Addis Ethiopia Weblog

Ethiopia's World / የኢትዮጵያ ዓለም

  • May 2022
    M T W T F S S
  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

Posts Tagged ‘Exodus’

The Prophet Moses Was Amongst The Greatest Fighters Against Racism

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on September 5, 2017

The prophet Moses is amongst the greatest combatants against racism to have ever lived. The Egyptians, filled with nationalism, wanted to purge and and enslave all of the Hebrews in their land. And we learn of some more details on this from an ancient historian named Diodorus Siculus, who lived in the first century before Christ. Diodorus spent decades investigating antiquity for his many volumes of history books. During his inquiry he journeyed to Egypt where he found the Egyptian account of Moses and the enslavement of the Hebrews, and he used this information for his history. Diodorus learned this account from the works of the Egyptian historian, Manetho, and although his work is not based on the Bible, we can still learn from it because it is indeed the Egyptian point of view, and from this we can further our understanding on their biases and prejudices. More than this, we can further our knowledge on the history of eugenics, that it is not modern, that it goes all the way back to antiquity, that the Egyptians saw Hebrews and people with ailments as physically deformed or infirm who were worthy of death and enslavement. As we read in Diodorus’ history:

In ancient times a great plague occurred in Egypt, and many ascribed the cause of it to the gods, who were offended with them. For since the multitudes of strangers of different nationalities, who lived there, made use of their foreign rites in religious ceremonies and sacrifices, the ancient manner of worshipping the gods, practised by the ancestors of the Egyptians, had been quite lost and forgotten. Therefore the native inhabitants concluded that, unless all the foreigners were driven out, they would never be free from their miseries. All the foreigners were forthwith expelled, and the most valiant and noble among them, under some notable leaders, were brought to Greece and other places, as some relate; the most famous of their leaders were Danaus and Cadmus. But the majority of the people descended into a country not far from Egypt, which is now called Judaea and at that time was altogether uninhabited.” (Diod. Sic. Hist. 40.3)

From this we learn of the nationalism of the Egyptians, and we learn more from the words of another ancient historian named Lysimachus, who based his work off Manetho. Josephus quotes Lysimachus:

The people of the Jews being leprous, and scabby, and subject to certain other kinds of distempers, in the days of Bocchoris King of Egypt, they fled to the temples; and got their food there by begging. And as the numbers were very great that were fallen under these diseases, there arose a scarcity in Egypt. Hereupon Bocchoris, the King of Egypt, sent some to consult the oracle of [Jupiter] Hammon about this scarcity. The god’s answer was this; that he must purge his temples of impure and impious men, by expelling them out of those temples into desert places: but as to the scabby and leprous people, he must drown them, and purge his temples: the sun having an indignation at these men’s being suffered to live. And by this means the land will bring forth its fruits.”

Upon Bocchoris’s having received these oracles, he called for their priests, and the attendants upon their altars; and ordered them to make a collection of the impure people; and to deliver them to the soldiers, to carry them away into the desert: but to take the leprous people, and wrap them in sheets of lead, and let them down into the sea. Hereupon the scabby and leprous people were drowned: and the rest were gotten together, and sent into desert places; in order to be exposed to destruction. In this case they assembled themselves together; and took counsel what they should do: and determined, that as the night was coming on, they should kindle fires, and lamps, and keep watch: that they also should fast the next night, and propitiate the gods, in order to obtain deliverance from them.

That on the next day there was one Moses who advised them, that they should venture upon a journey; and go along one road; till they should come to places fit for habitation: that he charged them to have no kind regards for any man; nor give good counsel to any; but always to advise them for the worst: and to overturn all those temples and altars of the gods they should meet with: that the rest commended what he had said, with one consent; and did what they had resolved on: and so travelled over the desert:

but that the difficulties of the journey being over, they came to a country inhabited: and that there they abused the men, and plundered and burnt their temples; and then came into that land which is called Judea: and there they built a city, and dwelt therein; and that their city was named Hierosyla, from this their robbing of the temples; but that still, upon the success they had afterwards, they, in time, changed its denomination; that it might not be a reproach to them: and called the city Hierosolyma, and themselves Hierosolymites.” (Josephus, Against Apion, 1. 24)

Here the Hebrews are described as having all sorts of ailments and deformities, they are referred to as a sickly and disfigured race. The ancient Egyptians saw the Jews as the Nazis saw the Jews: a contorted eyesore that needed to be destroyed for the good of the nation. You could imagine what propaganda was being produced in ancient Egypt; you can picture in your mind the Egyptians describing the Jews as criminals and diseased, worthy of being forced into work camps, just as the Nazis did. The description of the pagan Egyptian historian, Manetho, is a reflection of how the Egyptians saw the Hebrews in the time of Moses: as inferior to the Egyptians, and worthy of enslavement. The Nazis would depict the Jews as being short people with hooked noses, unlike the Aryan Germans who were tall and blond (an inaccurate generalization, of course). The Egyptians, filled with nationalist craze and fervor about how they were descendants of the gods, no doubt saw the Hebrews as an inferior and mismatched race of people.

