Praying at the Western Wall.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
I was born in Ethiopia. My ancestors arrived there following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem. For thousands of years the yearning for the Temple and the desire to return to rebuild it was part of our daily life. Researchers and explorers who came to Ethiopia and met with Ethiopian Jews were immediately and consistently asked about the welfare of their brethren in Jerusalem, followed by “has the Temple been rebuilt?” so powerful was our hope to return. This hope permitted us to endure persecution and hatred, while we prayed for the chance to return.
Not to return to Tel Aviv. Not to Haifa.
To our Jerusalem.
Due to political decisions of malevolent Ethiopian regimes and the support of the then-USSR, we were unable to return home to Jerusalem until the 1980s, which we did by a difficult and circuitous route. We did not give up.
We marched – men, women, and the elderly and young children – by foot, exposed to dangers and even death.
It was a long journey, not unlike the Exodus from Egypt, and was called “Operation Moses.” Thousands died on the way due to hunger and disease.
We did all this, in order to come to Jerusalem and rebuild the Holy Temple where it once stood.
Today, the majority of countries, as evidenced by the recent UNESCO decision, has determined that the Jewish people has no relationship with the Temple Mount. I read about and personally experienced antisemitism during my childhood in Ethiopia.
There we were called “falasha” – foreigners. Unequal, and unworthy of any rights. They hoped we would renounce our Judaism (and our desire to return to Zion) and convert to Christianity. We remained steadfastly connected to Yerusalem, Amharic for Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). The yearning and longing remained steadfast – and we did return.
I struggle to comprehend the depth of cynicism, malice and foolishness of the representatives of the 24 countries who raised their hands to sever the historical connection between the Jewish people and the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, and of the representatives of the other 26 countries who abstained. There were only six righteous people in Sodom.
Do we surrender in an ongoing propaganda battle? Throw up our hands and say the decision is not worth the paper it is written on? My personal experience confronting adversarial propaganda makes this verboten.
Even when your heart pounds and your soul rebels, do not abandon the arena and surrender. With the same determination with which we reached Jerusalem, we will proclaim the historical truth from every stage.
Not only in memory of those who gave their lives to reach home, but also so that in the future, the message of Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, who at least tried to provide balance, will be adopted despite its immediate harsh reaction. To bring it to the attention of those who raised their hands to support the severance of the links to our true roots. That history must be stronger than politics, despite all the attempts to push Israel into the corner it does not belong in, and which in no way reflects the diversity of the Israeli reality and society I live in.
Yerusalem is home.
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