Shalom from the Jewish community in Ethiopia

For generations, my ancestors and yours wished to come to the promised land but could not do it, for the decision was in the hands of others.

By GETASEW FASIKAE
February 7, 2018 22:15
3 minute read.
An Ethiopian Jewish woman arrives for the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah services at a synagogue in

An Ethiopian Jewish woman arrives for the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah services at a synagogue in Addis Ababa.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Interior Minister Arye Deri and honored government officials and members of Knesset,

May peace be upon you, from the Jewish community in Ethiopia.

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With tears in my eyes but with my head held high, I, 19-year-old Getasew Fasikaw, a member of the Jewish community in Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa and a teen leader, write these words on behalf of myself and the other Jews in Ethiopia whom you have left behind.

14 years ago I moved to Addis Ababa with my family to prepare for our aliya. Over a decade later, we are still in Ethiopia, waiting to reunite with the rest of our family in Israel.

I am a madrich (guide) in the Bnei Akiva chapter in our synagogue. Every week, the children in the Jewish community run to the synagogue to learn together with me and the other Bnei Akiva madrichim. Together with the other madrichim and children, we learn Hebrew, ethics and Jewish law. We recently started Hebrew lessons for the community elders. Whenever we learn together and support each other, our unity is strengthened.

Each Shabbat, I come to the synagogue before the elders arrive. I lead the children in song to welcome Shabbat. When we sing “hineh mah tov u’mah na’im, shevet achim gam yachad,” (“Behold, how good and how pleasant, brothers dwelling together in unity”) 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 when they are far from us? 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 make aliya thanks to God, but when we heard that last December 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. I do not understand why. How much longer will this pain last?

Sometimes, those who are lucky even have relatives from Israel coming to visit. We think about it for so many weeks – what will we say to them? And when they come, we are so emotional and happy that we cannot even think of the words.

Even though I have not seen my family in so many years, I pray for their safety and well-being. Sometimes I dream together with my friends of what it would be like to arrive to Israel and walk past a big wall and see my beloved ones. Sometimes we admit our fears – 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.

My grief is bitter, yet I have never lost hope and I stand still in unity and hope to our God of Israel that one day it will also happen to us.

For generations, my ancestors and yours wished to come to the promised land but could not do it, for the decision was in the hands of others. 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, I will keep singing “hineh mah tov u’mah na’im, shevet achim gam yachad,” even if I am no longer able to sing, until I will sing the song as I board the plane taking me home and eventually, together with you and our nation in the Land of Israel.

Thank you very much.

The author is the Bnei Akiva madrich in the Jewish community of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


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