The Scripture says, “the Egyptians hated the children of Israel, and afflicted them and mocked them” (Exodus 1:13). Now, you can imagine what they said when mocking the Hebrews: words horrific enough to anger God, and I can imagine that much of it was out of nationalist and racialist pride.   

The ancient fragment quoted above says that the Pharaoh ordered that those with ailments and disfigurements be drowned, and this is no different from the Pharaoh ordering that the male babies of Hebrew women be drowned in the Nile river. The Scripture says:

And the king of Egypt spoke to the midwives of the Hebrews: of whom one was called Sephora, the other Phua,

Commanding them: When you shall do the office of midwives to the Hebrew women, and the time of delivery is come: if it be a man child, kill it: if a woman, keep it alive.

But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded, but saved the men children.

And the king called for them and said: What is that you meant to do, that you would save the men children?

They answered: The Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women: for they themselves are skillful in the office of a midwife; and they are delivered before we come to them.

Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied and grew exceedingly strong.

And because the midwives feared God, he built them houses.

Pharao therefore charged all his people, saying: Whatsoever shall be born of the male sex, ye shall cast into the river: whatsoever of the female, ye shall save alive.” (Exodus 1:15-22)

Now why does the Pharaoh order the male children to be killed but the female children to be spared? Because he wanted to destroy the male seed of the Hebrews, so that only Egyptian men could impregnate the Hebrew women, and by this, destroying the male line. In other words, the Pharaoh wanted to make the Hebrews into Egyptians. It was a nationalism similar to that of the Ottomans who, in the early 20th century, wanted to force the Christian Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians to adopt the Ottoman identity and become embedded into what they described as an ‘Ottoman soul.’

And remember what Diodorus said, that “since the multitudes of strangers of different nationalities, who lived there, made use of their foreign rites in religious ceremonies and sacrifices, the ancient manner of worshipping the gods, practised by the ancestors of the Egyptians, had been quite lost and forgotten.” The Egyptians wanted the Hebrews to be forcefully integrated not only into the Egyptian race, but into the Egyptian religion, much like how the Ottomans wanted the Christians to convert to Islam. Josephus describes the rise of Egyptian racism towards the Hebrews as beginning with the Egyptians becoming lazy and then jealous of the work ethic and success of the children of Israel:

NOW it happened that the Egyptians grew delicate and lazy, as to pains-taking, and gave themselves up to other pleasures, and in particular to the love of gain. They also became very ill-affected towards the Hebrews, as touched with envy at their prosperity; for when they saw how the nation of the Israelites flourished, and were become eminent already in plenty of wealth, which they had acquired by their virtue and natural love of labor, they thought their increase was to their own detriment. And having, in length of time, forgotten the benefits they had received from Joseph, particularly the crown being now come into another family, they became very abusive to the Israelites, and contrived many ways of afflicting them; for they enjoined them to cut a great number of channels for the river, and to build walls for their cities and ramparts, that they might restrain the river, and hinder its waters from stagnating, upon its running over its own banks: they set them also to build pyramids, (17) and by all this wore them out; and forced them to learn all sorts of mechanical arts, and to accustom themselves to hard labor. And four hundred years did they spend under these afflictions; for they strove one against the other which should get the mastery, the Egyptians desiring to destroy the Israelites by these labors, and the Israelites desiring to hold out to the end under them.” (Josephus, Antiquities, 2.9)

The Egyptians grew lazy, and seeing the success of foreigners, they were wroth. Racism, much of the time, is actually an insatiable hatred for foreigners when they become more successful than the indigenous population. Josephus goes on to say that a pagan priest told the Pharaoh that a Hebrew would one day rise and make the Hebrews over the Egyptians:

One of those sacred scribes, who are very sagacious in foretelling future events truly, told the king, that about this time there would a child be born to the Israelites, who, if he were reared, would bring the Egyptian dominion low, and would raise the Israelites; that he would excel all men in virtue, and obtain a glory that would be remembered through all ages.” (Ibid)

In other words, the Egyptians wanted to be the dominant and superior race, and did not want the Jews to be above them in success. They wanted to keep the Hebrews in a servile position, to maintain Egyptian domination. The Egyptians wanted to kill those they deemed as undesirables, and Moses was their savior. Moses’ liberation of the Hebrews was a foreshadowing of Christ and His redemption of humanity. As Moses came for the undesirables, so Christ came for the undesirables. Christ declared the parable of the great banquet, which is a direct strike against the evil ideology of eugenics:

When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

World War One and Two started because one race wanted to dominate the world. When world war three commences, it will be because one people will want to dominate the earth. The violent thirst for dominance, is the cause of all war.



