Activist pens moving tribute for Jewish-Ethiopian Memorial Day

The head of the Fidel Association for Education and Social Integration of Ethiopian Jews in Israel remembers her lost loves ones.

By MICHAL AVERA SAMUEL
June 1, 2019 22:13
2 minute read.
Activist pens moving tribute for Jewish-Ethiopian Memorial Day

The annual memorial ceremony for Jewish immigrants who died on the way to Israel from Ethiopia, June 5, 2016. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

I will never forget those who perished.

We all had a dream of coming to the Land of Israel.

We imagined it, we dreamt of Aliyah, we prayed for Aliyah, and most of all we knew that one day we would see it happen.

Today, the 28th of the Hebrew month of Iyar, we solemnly mark the Memorial Day in remembrance of the nearly 4,000 Ethiopian Jews who perished on their way to Israel in their heroic attempt to realize their greatest dream

I will never forget the journey, the refugee camp in Sudan - and my cousin Tegbo Deslaye.

 
We grew up together, two cousins - best friends,

We dreamt of arriving in the Land of Israel and were excited to make the trek from Ethiopia to Sudan, so happy to realize the dream together with our families as close eight-year-old cousins.

After a long and exhausting journey, we arrived in Sudan closer than ever to our destination, but in retrospect still so far away, a whole year away from that long awaited moment.

There was no routine and no activities for us in the dreaded refugee camp in Sudan so to pass the time we would invent games, teach each other new things, imagine Jerusalem and the future that awaits us- the studies, the friends and the experiences to come. Unfortunately, every day I would count the number of people who did not survive and were taken away to be buried in the cursed soil of Sudan.

And then, without warning, my beloved cousin and playmate Tegbo perished too and became part of the painful and unfathomable statistic (one third of the olim perished) of another precious person we will never see and who will not live up to his dream of reaching Zion.

I will not forget the screams coming from the direction of the family’s tent, I will not forget the sadness, the fear and the pain.
And I'll never forget you, Tegbo - you're engraved in my heart forever.

You are always with me - you were with me when I managed to make it to Israel, and you are with me every day that I work and fight for the community - to integrate the young people, preserve the culture and commemorate those who perished.

And I will continue to act, to use my voice, to try to affect change and influence - for you, for the family, for the men, women and children who never arrived - and for those who survived and struggle to this day to find their place in society.

And I very much hope that the state and the government will do everything in their power to bridge the large gaps persisting between the community and Israeli society, to create genuine equality of opportunity, and to bring our stories- of our culture, our pain and our perseverance to the history books of the State of Israel.

May the memory of those who perished be blessed.

You will forever exist in our hearts.


Michal Avera Samuel is the CEO of the Fidel Association for Education and Social Integration of Ethiopian Jews in Israel.


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