MEMBERS OF the Falash Mura Jewish Ethiopian community attend a prayer service at the HaTikvah Synagogue in Gondar, northern Ethiopia, in 2016. .
(photo credit: TIKSA NEGERI / REUTERS)
Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and honored government officials and members of Knesset, May peace be upon you, from the Jewish community in Ethiopia.
With tears in our eyes but with our heads held high, we, the children and teenagers of the Jewish community in Addis Ababa and Gondar, write these words.
Every week, we run to the synagogue to learn together with our Bnei Akiva madrichim
(instructors). We learn with them about the Jewish holidays, the story of the Maccabee heroes, Torah lessons and Hebrew songs. We understand that as Jews, we have an obligation of “veahavta lereicha kamocha
,” to love one another, to teach one another and to support each other.
Each Shabbat, we come to the synagogue before the adults arrive. Our madrichim lead us in song to welcome the Shabbat. Some of us who are able to will even come with a white scarf or shirt that is saved for one time per week, in honor of Shabbat. When we sing “hineh mah tov umah naim, shevet achim gam yachad
,” we repeat the words over and over, until our throats hurt. But this song we are supposed to sing together with our brothers and sisters. So how can we sing this when we are far from them? When we sing this song, some of our joy is taken away.
There is nothing harder than separation. We are happy for our friends who have made aliya, thanks to God, but when we heard that last month was the last approved aliya flight, some of us started to cry, because we had not made the list. At the airport, we saw two brothers saying goodbye, one heading to his new home in Israel and one returning to his home in Addis Ababa. We do not understand why. How much longer will this pain last? Our madrichim convince us to keep on going. We never lose our faith in God and believe that one day it will also happen to us.
Sometimes, those who are lucky even have relatives from Israel coming to visit them. We think about it for so many weeks, what will we say, and when they come we are so emotional and happy that we cannot even think of the words.
Even though we have not seen our family in so many years, we pray for their safety and well-being. Sometimes we dream together of what it would be like to arrive to Israel and walk past a big wall and see our sister or mother or older brother. Some of us even admit that we are scared – what if we forget how our big brother looks, after so many years? Will we be able to identify our own mother? Of course. No one forgets his own mother’s face and the dress she wears.
Some of our classmates don’t want to study with us or sit next to us and they call us falasha. Our grief is bitter, yet we never lost tikvah (hope) and we stand still in unity and hope to our God of Israel.
For generations, our ancestors, mine and yours, wished to come to the promised land but could not, for the decision was in the hands of others. On the contrary, in our case the matter is in the hands of our own brothers and sisters and government. While you are waiting to decide, we are dying in the hands of others, as if we have no one to care for us.
In the meantime, we will keep singing “hinei mah tov umah naim
,” even if we no longer are able to sing, until we will sing the song as we board the plane taking us home and eventually, together with you and our nation in the Land of Israel.
Thank you very much, The children and teens of the Jewish community in Ethiopia.
The author is a leader of the Jewish community in Ethiopia.