Posted in Ethiopia, Faith, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Saudi Arabia Doubles Down on Abuse

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on December 2, 2013

እነዚህ የሳዑዲ ፍጡራን ምን ያህል ደካሞች፣ ርጉሞች እና ጨካኞች እንደሆኑ አገር ቤት ያለው ወገናችን በደንብ አድርጎ የሚገነዘበው አይመስለኝም።

ሁላችንንም በጣም ሊያሳስበንና በተለይ ደግሞ ኢትዮጵያውያን የሕክምና ባለሙያዎች ተገቢውን ትኩረት ሊሰጡት የሚገባው ጉዳይ፡

በቅርቡ በአረብ አገሮች የተስፋፋውና ኮሮናየሚባለው መቅሰፍታዊ የግመል ቫይረስ ነው። ይህ ቫይረስ ወይም ተመሳሳይ የባዮሎጂ መርዝ ምናልባት በሚመለሱት ወንድሞቻችንና እህቶቻችን ዓማካይነት በአገራችን ተስፋፍቶ ሕዝባችንን የበለጠ እንዳያዳክምብን ጉዳዩን በቅርብ እየተከታተልን ማጥናት ይኖርብናል። ሳዑዲዎች ኢትዮጵያውያኑን ለማባረር የተዘጋጁት ዱሮ ነው። የኢትዮጵያውያኑ ህገወጥነትጉዳይ ምክኒያቱ እንዳልሆነ ብዙዎቻችን የምናውቀው ነው።

ቁጥራቸው እየጨመረ የመጣው የአውሮፕላን በረራዎችስ? የሳዑዲ አውሮፕላኖች ለዓለም ዓቀፉ የ Chemtrails ሴራ አስተዋጽዖ በማበርከት በአገራችን የዓየር ክልል መርዙን የመርጨትስ ጥሩ አጋጣሚ ፈጥሮላቸው ይሆንን? ሲ አይ ኤ በቻይና አካሂዶታል ሲባል እንደነበረው። ወደ ኢትዮጵያ የሚበሩ የአረብ አውሮፕላኖች ሁሉ በዚህ የ Chemtrails ሴራ ሊጠረጠሩ ይገባቸዋል። ቀይ ባሕርን በእጃቸው አስገብተዋል፡ የቀሯቸው ዓየራችንውሃችን እና መሬታችን ናቸው

ባለፈው ጊዜ የመከላከያ ምኒስትራቸው ግብጽ ውስጥ ፀረኢትዮጵያ የሆነውን ንግግር ማሰማቱም ከዚህ ሁሉ ሁኔታ ጋር የተያያዘ ነው። ኢትዮጵያውያን በሳውዲ ዕብድ ውሾች በየመንገዱ መታደን በጀመሩት ዕለት፡ የ Skull & Bones ምስጢራዊ ድርጅት ዓባል፡ ውጭ ጉዳይ ሚኒስትር ጆን ኬሪ በሳዑዲ ዓረቢያ ጉብኝት እያደረጉ ነበር። ስለሁኔታው የተነፈሱት ነገር የለም።

የዓለም ዓቀፋዊ ምስጢራዊ ቡድኖች ሁሉ መናኽሪያዋ ሳዑዲ የሰይጣን መቀመጫ ሆና በማገልገል ላይ ትገኛለች። ይህን መናኽሪያ ሊያወድም እና ሊያጠፋ የሚችለውም ቀጫጫ እገር ያለው ኢትዮጵያዊእንደሚሆን እራሳቸው ሙስሊሞች ቅዱስ ናቸው የሚሏቸው ሃዲቶች ይተነብያሉ

ቀደም ሲል መሪዎቻችንን ገድለው ብሔራዊ አለመረጋጋትን በመፍጠር የዋሐቢዎችን እንቅስቃሴ ባገራችን ለማጠናከር ሞከሩ። አሁን ደግሞ በሚቀጥለው እርምጃቸው ይህ በታሪክ ከፍተኛ ቦታ መያዝ የሚችለው የስደተኞች እንደገና ወደ ኢትዮጵያ መጉረፍ ለዚህ ህልማቸው አስተዋጽዖ ያበረክታል ብለው ያምናሉ። ሕብረተሰባችንን በሁሉም አቅጣጫ በመተናኮልና በሕዝባችን ላይ ውጥረት እየፈጠሩ በማደናገር ዲያብሎሳዊ ህልማቸውን እውን ለማድረግ መውደቂያቸው እስኪደርስ ይታገላሉ። የመውደቂያቸው እና ኤርታዓሌ የእሳት ጉድጓድ ውስጥ የመግቢያቸው ቀን በጣም ተቃርቧል!

