As the Ethiopian community prepared to celebrate Sigd this week, Deputy Public Security Minister Gadi Yevarkan called for the holiday to be celebrated by all Jews.
“The chief rabbis and anyone who deals with the issue of Israeli and historical Jewish identity, should understand that this holiday is a holiday of the people of Israel,” said Yevarkan in an interview with the Eshkolot organization, which works to educate about Israel and Judaism.
“The proof is that it is in the book of Ezra and Nehemiah. We did not invent the wheel. We kept one of the most important days in the history of the people of Israel, no less than Yom Kippur.”
Sigd, celebrated 50 days after Yom Kippur, is patterned after the events described in the biblical book of Nehemiah, Chapters 8-10, which describe the renewal of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, which took place after the return of the Babylonian exile.
SIGD 2020 CEREMONY
The holiday is connected to the renewal of the covenant between God and the Jewish people and the return to Zion. The Knesset made the day a national holiday in 2008.
Many Ethiopian-Israelis celebrated the holiday on Monday at the Armon Hanatziv Promenade overlooking the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“This was the most significant day of my life. On the day of my aliyah, an exile of 2,700 years of longing for Jerusalem ended. I am just a small link in the chain of generations of the people of Israel,” said Yevarkan, describing the day he immigrated to Israel. “The common denominator of the entirety of the people of Israel is the Torah of Israel and the Land of Israel. We prayed from every point in the world toward the east. We are in fact fulfilling the prophecy of the prophets of Israel.”
Yevarkan made the comments during a virtual event held by Eshkolot and the National Institute for Ethiopian Jewry Heritage Center titled “Longing for Jerusalem – Celebrating the Sigd Holiday.”
The event was also attended by Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Issac Herzog, Culture and Sport Minister Chili Tropper and Higher Education Minister Ze’ev Elkin, among others.
“The Sigd holiday is a gem among Israeli holidays. It expresses the longing for Zion and Jerusalem, the wondrous story of Ethiopian Jewry that is not told enough,” said Herzog.
“This year, because of the coronavirus, we can not go up to Jerusalem and pray like every year. That is why we at Eshkolot, the umbrella organization for thirty educational centers that deal with Israel’s heritage and knowledge of the land, wanted to make the Sigd holiday accessible in an experiential and fun way, which will illustrate the longing and connection to Jerusalem to the general public,” said Adir Vishnia, CEO of Eshkolot.
“Precisely in this unique year, when we are all prevented from gathering, we suddenly feel how the Jews of Ethiopia felt, that such a natural ability as coming to Jerusalem was denied to them,” said Elkin. “The insistence on preserving this tradition for a long time preserved their connection to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem.”
Concerning his role as deputy public security minister, Yevarkan told Eshkolot that he has “an important task in the police to change the perception of the violent discourse of police officers towards young people of Ethiopian descent.”
“I am leading to the deletion of a police record for thousands of citizens of the State of Israel, including young people who cannot enlist and work,” said Yevarkan.