolute poverty with minimal assistance and no chance to move to Israel. Living among Christian and Muslim neighbors, and are forced to live as the Moranos and Conversos of Spain, pretending to be Christian to avoid discrimination, but this defensive mechanism renders them nearly invisible to the outside world, and prevent them from getting help from Israel.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Share this story, raise awareness. Together we can help my friend Sentayehu and his community put pressure on the Ethiopian government and courts to open the Synagogues and allow Jewish people of Ethiopia attain freedom to worship and equal rights under the law.

Sign the petition to ask the Ethiopian government to recognize Jewish Ethiopians’ right to equal rights.

Scroll down to read the full article.

 Please share this story and voice your support to the Ethiopian North Shewa Zionist Organization.
 

Brief history of the Jewish Ethiopian people of Addis-Ababa in Samuel’s own words:
Mimi Yeshewamebrat Lij Gezahegne
f October 13(ጥቅምት 3), 1624(??)The Christians caught them Near Mehal Meda Area and slaughtered more than 10,000 Jews including 400 women who were inside their Purification hat (Tuquto Bet).These victimed people finally got inside the territory of Shewan Empire form the Bete Abraham Jewish community/Morete/North Shewa Baleij Jewish community and always remember that day as a black day called Yesha Mountain Massacre. Elders cried a lot on this day remembering that bad time not to come again and give advice for their children to be careful on hiding their identity. Officially today is a mourn day in our community.
አይ አንቺ የየሻ ተራራ ታሪክሽ ብዙ ነው፡፡
 
 


Read the first article about Bete-Avraham at 

http://samthejewishguy.com/?p=129

   The was once a time in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and most populace city, when there were 44 synagogues, hidden in the narrow cobblestone streets of old amidst the mud houses of the surrounding hills. By the time I visited the Kechene village last year during rainy August, that number was down to about a dozen.  Now, there are none.   Because of the proximity to the capital, the Jews of Addis-Ababa have been living in absolute poverty with minimal assistance and no chance to move to Israel. Living among Christian and Muslim neighbors, and are forced to live as the Moranos and Conversos of Spain, pretending to be Christian to avoid discrimination, but this defensive mechanism renders them nearly invisible to the outside world, and prevent them from getting help from Israel.

For this reason in part, Israel has not publicly acknowledged the existence, history or culture of Central Ethiopian Jews. It may have been easy and politically beneficial and prudent to discount the thousands living in villages like Kechene, where the Jews have remained working as taxi-drivers, craftsmen, weavers, potters and blacksmiths, but it leaves them at the mercy of a government that would rather they didn’t exist.  In the nineties and eighties, a threat beyond poverty, starvation and disease had formed. Isolated and living under dictatorship, they began to fall pray to Evangelical missionaries. Priests came with money and trinkets and lies that all Jews outside Ethiopia had converted to Christianity. Then came the Messianic Jews, convincing them that Jesus was the savior. Preying on their ignorance, and their isolation from the rest of Judaism around the world.  Thus the  Jews of Ethiopia began to fall deeper into poverty as their core strength of faith in the Torah and in the community, began to be splintered by forces around them and lack of support from their relatives around the world.