የሳዑዲ ዜጋ እና ከልዑሉ ቀጥሎም ሁለተኛው ኃብታም የሆኑት ሸህ ሙሀመድ አላሙዲ የኢትዮጵያውያኑን እጣ በሚመለከት ምን እያሉ ይሆን? ሳዑዲዎች በወገኖቻችን ላይ ለብዙ ዓመታት ስላደረሱት የከፋ በደል እንዲሁም ስለ ዋሃቢዝም ርዕዮተዓለም የሚሉትን ለመስማት በጣም ነው የጓጓሁት። ይህን በተመለከተ ለኢንተርቪው የሚጋብዛቸው ኢትዮጵያዊ ይኖር ይሆን?

ወገናችንን ወደ ሳዑዲ የሚልኩ፡ ኢትዮጵያውያንን ከሳዑዲ እንዲባረሩ ካደረጉት የሚለዩ አይደሉም!

This past week, three Ethiopians were killed in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, as well as one foreign worker from Sudan. They died amid vigilante violence and reports of police brutality after illegal immigrants in the slum of Manfouha protested against a massive campaign of deportations that the government launched this month. A similar demonstration was broken up in the city of Jeddah, and its organizers arrested.

Meanwhile, large groups of Ethiopians have been gathering for protests this week at Saudi diplomatic institutions across the United States, including in front of the Saudi Embassy in Washington, as well as the Kingdom’s consulates in Atlanta and Los Angeles.

What is this big controversy about?

Saudi officials claim that the Ethiopians instigated this episode by throwing stones at cars without any provocation, but a reporter for the Wall Street Journal talked to locals who had a different view. They said “Saudi security forces had come to the neighborhood the night before to declare that all illegal African migrants had to leave… immediately. Pakistani laborers began trying to help police by catching African workers, and clashes began”.

This harsh crackdown comes as part of a longstanding Saudi effort aimed at increasing the proportion of citizens employed in productive sectors of the economy. However, it is also the result of a pervasive legacy of racism and religious discrimination experienced by African Christians in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia only abolished slavery in 1962, under heavy pressure by Washington and the UN. The best estimates suggest that the Kingdom held approximately thirty thousand slaves at the time.

But the Wahhabi religious establishment was reluctant to see the institution go. Just a decade ago, a member of Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body was caught on tape preaching that “slavery is a part of Islam”. He elaborated that “slavery is a part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long as there is Islam”.

In this insidious mindset—which, of course, is rejected by many Muslims—a hierarchy of races could be seen as a religious obligation. Due to what Saudi dissident Ali al-Ahmed calls a “culture of slavery” that “pervades the country,” even dark-skinned men and women who are Saudi citizens have been blocked from positions in a range of prestigious professions.

There are an estimated nine million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, mostly doing jobs that Saudis themselves do not want to take. And so far, the sudden crackdown is mainly just causing disruptions to Saudi Arabia’s national economy. According to a story in the Saudi Gazette, twenty thousand schools in the country are now short of janitors, and 40 percent of small construction firms have stopped operations. One observer even counted thirteen facilities for the religious ritual of washing dead bodies that had been shuttered in Jeddah because the workers responsible for this thankless task had been forced to flee.

Many illegal immigrants have wanted to go home but were unable to do so. Hundreds of Filipinos have been camping out in front of their country’s consulate in Jeddah because they needed official support to get exit visas and purchase expensive airplane tickets home.

Saudi Arabia’s kefala labor system facilitates human rights abuses, “sometimes amounting to slavery-like conditions.” The system gives companies enormous power over their foreign employees, including the ability to block employees from flying home if they are unhappy with their work conditions. That is why such rights groups and the Economist have called on Riyadh to abolish the kefala system.

Overlaid with this system of discrimination and exploitation is Saudi Arabia’s chauvinistic repression of Christian residents. Many African workers in the country are Christians, but absolutely no churches are officially allowed. As recently as this April, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti declared that all churches in the Arabian Peninsula must be destroyed.

