The Ethiopian Jews are a very interesting story. Jews have been in Ethiopia for a long time. In, the 4th century in Ethiopia there was a rise in Christianity. The people in charge of the country said that all people had to convert to Christianity. Any Jew who refused to convert to Christianity was persecuted. After being persecuted, these Jews managed to find salvation in the mountainous Gondar region. While some of these people fled to the mountains, some of them decided to convert to Christianity. These people eventually converted back to Judaism when they were picked up by Israel. These people are known as the Falash Mura. There is a major controversy in Israel today questioning the authenticity of these people’s Judaism. But, these people still remain in the country.
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These Jews are believed to be tribe members who followed the son of Solomon and Queen Sheba known as Menelik I. Many believe that these Jews are in fact descendants of the lost tribe of Dan. These Jews are slightly different in their religious ways compared to the mainstream Jewish population. The holiest work for the Ethiopian Jews is the Torah. They do not have any books past that such as the Mishna or the Gemara. For them, the Torah is not in a scroll but rather it is in a book. They also have books such as the books of Hanoch, Jubilees, Baruch and Ezra. They also have one special book that we do not have. This book is called Te’ezaza Sanbat. This book talks about the importance of the Sabbath and the certain rules that should be followed. The Beta Israel also has a holiday that we do not have. This holiday is called Sigd and it takes place on the 29th of Cheshvan. This holiday celebrates going back to Jerusalem after being led out of Babylon by Ezra and Nehemiah. It also celebrates coming into contact with the Torah for the first time in the holy land since the Babylonian captivity.
After years of research it was discovered that there were in fact Jews in Ethiopia. When this happened Israel sent several people in the Mossad to these villages in the mountains. They told the Ethiopians what they had to do to come to Israel. This happened in 1984 and the operation became known as Operation Moses. Israel had reached a secret agreement with the government of Sudan so that they could carry out the mission. These Jews were to walk from Ethiopia to Sudan and then they were going to be airlifted to Israel on remodeled El-Al airplanes. When the news of this operation was leaked out, the Arab countries were angered by the decision b of Sudan to let these people leave. Under pressure, Sudan halted the final lift, leaving Israel only able to evacuate 8000 of the 9000 people in the refugee camp. Luckily for the rest of these Jews, they were led out of the country on the US-led Operation Joshua.
In 1991, Israel performed a mass evacuation of Jews in Ethiopia. The Mariam regime in Ethiopia was losing power and rebel groups were close to toppling it, and this could only be bad for the Jewish population. The Israeli army became concerned about the well being of the rest of the Jewish population, decided that it was time to hold a mass evacuation of the Jews in Ethiopia. The operation took place on Friday, May 24, 1991 over 36 hours. The reason that this operation was okay to be carried out on the Sabbath was because of a law called Pikuach Nefesh. This law made it ok to fly on the Sabbath because of the life threatening problem that the Ethiopian Jews faced. There were 34 passenger jets used and they managed to take over 14 000 Jews to Israel. They once again remodeled the aircraft and managed to cram as many Ethiopian Jews in the aircraft as possible. It was an excellent mission and it is great that we have now added more Jews to Israel.