   This happened before, when the Jews of United States watched idly as Jews of Europe disappeared from the earth, afraid to speak up, afraid to lose their comfortable way of life as their own relatives died horrible deaths on the other side of the Ocean. It never spells good for the Jewish nation to forsake our own, as there has never been anyone else to look out for us.   The Jews of Ethiopia are a small community in the grand scheme of things, but the world simply can’t afford to ignore this and let the community of 80,000 impoverished Jews slide into obscurity or worse.
 In 1624 Jews of Ethiopia lost a war and their kingdom. They lost to the Christian armies after they joined the invading Arab armies in fighting against their Christian neighbors. They fled their destroyed kingdom in the North and like the Jews of Israel, some settled in the Simien mountains of Gonder near the Somalian border, while others traveled south and settled near Addis Ababa.  For the last three hundred years they lived among Christians and Muslims in Central and South Ethiopia. Of the 1.5 million original Jews, about 120,000 are now in Israel while about 80,000 settled in the foothills of Addis-Ababa in a village called Kechene.
    To survive as diaspora without land or army, like the Jews of Europe, they turned to skilled crafts as they endured hundreds of years of persecution. Sometimes, like the parents of Karl Marx, they converted to Christianity, which like Karl Marx, did not lead to integration. However, they never gave up the customs that have been with them since they left Israel two thousand years earlier. For that, even if they converted, the non-Jewish tribes of Ethiopia never accepted them. Like the Jews of Europe, they became strangers in a land where they lived for thousands of years.
    In spite of it all, today many still adhere to Judaism; retaining the custom of Shabbat and until recently, praying inside the traditional Ethiopian round synagogues.
 They do this in-spite of the continuing persecution that face. Because although Ethiopia is an advanced country by African standards, it is still an East African country where even among the educated, conspiracy theories, deeply held religious dogmas and superstitions are still very common. Few jobs exist for the educated and even museums with the anthropological treasures like the bones of the scientific Eve, Lucy, do little help to prove to public the validity of science. Thus, age old false beliefs and superstitions, negative characterizations of  Jews being witches and having super-natural powers continue to persist even among the young and the educated. This is why, even when schools are created, fearful Christian and Muslim teachers refuse to teach Jewish children, continuing the poverty for Jews in a country where the rest are quickly rising. Thus Jews in Addis-Ababa live with segregation and persecution every day and sadly, as many other Jews around the world, they do it alone, without the support of other Jews, because living so close to the capital, they are forced to hide their identity outwardly, though they are persecuted for it nonetheless.
     Which, brings us to today; for many years Coptic Christians have pressured Jewish communities to forsake their Jewish way of life. They did so by expelling children from schools if the families were found to be practicing Judaism. Not even Coptic Cross tattoos on their faces could persuade their Christian neighbors to let up. To be Jewish often meant refusal of employment, lack of access to public office or even revocation of the right to be buried.
   This is why Sintayehu Samuel Gazehegne, a soft spoken Engineer and leader of the Bete-Avraham congregation, is pleading alone to the Ethiopian government on behalf of all Jews of Addis-Ababa. He pleads to the elders and anyone else who might listen to allow his people, our people, keep a unique and ancient way of life of the Ethiopian Jews.
   Keeping the synagogues open in Kechene is far more important than just religion. The synagogues as it is in United States and in Israel provides the Jewish community of Kechene with aid for the old, the infirm and the orphans. The synagogues help with jobs and everyday life just like Synagogues in South Africa, Argentina or United States. The Synagogues of Kechene are the sole lifeline of the Jews of Addis-Ababa as well as their hope and their soul. For that reason, they are under attack.  Not only are these synagogues the last vestiges of a lost but very rich and unique cultural heritage, they are a final lifeline to an impoverished, long-suffering people.
        For this reason, it is imperative that Jews of the world know of what is happening in Ethiopia and to voice their solidarity with the Jews of Kechene.  Because of our recent history, for the sake of all Jews and all people, we should stand up for injustice wherever we see it. Because Jews in some ways are the canary in the coal mine: they are often the first to be singled out, but where anti-semitism is allowed to flourish, the persecution of other groups will soon follow.  So what started with “simple” persecution of the Jews ended with over 100 million dead around the world as well. So for the world to ignore this is to allow for possibility of greater tragedy, more injustice and violence.     As civilized people, I think it is our duty to come together and let Ethiopia know that for its own sake it ought to be a more fair, free and as a result, more prosperous nation. This will allow it to lead Africa in a more humane and more progressive path and help Jewish people maintain their dignity and way of life.   Please join me in voicing your solidarity with the Jews of Ethiopia.  To help. Please share this story and voice your support to the Ethiopian North Shewa Zionist Organization.
This entry was posted in "Operation Moses", Addis-Ababa, Anti-Semitism, Bete-Avraham, Christianity, Coptic, Ethipia, Gonder, Judaism, Schul, Synagogues. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Breaking News: Addis-Ababa’s Last of The Traditional Synagogues Shut Down

  1. ok says:

    is there Jewish In Ethiopia?

  2. Senya Litvin says:

    Yes, many, and as you can see from the article and the videos, there are and they are living in Addis Ababa and have been there for hundreds of years.

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