In February, Saudi Arabia’s religious police raided a private religious gathering of fifty-three Ethiopian Christians, shutting down their prayer group and making mass arrests. Just half a year earlier, authorities deported thirty-five others for participating in a similar Ethiopian prayer group. And in 1997 two foreign workers were beheaded for conducting Bible study meetings and prayer groups in prison.

But no aspect of these abuses is more chilling than the examples of bodily harm experienced by some foreign workers in the Kingdom. Many of the individuals returning to Ethiopia have scars or fresh wounds from beatings by employers or police, and one man claims the officer who beat him even stole the shoes from off of his feet. According to the UAE paper Emirates 24/7, “scores of Asian and African domestic workers have been reported to have committed a suicide in Saudi Arabia over the past years because of mistreatment and other factors”. Chilling images keep surfacing on the web of Ethiopian maids who were so desperate with their circumstances in Saudi Arabia that they hanged themselves.

Over the years, numerous videos have surfaced showing angry, entitled Saudis beating and verbally abusing foreign workers—although to their credit, many Saudi citizens called out for a criminal investigation in one recent case. A study by the Committee on Filipinos Overseas found that 70 percent of Filipino domestic workers in Saudi Arabia reported instances of physical or psychological abuse.

Ethiopia’s ambassador to Riyadh, who obviously wishes to maintain good relations with his Saudi hosts, actually claimed that twenty-three thousand of his countrymen “handed themselves in” after Manfouha. They are being deported in large numbers at this very moment.

How bad must it become for economic migrants when suddenly tens of thousands of them are allegedly begging for a way out? And at what point does the international community have a responsibility to say loudly and emphatically enough is enough?




Posted in Ethiopia, Infos, Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ethiopia in Israel

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on November 26, 2012

The scene in the above video is taken from one of the most influential and beautiful movies, “Exodus” (1960)

After the 22 July 1946 „King David“ hotel bombing to exonerate Jewish zeal and to evoke a sense of Christian forgiveness for acts of post-Holocaust Jewish violence. In this case, ‘Dov’ Shakes off British security men by weaving in and out of Jerusalem’s Ethiopian Church and hiding behind Christian relics and clergy processions.

The Brilliant Ruth Gruber, Photojournalist (1911 – )

In 1946, President Harry S. Truman learned that the Jewish survivors in the refugee camps of the American Zone of Germany were living under appalling conditions. As one historian observed, the camps “differed from the Nazi camps only in that the inmates were not deliberately exterminated.”

Truman pressed the British to accept 100,00 Jewish refugees into Palestine. The British responded by proposing to create a joint Committee of Inquiry to visit the displaced person (DP) camps in Germany and then go to North Africa and Palestine to asses the feasibility of resettling the Jewish Dps there.

Having finished her resettlement work with the Jewish refugees at Fort Ontario, New Yourk, Ruth Gruber packed up her Camera, notebooks and typewriter and followed the Joint Committee as a correspondent for the New York Post, Gruber reported in her dispatches, the survivors greeted its members with signs like “We want to go. We must go. We will go to Palestine.” When asked why he wanted to go to Palestine, a sixteen-year-old orphan who had survived Bergen-Belsen replied, “Why? Everybody has a home. The British. The Americans. The French. The Russians. Only we Jews have no home. Don’t ask us. Ask the world.”

The committee members spent four months in Europe. Palestine and the Arab countries and another month in Switzerland digesting their experiences. At the end of their deliberations, the twelve members– six Britons and six Americans—unanimously agreed that Britain should allow 100,00 Jewish immigrants to settle in Palestine. The celebrations that followed in the camps were soon stilled, however, when the British foreign minister. Ernes Bevin, rejected this finding.

Eventually, the United Nations took up the issue. The UN appointed a Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Like its predecessor, UNSCOP visited the camps in Germany and then went on to the Arab states and Palestine. Gruber accompanied UNSCOP as a correspondent for the New York Herald. While in Jerusalem, she learned that a former American pleasure boat, renamed the Exodus 1947, had attempted to bring 4,500 Jewish refugees to Palestine– including 600 children, mostly orphans – but had been intercepted by five British destroyers and a cruiser. Gruber left immediately for Haifa and witnessed the Exodus entering the harbor, looking, as Gruber wrote, “like a matchbox splintered by a nutcrackes.”

During the “battle,” the British had rammed the Exodus and stormed it with guns, tear gas and truncheons. The crew, mostly Jews from America and Palestine, had fought back with potatoes, sticks and cans of kosher meat. The Exodus’s second officer, Bill Bernstein of San Francisco, was clubbed to death trying to prevent a British soldier from entering the wheelhouse. Two orphans were killed, one shot in the face after he threw an orange at a soldier.

