for over a thousand years ago, an african community, the beta israel, maintained a contract. a contact with god, the torah and its ten commandments.
beta israel contract with god can date back to at least 15 centuries. the beta israel community can be dated back to the destruction of the first temple.
due to the separation from the other jewish communities, their practice of judaism is unique. their religious practice was rooted in the bible. this in contrast to the jewish communities outside of ethiopia which developed supplemental religious texts. these religious texts included the talmud. outside of ethiopia, the practice of judaism evolved away from a priesthood and became rabbinical led. the ethiopian jews maintained a level of priesthood.
beta israel was so isolated from the world jewish community that many of them believd that the only jews were black.
as part of their religious practice, beta israel instituted the holiday of sigd. this holiday which marked a renewal of the covenant between the jewish people, god, and his torah. on the holiday, the prayed to god and pleaded to return to zion. the holiday is a communal introspection for their worthiness to return to jerusalem from exile.
for a thousand plus years the beta israel maintained their commitment to god, the torah and its ten commandments. so, did god hold up his end of the contract?
after the founding of the modern state of israel in 1948, in 1973, beta israel were granted the right to return to israel with automatic citizenship. the state of israel, over the years, made many efforts to immigrate members of the community. some of these efforts included operations moses, joshua, solomon, and dove’s wings. this immigration processes were not easy. all of beta israel, like all immigrants to israel, are provided costly immersion programs. bringing beta israel to israel is only the first step towards them living and prospering within the state.
israel today has more than 135,000, ethiopian jews.
so, a promise has been kept. their prayers to return to their homeland have been answered.
the state of israel has now incorporated the ethiopian jewish practice of sigd into the nation by making it a national holiday. this year 2020, it is celebrated on november 15 and 16. now that sigd is practiced in israel, members of beta israel are able to go to jerusalem to celebrate.
this celebration is not without sadness. life has been difficult for the beta israel. there journey to israel was difficult. lives were lost and families were separated. the transition from life in ethiopia to israel has also been difficult. further, their journey was rushed and many brought with them other their faith and little else.
there have been positive developments for the community. members of beta israel has accomplished many things within the state of israel. they have become politicians, educators, military officers, journalists, actors, writers, musicians, athletes, and fashion models.
it was beta israel’s commitment maintained for over a thousand years which was the ticket which enabled them to return home. this is not something that is not remarkable. there are other communities in the world essentially dwindled down to extinction. had beta israel abandoned their belief and faith, this return to their homeland would not have occurred.
likewise, their fellow jews, from all of the world, maintained their covenant with god for the millenia after the destruction of the second temple. they too both struggled and with great sacrifice fought for the establishment of the modern state of israel. with this sacrifice and loss of life, the state of israel was founded. further it was that state of israel that provided for the “law of return” which allowed for the beta israel to return. it should be noted that it was prime minister menachen begin who instituted secret operations via the mossad intelligence agency to start the process.
the story of beta israel is a story of how culturally and racially varied communities that were separated for over a thousand years were able to reconnect in their homeland. it is to be noted that the only thing that these communities, beta israel and the jewish communities outside of ethiopia, had in common during the separation was their contract with god and the torah with its ten commandments.
this story is a testament as to the power of the words that god gave to his people on mt. sinai. truly, a moral life can pay off over time. in this instance, a long time.