Ethiopian spiritual leaders go on hunger strike

Kessim, who administer to Ethiopian community, but receive no formal recognition or salary from the state, set up tents across from PMO.

Ethiopians celebrate holiday of Sigd 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Ethiopians celebrate holiday of Sigd 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Hundreds of Ethiopian spiritual leaders arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday to protest the state's refusal to officially recognize them as religious authorities, Army Radio reported.
They set up protest tents across from the Prime Minister's Office and began a hunger strike that they plan to continue until they receive recognition and rights as spiritual leaders of the community from the state.
RELATED:Ethiopians protest gov’t proposal to reduce aliya
The Ethiopian kessim have no Orthodox rabbinic training but were spiritual leaders for thousands of years in Ethiopia.
The kessim have received no recognition from the state, despite performing weddings and brit mila (circumcision) ceremonies for the Ethiopian community.
The government decided to recognize and provide a salary to some kessim last year, but the decision has yet to take effect.
Army radio quoted Religious Services Ministry Director-General Avigdor Ohana as saying the implementation of the decision had been delayed for bureaucratic reasons.
"Nothing can be done about the fact that Halacha (Jewish law) determines who is authorized to perform marriages. The ministry has been training them and instilling in them Jewish history and I hope they will be recognized soon, but it takes time."