When she learned that the prisoner from the Exodus were being transferred to Cyprus, Gruber flew there overnight. While waiting for the Exodus detainees, she photographed Jewish prisoners from earlier landing attempts living behind barbed wire in steaming hot tents with almost no water or sanitary facilities. “You had to smell Cyprus to believe it,” she cabled the Herald.

The British changed their plans and sent the Exodus prisoners to Port de Bouc in southern France, where they had initially embarked. Gruber rushed there from Cyprus. When the prison ships arrived, the prisoners refused to disembark. After eighteen days in which the refugees endured the blistering heat, the British decided to send the Jews back to Germany. The world press was outraged. While hundreds of journalists descended on Port de Bouc, only Gruber was allowed by the British to accompany the Dps back to Germany.

Aboard the prison ship Runnymeade Park, Gruber photographed the refugees defiantly raising a British flag that they overpainted with a swastika. Her photo bacame Life Magazine’s “Picture of the Week.” Crushed together on the sweltering ship making their way back to Germany., the refugees sang “Hatikvah,” the Hebrew anthem of hope. Gruber’s book about the DP’s endurance would later provide Leon Uris with material for his book and screenplay Exodus, which helped turn American public opinion in favor of Israel.

In 1951, Gruber married, gave birth to two children, and suspended her journalistic travels. She wrote for Hadassah Magazine and raised funds for UJA. In the 1970s, she visited Israel, where she wrote a biography, Raquela, that won a National Jewish Book Award. In 1985, at age seventy-four, Gruber traveled to Ethiopia, where she observed the aliyah of that nation’s Jews to Israel.

Gruber’s journey to Ethiopia completed a cycle that had begun with her voyage to Italy in 1944 to bring 1,000 Jewish refugees to Fort Ontario. In 2001, a television network dramatized her life in a two-part broadcast. Today, Ruth Gruber lives in New York City; she stands as a symbol of hope for Jews in danger anywhere in the world.

(Source: Blessings of freedom: chapters in American Jewish history by Michael Feldberg)


Posted in Ethiopia, Media & Journalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

It’s Not Easy Being An Ethiopian Jew

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on April 7, 2009

It’s not easy being an Ethiopian Jew in America’ writes Haaretz. Well, in fact, it’s not easy being an Ethiopian anywhere else – inlculding in Ethiopia. .. and „I personally prefer to be stabbed in the back by a gentile, and not my own brother Jew“, says the Ethiopian Jew. It must be very painful, it’s painful!


Well, it’s is to say, but, at times, it probably could be a blessing to face hardship, as it’s mostly a byproduct of porsperity.

Besides, every hardship could be about another chance for cultivating our hearts. The path of the heart is the most righteous path to the ultimate prosperity.

Farmers know the pain of cultivating wheat or teff, they know the suffering in cultivation, where, at the same time, the challenge in the feild is often taken as joy, because when the bitterness goes away, sweetness will come and true happiness will arrive.

When Avishai Mekonen, 35, the Israeli photographer who has lived for the past seven years in New York City, lectured before American high-school students in Savannah, GA, one of them asked him to roll up his sleeve.

“Where is the number?” he asked. Mekonen didn’t get it at first.

“I thought Jews are Holocausts survivors, aren’t you a Holocaust survivor?” explained the teenager. With experiences of this kind, admits Avishai, it’s not always easy to be the Ethiopian Jew in America. As if it was anywhere else.

In his new exhibition, “Seven Generations”, he wishes to return to his community the pride of its authentic tradition. Then irony in his quest for the shards of the traditional identity is that his work is being displayed in New York, and not in Israel.

It is customary for Ethiopians, before getting married, to have the community elders account for seven generations of each family, in order to ensure that no accidental cases of incest can occur. This tradition also became one of the foundations of the elders’ authority. One who is able to count seven generations back would receive the respect of the community. Those who can count 14 generations are perceived as geniuses.

“Once an Israeli cab driver who took me to an Ethiopian funeral, cursed and said: ‘Those Ethiopians! Only one died, yet hundreds are coming!'” recalls Mekonen. “But in our tradition, you must invite all your extended relatives, 7 generations back, both to the weddings and to funerals. It’s like one big family.”

