MK pushes bill to nationalize Ethiopian spiritual festival

MK Uri Ariel (NU/NRP) announced Tuesday that he was preparing legislation to turn the Ethiopian spiritual festival of Sig'd into a national holiday to be marked officially by the State of Israel. In a statement, Ariel said that the holiday was significant for all Jews because it represented a yearning for all the Jews to return to Jerusalem and aimed to renew the covenant between God and the people of Israel. Sig'd is also a fast day. Celebrated 50 days after Yom Kippur on the 29th Heshvan, the Ethiopian community's spiritual leaders or Kessim traditionally recite prayers in the Ethiopian Jewish language of Gez. Currently, the community's main celebrations take place at Jerusalem's Haas Promenade and are attended mostly by Ethiopians. Under Ariel's plan, the state would mark the festival with an official ceremony using funds from the Prime Minister's Office and workers could chose whether to observe the day by not working. The move comes following a petition presented by the Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews calling on Israel's religious leaders to incorporate the festival into the calendar of religious Jewish holidays.