Peres writes ode to Ethiopian Jewry

During visit to J'lem school, president is inspired by a fourth-grader and writes "The Eyes of Beta Israel."

January 20, 2012 02:55
1 minute read.
Idan Raichel

Idan Raichel 311. (photo credit:


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When President Shimon Peres visited the Reishit School in Jerusalem last week to speak out against racial discrimination and to assure those students of Ethiopian background that Israel was glad to have them, he was emotionally overcome by his meeting with the bright, inquisitive youngsters.

He was particularly taken by a fourth-grader by the name of Rachel who is a soloist in the school choir. The sparkle in her eyes inspired him to write a poem called The Eyes of Beta Israel. The poem succinctly tells the saga of Ethiopian Jewry. Peres worked on the poem for several days and then got in touch with singer, songwriter and musician Idan Raichel and asked him to compose the music that would turn the poem into a song.

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Raichel, whose concerts frequently include singers and musicians of Ethiopian background, was more than happy to take on the assignment, and on Thursday night, the song debuted at his concert at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.

Peres is outraged by growing incidents of racism, and has said at every opportunity that Israelis ought to be ashamed for allowing racism to sully society.

The relationship between Peres and Israel’s community of Ethiopian background goes back to January 1985, when as prime minister he authorized the airlift of Ethiopian Jews that has gone down in history as Operation Moses.

During his presidency he has hosted several events that demonstrate what Ethiopian immigrants have given to Israel in the fields of medicine, defense, theater, journalism, social work and music.

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