Some of the youngsters he interviewed for the film accompanying the exhibition have no idea what all of this means, or they don’t really care. Mekonen himself, who married Shari, a Jewish American filmmaker, didn’t really need the elders’ services to count generations of his bride’s family. His parents, who flew all the way from Israel to the U.S. for the wedding, were quite shocked to see the small number of guests. “This is the whole family?” his mother asked, a bit disappointed.

We eat hummus in a small Manhattan restaurant as Mekonen tells me that many years ago he had this idea to make a documentary about the painful generation gap of the Ethiopian community, but dawdled, and his move to the U.S. to join his wife further complicated the matter.

“But one day it struck me, that I met a young Ethiopian in Israel who is able to count generations. This tradition will just disappear, and nothing will be left of it.”

He says that Israeli bureaucrats unknowingly contributed to the destruction of the custom: when Mekonen made Aliya to Israel in 1984, instead of taking on his father’s name as his family name, according to tradition, he was instead registered under his great-grandfather’s name, along with the rest of his family. Born Agegnehu (“gift” in Amharic), he became Avraham upon his arrival. Later, he changed his name to Avishai, to return some semblance of his original name.

“But I’m still Mekonen, and the elders get confused when they try to count generations – it doesn’t seem logical to them, this jump from my great-grandfather to me. Mekonen is supposed to belong to other generation.”

The entire family in Israel was recruited to work on a project. His father made phone calls to community elders, arranging meetings; his mother baked injera, the traditional bread, to honor the hosts; the younger brother was appointed to contact Israeli-Ethiopian hip-hop bands and rebellious teenage girls with tattoos.

“The parents’ generation understood the importance of this project, dressed nicely and fully cooperated. The youngsters neglected it until I talked to them, when they admitted that because of their detachment from tradition they have had serious identity problems. They said they feel “empty and humiliated” when some policeman tells them: “You are Ethiopian, you understand nothing.”

The tears within the Ethiopian community seem so distant from the noisy lobby at the Jewish Community Center building in Manhattan, where his exhibition is presented. In the afternoon, African-American nannies bring children for activities at the Center. 30-year old Jolly is taking care of two active Jewish toddlers, and she seems quite surprised when she sees the pictures: “I never thought there were black Jews!”

Some of the Ethiopians sought comfort in Harlem, so they wouldn’t be forced to deal with the perceptions that “Jews are white”. But Mekonen says “it’s complicated”. In his documentary-in-progress, “400 Miles to freedom”, he explores his personal story and identity, and through this exploration he meets a variety of diverse Jews both in Israel and in America, including Rabbi Capers Funnye, a leader of the African American Jewish community and second cousin of First Lady Michelle Obama, who shares his own historical roots and path to Judaism. He says that although the Ethiopians, unlike the African-Americans, haven’t been enslaved and detached from their history, he feels that the conversations with the community present a strong opportunity to learn about the history of slavery in the U.S.

“There are obvious advantages to being part of a big and influential community,” he admits. “The first time I saw a giant poster featuring a black model, I was stunned and excited that here people actually think that black sells. I wanted it to happen in Israel too. Then in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina where the blacks were neglected, I said, ‘thank God I’m Israeli.’ But when Obama won the election and all our neighbors ran down the street yelling and dancing and singing – I shouted something in Hebrew as well, something like: ‘The good guys won!’ It was perhaps the first time that I felt I belong to this fest, and I said I’m so grateful to be here to witness this historical moment.”

Like almost every Israeli living in New York and hoping “to return one day”, Mekonen dreams of going back to Israel and buying a house in Rosh Pina. He recalls with nostalgia his service in the Israel Defense Force’s combat engineering unit, the day he was wounded in Hebron by a Molotov cocktail and his days in Lebanon.

“I was a Zionist,” he says. “After I finished my studies I made some documentaries, and one of the films was screened on Channel 1. Even so, I hated headlines like ‘The first Ethiopian filmmaker’ – it made me feel as though they don’t expect anything more from me – you’ve already done your duty, you’re free to go. But I felt that my career had just begun.”

“And then I suddenly found myself organizing the shelves of an N.Y. supermarket, and I didn’t even have a name – I was a ‘garbage boy’. I didn’t come ‘to conquer America’. Frankly, I was horrified of the thought of a second immigration, after we walked by foot from Ethiopia to Sudan. I had all kinds of weird phobias, like that being a black Jew might even get me killed over here. Every day I cursed the American food – it seemed so tasteless. For two months, I ate only hot dogs – it was the only thing I could name in English. When I was working at the moving company, like so many other Israelis, one sofa slipped out of my hands and rolled down the stairs, so I had to quit. I thought I would have to give up art. I would bring my CV to production companies, but who has heard of Tel-Hai college? Who knows what Channel 1 is here? They were a bit curious about the black guy coming from Israel, but they always finished with: ‘We’ll call you back,’ and you know exactly what that means. The only thing that kept me strong was that I put a small table in the corner, and started writing scripts?”

