First Ethiopian Israeli Museum Gets Green Light

Posted: 6/15/2008 12:02:00 PM
Author: Ruth Eglash
Source: This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post online on June 15, 2008.

First Ethiopian Israeli museum gets green light
by Ruth Eglash

Plans to establish the first-ever museum dedicated to Ethiopian Jewish culture and history have been approved by the Knesset, marking a serious effort by legislators to raise the profile and preserve the heritage of the 110,000-strong community.

"Thousands of new Ethiopian immigrants have arrived in Israel over the past 30 years and now is the time to immortalize their traditions in order to educate future generations about their history," read the legislation.

"Most of Ethiopian Jewry's rich heritage is not documented in any place, " said MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima), one of two Ethiopian Israeli MKs currently serving in the Knesset. "Our history exists only in the heads of community members and our spiritual leaders, the Kessim (community elders.) "

Molla, who spoke in favor of the legislation in the Knesset plenum added: "As a multi-cultural society we need to take action to preserve the unique traditions of Ethiopian Jewry and to educate future generations about our traditions."

While no final plans are in place as to the scope or format such a museum would take, Eitan's proposal follows a bill submitted in March by MK Uri Ariel (National Union/NRP) to turn the Ethiopian spiritual festival Sig'd into a national holiday marked by an official government ceremony and to be studied in the educational system. The legislation is currently awaiting its second and third readings.

The majority of Ethiopian Israelis arrived in the country via government-sponsored operations Moses (1984-85) and Solomon (1991). The thousands who arrived here in these operations are known as Beta Yisrael. They have a rich Jewish history dating back to the time of the Queen of Sheba. The majority of immigrants who have arrived since Operation Solomon belong to the Falash Mura grouping. They are the descendants of Ethiopian Jews who were forced to conceal their Judaism and convert to Christianity more than a century ago.