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Open Close Open, a drive to end repression of Jews in Addis-Ababa

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In November of 2013, years of peaceful co-existence came to an end with a single court-order that led to shutting of all traditional synagogues of Addis-Ababa. Several years ago there were 44 and now there is one and the world is silent because it doesn't know. But maybe now that you know, if you add your voice, the world will know and Ethiopian government will have to open the synagogues.

 

2600 years ago, Jewish traders traveled from Yemen to Ethiopia and found a home among the hills of Simi Mountains. A thousand years later, thousands were forced to flee south to Addis Ababa. They made a home, built synagogues and lived in peace with their neighbors. In 1980s, genocide and famines forced Jews of North to flee to Sudan and Israel to acknowledge their existance. Thousands were flown to Israel where they had a chance to start a new in their ancestral homeland. However, Jews of the capital were not known of in Israel, were not able to leave and continued to live in the capital in a state of uncertainty until recent events changed the relationship with the church. A court decision put the synagogues under control of the church. The church promptly shut down the synagogue. The suburb of Kechene, where Jews live no longer has the support it had provided by the synagogues where the elderly were given food and shelter. It no longer has a community center for children and families to come together and support eachother and their culture as they had for thousands of years.

Jews of Ethiopia are an important part of Ethiopian heritage. Their freedom to worship God according to their customs, culture and beliefs is an important right that all people, Jewish, Muslim or Christian should be able to have in Ethiopia today.

 Imagine that your hope, your final protection, the solace of your life and link to the universe and all of your ancestors is taken away and there is no one to help you.

 That is the reality in the community Bete-Avraham, where last month the last traditional synagogues of Addis-Ababa had been forcibly taken over by the Coptic Christian Church and permanently shut-down.  Now, few people today even know that Ethiopian Jews exist, let alone that they are suffering increasing persecution. There is a common misconception that all the Jews of Ethiopia are now in Israel, after thousands were flown to Israel in the eighties to be rescued from famine and oppression in what was to be called Operation Moses.  But many stayed behind, and those living near Addis-Ababa, although fortunate to have survived famine and drought, live in relative obscurity and struggle against an oppressive and anti-Semitic culture that forces them to hide their true identity in order to gain access to education and even a proper place for burial.

 


  The was once a time in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and most populace city, when there were 44 synagogues, hidden in the narrow cobblestone streets of old amidst the mud houses of the surrounding hills. By the time I visited the Kechene village last year during rainy August, that number was down to about a dozen.  Now, there are none.   Because of the proximity to the capital, the Jews of Addis-Ababa have been living in absolute poverty with minimal assistance and no chance to move to Israel. Living among Christian and Muslim neighbors, and are forced to live as the Moranos and Conversos of Spain, pretending to be Christian to avoid discrimination, but this defensive mechanism renders them nearly invisible to the outside world, and prevent them from getting help from Israel. 

 

But it doesn't have to be like that. Share this story, raise awarnes. Sign the petition and together, we can help my friend Sentayehu and the Bete-Avraham community recognize the right of Jewish people of Ethiopia freedom to worship and attain equal rights under the law. 

 

   



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