The Ethiopian Jewish community, called Beta-Israel, lived in seclusion for over 1,000 years, only reconnecting to the Jewish world in the late 20th century. According to Ethiopian tradition, their roots go back 3,000 years to the era of King Solomon. Like their brethren in many parts of the world, Ethiopian Jews suffered persecution for their beliefs and refusal to adopt Christianity. In the Middle Ages their lands were confiscated, villages plundered and many murdered. They were nicknamed Falash – intruders, homeless and without property. Despite the hardships, this community preserved their traditions with great devotion and generations were educated on the value of yearning for a return to Jerusalem, The Holy City, home of The Temple, pure and holy. The Sigd celebrations, Sigd meaning “to bow or prostate oneself”, convey their love and yearning for Jerusalem.
Traditionally the celebrations took place on a hilltop looking toward Jerusalem,signifying a renewal of the bond with God. Now, with a community of over 150,000 in Israel the main event takes place annually at the Sherover Promenade in Jerusalem, overlooking The Temple Mount.Thousands followed the Kessim, the religious leaders, and gathered in the late morning hours in colorful traditional garments or in whites signifying purity, to pray and give thanks. Guests of honor included Minister of Immigrant Absorption, Ms. Sofa Landver and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
The yearning for Jerusalem has become a reality. Israeli-born offspring to Ethiopian Jews are finding it more and more difficult to identify with the aspirations of their forefathers. First signs are evident that this ancient ethnic celebration of hope and faith might one day be forgotten.