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Photo: Reuters
Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd in Jerusalem
Photo: Reuters
Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd amid calls to end racism
In honor of Sigd, President Rivlin and Justice Minister Shaked call on Israelis of Ethiopian descent to submit requests for pardon in order to have their criminal records expunged of non-violent minor crimes.

Jewish Ethiopians celebrated the holiday of Sigd on Wednesday, amid renewed calls to end racism in Israeli society.

 

 

During Sigd, members of the community pray, fast and renew their covenant with God as well as express their longing for Zion.

 

At a ceremony in Jerusalem organized by the Ministry of Culture and the Center for the Legacy of Ethiopian Jewry, spiritual leaders, Israeli officials, and curious onlookers gathered to celebrate.

 

Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)

“This is a central holiday in the Jewish Ethiopian calendar, which we have celebrated for thousands of years,” Dr. Simcha Gathon, director of the Center for the Legacy of Ethiopian Jewry who immigrated to Israel in 1984, told The Media Line. “It’s a religious holiday with origins in the Bible that commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. We pray for peace in Zion, Jerusalem and for the people of Israel as whole.”

 

Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)

 

Ethiopian Jews, historically referred to as Beta Israel (House of Israel), are believed to be descended from the ancient Israelites, possibly from the lost Tribe of Dan or from Jews who were dispersed from the Kingdom of Judah following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 587 BCE.

 

Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)

 

Since Israel’s establishment in 1948, roughly 95,000 Beta Israel have immigrated to Israel. Most of the community arrived in two waves as part of dramatic covert evacuations by the Israeli government: Operation Moses in 1984 and Operation Solomon in 1991.

 

Kessim, spiritual leaders of the Israeli Ethiopian community, count money donated by community members during a ceremony marking the Ethiopian Jewish holiday of Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
Kessim, spiritual leaders of the Israeli Ethiopian community, count money donated by community members during a ceremony marking the Ethiopian Jewish holiday of Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)

 

In honor of Sigd, this year President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called on members of the Ethiopian community to submit requests for pardons in order to have their criminal records expunged. The majority of pardons granted would apply to minors or young people who committed non-violent crimes, such as refusing to present identity papers, consuming alcohol in public, or disturbing the peace.

 

Presiden Reuven Rivlin speaks at Sigd ceremony in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
Presiden Reuven Rivlin speaks at Sigd ceremony in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
 

“I welcome the president and Justice Ministry’s decision,” Ethiopian-born MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) told The Media Line. “It is very important to bring trust between the Ethiopian Jewish community and those who are enforcing the rule of law. This really gives an opportunity to correct (the past) and start a new life, especially for many young people.”

 

Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: AFP)
Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: AFP)
 

 

Despite recent progress, many Ethiopians have struggled with integration into Israeli society. A report published two years ago by Justice Ministry Director-General Emi Palmor delineated the discrimination faced by the community in several areas, including law enforcement, health, education and employment. The report also noted that a significantly higher rate of charges was brought against the Ethiopian-Israelis than other populations.

 

During her speech in front of the thousands gathered in Jerusalem, Culture Minister Miri Regev said Israelis will have “some collective soul-searching to do” to eradicate racism against Ethiopians.

 

Culture Minister Miri Regev speaks at Sigd ceremony in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
Culture Minister Miri Regev speaks at Sigd ceremony in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
 

 

In a statement to The Media Line, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who has long advocated for the Beta Israel, said “our duty today is to ensure the Ethiopian Jewish community’s absorption into Israeli society.”

 

“There is no other country in the world that has gone as far as Israel—even endangering our soldiers and intelligence agents’ lives—to bring this community here,” Ariel asserted.

 

Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: AFP)
Jewish Ethiopians celebrate Sigd in Jerusalem (Photo: AFP)

 

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics’ latest figures, 148,700 Jews of Ethiopian origin currently reside in Israel. Of these, 87,000 were born in Ethiopia, while the remaining 61,700 were born in Israel. In 2017, 1,467 Ethiopians immigrated to Israel.

 

Article written by Maya Margit

Reprinted with permission from The Media Line

 


פרסום ראשון: 11.07.18, 19:43
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