Monday, November 02, 2009

Have A Blessed Sig'd

Today is the day Ethiopian Jews in Israel are celebrating the festival of Sig'd, a religious ceremony unique to their culture. Spiritual leaders known as Kesim lead the people in a series of prayers in Gez, the Ethiopian Jewish language,calling for a Jewish return to Jerusalem. Like Yom Kippur, believers are urged to repent for any wrongs done in the past year.

The official day is November 16, but the community decided to hold it early so that Israeli president Shimon Peres could be present.

There are over 115,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel, and the state recognition of Sig'd as an official holiday in a sign of how they are coming of age as a community.

The immigration to Israel started thirty years ago, and culminated in Operation Soloman in 1990, with the Israeli government and Israeli Defense Forces mounting a covert operation and airlifting 14,325 of the Beta Israel population in Ethiopia to safety and a new life.

That new life and the subsequent integration of people who had been living in a pastoral 14th century life into a modern state was not easy or without tension and not all the Beta Israel have managed to find a place, but by and large it happened, because of the determination of the Beta Israel and the nature of Israeli society.

MK Shlomo Mula is an example. Born in Ethiopia in 1965, Molla immigrated to Israel in 1984 on foot. he didn't speak the language and was barely literate. After serving in the IDF Defense Forces, he earned a BA in social work at Bar-Ilan University and an LLB from Ono Academic College...and now he serves in Israel's Knesset.( Ok, he's Kadima but still....)

The theme this year of the community's coming of age was echoed by those prominently featured at the celebration. There were Beta Israel graduates in medicine, law, and business management, entertainment figures, athletes, and IDF officers, and teenagers in the uniforms of the scouts, Hashomer Hatza'ir and Bnei Akiva.

My best wishes to the Beta Israel on their special day. May their tribe and their prosperity increase as they come unto their rightful inheritance in the Holy Land.


Anonymous said...

Operation Solomon was the brain child of the Associate Director for Refugee Affairs at the US State Dept during Ronald Regan's presidency. There are wonderful books written on the subject.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Elise,
Truly one of th eIDF's most heroic missions.

I wasn't aware of the Reagan connection.