Eventually, Mekonen started to exhibit his works, got some grants for his projects and was able to go back to filmmaking. But he still feels like a guest in America.

“At the Jewish community I sometimes hear: ‘Did you come with Operation Moshe? I donated to it!’ The thing is my mother lives it every day. Each morning she says: ‘Thank God, thanks to America’. But I start telling people, that we were not only sitting there and waiting for someone to rescue us. We walked for months, and thousands died on the way. But they don’t get it, and some even become angry because it doesn’t fit their stereotypes of the naïve Africans that are supposed to be grateful until their last day. It’s pretty difficult for me to see sometimes the fundraising campaigns for the Ethiopian community in Israel, they look so miserable. I want people to see my culture as a rich and happy one. But then probably no one would donate money, and it really helps many people.”

In Israel he misses many things that the native Israelis would rather escape.

“I adore those moments, when you come off the plane and the cab driver starts to haggle over each shekel, things like that,” he laughs. “And of course, I ask myself where I would be today if I had stayed there.”

He doubts that his 4-year-old son Ariel will speak Amharic. “But I want him at least to know Hebrew.” At this moment, he would be glad if his exhibition will finally reach Israel. “I want the elders to see it. They deserve it.”

Slightly more than a thousand Ethiopian Jews have settled in North America since the beginning of the 1990s, and about 500 live in New York City. The Israeli Consulate, which used to ignore the trend, nowadays prefers to keep in touch with the Israelis living in the city.

The new New Yorkers themselves hate when one defines it as a “phenomenon”. They are fed up with questions about the racism in Israel and America, and they reject any question that smells of arrogance and an effort to distinguish them from any other young Israelis who head to seek themselves “in the big world.”

Bizu Rikki Mulu, one of the Ethiopian-Israeli-American community veterans, established the organization aimed to facilitate the transfer for the newcomers. She called it Chassida Shmella (“Shmella” means stork in Amharic, she took it from the song people in her village would sing while seeing the migrating birds: “Stork, stork, how is our Holy Land?”). She thinks that the stream of the newcomers will increase now that Obama is president.

“You have here in N.Y.C. maybe one hundred thousand Yemenite Jews, maybe half a million Russian Jews, and now we have the Ethiopian Jews,” she says. “It’s a normal thing. It is better to keep them attached to the community, instead of saying: ‘We’ve spent so much money to bring them to Israel, they should go back there. If someone succeeds, it’s a success for all of us.'”

Mulu, native of a small village in Gondar, came to Israel in 1978 with a group of 150 Jews as part of Operation Begin. She arrived in New York for the first time in 1991, and although she managed to get a green card, she warns that for most young Ethiopians the absorption is not so simple.

“It looks easy from Israel, but then they come here and work illegally in all kinds of odd jobs, and no one really cares about them,” she says. “A few fared better, some have their own businesses, and one woman works at the local hospital because her profession facilitates the immigration process. And there are plenty of guys who didn’t really succeed, but they don’t want to go back home with empty hands. I think it’s quite healthy to be able to say: ‘I failed and I’m going to try to make it at home.’ Not everyone is like Obama. In many places in America still, the blacks are here and the whites are there. Only in the 60s, segregation was abolished formally. The young Ethiopians coming here don’t think about these things.”

Chassida Shmella organizes cultural and educational events, but most of the newcomers ask for material assistance. “They ask directly: ‘What can you do for me?’ At first, they are less interested in preserving their religious and cultural identity. But most of them come from religious families, and here there are no parents to prepare the Shabbat meal. They are trying to find their place. At first, people at synagogue might stare at them, but eventually they get used to it, and the rabbi is excited. Only upon coming here I discovered how much the American Jews did for the Ethiopian Jews. But there are also a lot of prejudices and stereotypes. Many still want to see us as the guys dressed in white coming off the plane, because that’s how they remember this Aliyah.”

“The Ethiopian Jews sobered later,” declares one fresh arrival. “In Israel, dog eats dog. Here you have plenty of problems as well, but I personally prefer to be stabbed in the back by a gentile, and not my own brother Jew. Here the Ethiopians tend to succeed more, because people don’t look at your origin and family name, they look at what you have to offer them. With God’s help, we’ll get back to Israel empowered, economically and mentally, to Jerusalem and not to the state-sponsored trailers.”

This might interest you

Posted in Ethiopia | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

%d bloggers like this: