‘The journey of the Ethiopian Jews is an epic of our times… Writing from deep experience in working with them, listening to their stories with a multi-disciplinary imagination, Gadi BenEzer has given us a rare and compelling book.’ Paul Thompson, Department of Sociology, University of Essex ‘His beautifully written book…of great importance…brings the reader closer to a community whose miraculous destiny serves as an inspiration.’ Elie Wiesel, 1986 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Between 1977 and 1985, some 20,000 Ethiopian Jews left their homes in Ethiopia and— motivated by an ancient dream of returning to the land of their ancestors, ‘Yerussalem’— embarked on a secret and highly traumatic exodus to Israel. Due to various political circumstances they had to leave their homes in haste, travel a long way on foot through unknown country, and stay for a period of one or two years in refugee camps until they were brought to Israel. The difficult conditions of the journey included attacks by bandits, night travel over mountains, incarceration, illness and death. The Jews also faced problems that were connected to their Jewish identity and to the fact that they were heading for Israel. A fifth of the group did not survive the journey. This interdisciplinary, ground-breaking book focuses on the experience of this journey, its meaning for the people who made it, and its relation to the initial encounter with Israeli society. The author argues that powerful processes occur on such journeys which affect the individual and community in life-changing ways, including their initial encounter with and adaptation to their new society. Analysing the psycho-social impact of the journey, he examines the relations between coping and meaning, trauma and culture, and discusses personal development and growth. Gadi BenEzer is a senior lecturer of psychology and anthropology at the Department of Behavioural Sciences in the College of Management in Tel Aviv. In the last two decades he has worked as a psychotherapist and organisational psychologist with the Ethiopian Jewish immigrants in Israel. He has written


extensively on Ethiopian Jews, trauma and life stories, and cross-cultural psychotherapy. His book on the immigration and integration of the Ethiopian Jews (As Light within a Clay Pot, Rubin Mass, 1992) has become the main text on the subject in Israel.

Series Editors: Mary Chamberlain, Paul Thompson, Timothy Ashplant, Richard Candida-Smith and Selma Leydesdorff 1 NARRATIVE AND GENRE Edited by Mary Chamberlain and Paul Thompson 2 TRAUMA AND LIFE STORIES International Perspectives Edited by Kim Lacy-Rogers and Selma Leydesdorff with Graham Dawson 3 NARRATIVES OF GUILT AND COMPLIANCE IN UNIFIED GERMANY Stasi Informers and their Impact on Society Barbara Miller 4 JAPANESE BANKERS IN THE CITY OF LONDON Junko Sakai 5 MEMORY AND MEMORIALS, 1789–1914 Literary and Cultural Perspectives Edited by Matthew Campbell, Jacqueline M.Labbe and Sally Shuttleworth 6 THE ROOTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS Popular Tradition and Personal Experience Edited by Stephen Hussey and Paul Thompson 7 THE POLITICS OF WAR MEMORY AND COMMEMORATION Edited by T.G.Ashplant, Graham Dawson and Michael Roper 8 LINES OF NARRATIVE Psychosocial Perspectives Edited by Molly Andrews, Shelley Day Sclater, Corinne Squire and Amal Treacher 9 THE ETHIOPIAN JEWISH EXODUS Narratives of the Migration Journey to Israel 1977–1985 Gadi BenEzer 10 ART AND THE PERFORMANCE OF MEMORY Sounds and Gestures of Recollection Edited by Richard Candida-Smith

Narratives of the migration journey to Israel 1977–1985

Gadi BenEzer

London and New York

or in any information storage or retrieval No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic.eBookstore. or other means. 2005. now known or hereafter invented. without permission in writing from the publishers British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN 0-203-21923-6 Master e-book ISBN ISBN 0-203-27437-7 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0-415-27363-3 (Print Edition) . including photocopying and recording. London EC4P 4EE Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 29 West 35th Street. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.First published 2002 by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane.tandf. New NY 10001 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library.” © 2002Gadi BenEzer All rights reserved. mechanical.


2000 8 Ethiopian Jews encounter Israel Concluding remarks Appendix Notes Bibliography Index viii ix xii xiii 1 16 39 60 88 120 151 174 179 198 202 205 227 249 .CONTENTS List of illustrations Acknowledgements Note on transliteration and form Maps 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Introduction The context of the journey Interviewing and interpreting in cross-cultural research The theme of Jewish identity The theme of suffering The theme of bravery and inner strength The impact of the journey: psycho-social issues Encounters and portraits in Israel.

2000 Maps 1 The various routes of the migration journeys of Ethiopian Jews to Israel 2 The Sudanese refugee camps along the Ethiopian Exodus © Tudor Parfitt. reading the holy book 2.4 Injera. 1985 xiii xiv 36 37 37 38 174 .ILLUSTRATIONS Photographs 2. the Ethiopian Jewish Bible. the Ethiopian traditional bread Encounters and portraits in Israel. in the Ge’ez language 2.3 Buna.1 Kess Menasheh. the eldest among Ethiopian religious leaders. the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony 2.2 The Orit.

Ideas within the study were also discussed with Roger Zetter. I am deeply indebted to Paul Thompson for his patient guidance throughout the various stages of the PhD study upon which this book is based. Robin Cohen from Warwick University contributed valuable sources to my review of the literature. I would not be able to mention every one of them here but I am grateful to all of them. Paul played an important role in making this research project into an enriching and enjoyable process. I would like to thank in particular Ian Craib.Hare. Many people have helped at different phases of the work. Terry Ranger and Jonathan Webber of the University of Oxford were willing to read and comment on parts of my work. Switzerland. I am also delighted to have this opportunity to thank all interviewees of nongovernmental organisations and government agencies. I have interviewed them in Canada. They were willing to share their observations with me and to shed light on various aspects of the journey. Joseph Sandler. Deborah Dwork at Yale University encouraged me at the beginning of the project. David Turton. the USA. Richard Wilson and Ken Plummer as well as Brenda Corti at the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex. In our meetings in ‘Little Greece’ and ‘Little Italy’. This has helped me in putting the journey narratives in context. England. I am grateful for their trust in me and their willingness to let me escort them along the complex and often painful trails of their journey memories. Nitza Yanai. Wolfram Fischer-Rosenthal. Andrew Shaknow and Mary Chamberlain at the University of Oxford and at Oxford Brooks University I am obliged to Mary also for ‘pushing’ the project forward as an editor of the Routledge Studies in Memory and Narrative series of books. Ethiopia and Israel. I am indebted to all of them.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First and foremost I wish to thank my interviewees. Dan Bar-On. non-Ethiopians as well as Ethiopians. When I chose the way to analyse the material it was Nitza in particular who made time in a very . Amia Lieblich and Yoram Bilu. I often admired their courage in recounting their experiences. two Oxford ‘institutions’. Paul A. as well as Vaughan Robinson at Swansea University. who have played a part in Operation Moses or have worked in the refugee camps in Sudan. At its initial phases I have discussed the work and worked on ways of analysis of the material with Gabriele Rosenthal.

and Donald Cohen. including the effects of trauma. Isaiah Berlin. were helpful in finding sources at the final stage. were provided by The Jerusalem Fund for Anthropological Studies. Tarik Modood. Joseph Sandler. John Berry. I thank her wholeheartedly. some of which preferred to remain anonymous. I am delighted to thank Elie Wiesel. the Anglo-Jewish Association in England and the British Economic and Social Sciences Research Council (ESSRC) provided part of the funds for the second and third phase of the study. The last trip to Oxford in order to prepare the book for press was supported by the Department of Behavioural Sciences at the College of Management. I wish to thank in particular Barbara Harrel-Bond at the RSP and David Patterson and Phillip Alexander at the OCHJS. The thoughts concerning the chapter on the encounter with Israeli society were ‘aired’ in particular with Moshe Lissak. AVI Scholarships in Switzerland. Jim Garbarino. Sidney Corob and Gail CohenSchorsh who were instrumental in raising the funds for this study. and The Sidney and Elizabeth Corob Charitable Trust. director of that Center. Michael Argyle. Israel. mine. Niel Boothby. all responsibility for the final result is. Shulamit Hareven and Nurit Zarchi have helped me on the form of the narrative. Funds for the interviewing and data collection phase. of course. who has read the manuscript and was willing to endorse it. I thank them wholeheartedly for their moral and practical support. Sterling Professor Emeritus at the Yale University Child Study Center. Edna Lomsky-Feder. While they have helped me in crystallising and sharp-ening my ideas. Amichai Zilberman. Rina Shapira. The Refugee Studies Programme (now Centre) at the University of Oxford and The Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies supplied the working environment and library facilities at certain points of my work. Marita Eastmond and Taddesse Tamrat. I am particularly delighted to thank Roger . My ideas included in the psycho-social chapter. Diana Cammak. Edgar Siskin. believed in the importance of this study from its initial phase. Lena Punamaki-Gitai.x busy schedule to help me master it. David Kessler. Shmuel Ben-Dor. I also wish to acknowledge the assistance of the library of the Institute of Anthropology at the University of Oxford. where I have been teaching for the last six years. I am obliged to Natasha Burchardt for discussions of the work as well as hosting me in Oxford during that trip. This study was supported in its various stages by grants from foundations and individuals. The New-Land Foundation in the USA. University of Oxford. Abner Cohen. were discussed with Maurice Eisenbruch. Nick Van Hear. I am also indebted to Sidney Furst. Sarah and Ann from the RSP Documentation Centre. Michael Korzinski. Oz Almog and Alex Weingrod. Rene Hirschon. England. Elizabeth Colson. Ken Wilson. Albert Solnit. Derek Summerfield. Ann Thirkel-Smith has helped as a librarian as well as a ‘barometer’ of English. Roger Mumby-Croft. Danny Brom. as well as for the first stage of analysis. My ‘working environment’ included not only the professional libraries and academics but my friends in Oxford.

who supported and encouraged me along the way. the Alexander Technique teacher. the production editor. I was fortunate to have James (Joe) Whiting as my editor at Routledge. He believed in the work and contributed helpful suggestions. Andrew Shaknow and Katherina. I happily thank my assistants. Special thanks to Mulik. Tom and Ya’el. Marion Wiesel and Chaim Peri have supported me during the last phase of getting the book published. who have meticulously carried out the transcription of most of the tapes. my friend. who supplied the smiles that are so essential for the creative process.xi and Catherine Mumby-Croft. his assistant editor and Emma Howarth. I am thankful to Pnina Evental for permission to use her photographs of Ethiopian Jewish people in the book. were instrumental in orchestrating all others in the team and getting the manuscript ready for publication. Talia in particular. my children. David Shires and Karen Kearley. Making authors keep to their deadlines is never an easy task and I thank them for how they managed it. Elizabeth Walker. without whom I would have gone astray so many times. took care of painless sitting for long hours at the computer desk. and to Inbal. Kobi and Matti Sheffi. My deepest gratitude to Irit. I am thankful for being able to use ‘port meadow’ as a meditating place at times of writing block. Tessa and Steve Rothrocks. Lejla and Tracy gave technical assistance at different phases of the work. . my wife. David Meheret assisted me with transcribing the interviews with the elderly. Tudor Parfitt of SOAS gave permission to include one of the maps within this volume. as well as the Oxford canal for my daily breaks between the writing of words and the invention of more words at my computer. Annabel Watson.

I have used diacritical marks as sparingly as possible.e. tswana (as in Botswana) e bet or encounter o Robert i lit u Judo. The Ethiopian term for outlaws or robbers. sociological. except for kessoch which is pronounced as with ‘tch’ tch—in the middle of the word church tz—at the beginning of a word tsetse. as in German Bach. As for foreign terms. was used both for the singular and for the plural as it was employed by most of the interviewees. Amharic and Tigrinya words in the psychological. I have thus followed what seems to be the most commonly used transcription in anthropological studies on Israel. Israel and Ethiopian Jews. However. given (first) name and the father’s first name as the offspring’s last name.NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION AND FORM No transliteration rules are followed uniformly for Hebrew. The following system is thus used for the pronunciation of sounds in the non-English words: Transcription a ch Pronunciation father no close sound in English. without the suffix ‘-och’. shifta. as in kessoch. Ethiopian names of authors have been kept as they are in Ethiopia. . i. in the interest of readability. This is how they appear in the text as well as in the bibliography (unless otherwise known). I used the form of Tigray (not Tigre) for that place in Ethiopia. anthropological and historical works dealing with Ethiopia. for example. including the names of festivals. but the latter are also kept in capitals. Sudan I have tried to preserve the sound of words in Amharic and Tigrinya used by the interviewees. Thus. which symbolises the plural in Amharic. they have been italicised. but Tigreans for the people of that area (not Tigrim as in the already Hebreicised form of the word).

I have tried. . I should note here that the abbreviation ‘n.’ stands in the bibliography for any reference that is not dated. as much as possible.xiii Map 1 The various routes of the migration journeys of Ethiopian Jews to Israel As for abbreviations. not to use these in the text.d.

1985 .xiv Map 2 The Sudanese refugee camps along the Ethiopian Exodus © Tudor Parfitt.

a movement primarily of the young and the fit. to ‘Yerussalem’—embarked on a secret. Once in Israel. The conditions of the journey were extremely difficult. with unique features. It is interesting not only in its own right. However. The migration dream of Ethiopian Jews has. but also because it shares. inspired by a Utopian dream of life fulfilment. some 20. It is a migration from the South to the North (the Third World to the West)1 of black people into a predominantly white society. Due to various political circumstances. go a long way by foot through unknown country towards Sudan. The migrants/refugees also faced problems that were connected to their Jewish identity and to the fact that they were heading for Israel. The adaptation process of these immigrants/refugees was complicated by their ‘anomalous’ Jewish identity. illegal and highly traumatic exodus to Israel. It focuses on the experience of the journey. by the experience of arrival in the ‘Promised Land’. crossing mountains.000 Ethiopian Jews left their homes in Ethiopia and—motivated by an ancient dream of returning to the land of their ancestors. incarcerations. a dream sorely tested. they had to leave their homes in haste. Since then I have been working with them as a clinical psychologist and . exceptionally deep roots in their traditional culture. and often highlights. the immigrants were first put in absorption centres and then settled in different towns and villages. illness and death. as we shall see. I began working with the Ethiopian immigrant community in Israel in 1982. It is about the migration journey of Ethiopian Jews to Israel via Sudan. walking at night. hunger and thirst. During the period of 1977–85. Religious authorities questioned the authenticity of their Jewish identity. its meaning for the people who made it. many features which are common to migratory movements throughout the world in the later twentieth century. A fifth of these migrants/ refugees2—4.1 INTRODUCTION This book is about a journey. and its relation to the encounter with Israeli society. skin colour) set them apart from ‘mainstream’ Israeli society. their heightened expectations are similar to the experience of other migrants inspired by more secular dreams. if not shattered. The migration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel since 1977 is a small yet dramatic movement. and their physical appearance (e. including torture.g. and stay for a period of one to two years in refugee camps there until they were brought to Israel.000 people—did not survive the journey. bandit attacks.

I could think of their arrival as a ‘present’ for Israeli society at large. I wondered why the old man did not refer to the two millennia or so of Jewish existence in Ethiopia and chose. He said: ‘We suffered so much on our way here and they [the religious authorities of Israel] question our Jewish identity!’ In another instance I met a young adolescent boy who. If they only knew all about that. while talking about the situation in his social milieu. In this process of encounter with ‘the other’. as well as be ready to create new ways of thinking about and practising with these very different immigrants. in making his point. Why was this such a significant point of reference for him and for the adolescent at the boarding school. in a general conversation a respectable elderly man suddenly shared with me his frustration that he had had to go through ritual immersion in water as part of a symbolic conversion to Judaism. As my work with Ethiopian Jews progressed I started hearing more and more references to the journey from Ethiopia and its meaning in relation to their current life in Israel. During this long period that I have been ‘immersed’ in the community I have won their trust and confidence. The suffering of the journey served as ‘spectacles’ through which the elderly man looked at the unresolved conflict with the Chief Rabbis3 of Israel and the adolescent saw his integration problems within the boarding school. rather. I have changed. an equally significant point of reference for so many others from this community? I started asking myself what had happened to them on their journey that could account for the fact that it played such a crucial and central role. and. achieved up to that time. and have been acting as a consultant in their absorption centres and educational and vocational settings. that we just boarded an airplane. the more recent journey to Israel. I am sure they wouldn’t have picked on me! What struck me in these two instances was the fact that they related so strongly to the journey as a frame of reference for the current events in Israel. inter-cultural) psychological work. As I have also been trained in anthropology the arrival of Ethiopian Jews has presented a professional challenge for me: the challenge of cross-cultural (or. and consequently advocate a change in policies and practice relating to this group. If they [the boys at his boarding school] only knew how much I suffered to get here. commented as follows: Israelis do not know what we have gone through…the kind of journey we experienced. In order to rise to the challenge I had to combine my various areas of expertise. what I had to live through on our journey. as I was later to learn. that many people were left behind…did not survive. Israelis think we came directly from our village. not only professionally but also personally.2 INTRODUCTION psychotherapist. From this point of view. What did it . The arrival of Ethiopian Jews has thus become a ‘present’ for me through which I have grown and developed professionally and personally. For example.

corresponded to three main ethos and myths in Israeli society during the 1980s. We shall then proceed to Chapter 2. The book’s ‘concluding remarks’ come back in brief to some general points in the . the main body of the text. In a nutshell. That is. I focused on the experience of adolescents during their migration journey. trying to let the ‘voice’ of my interviewees be heard here as much as possible. this study focuses on the experience of the journey. The research was summed up as a PhD dissertation (BenEzer 1995) which I then turned into this book. particularly the problem and challenge of conducting research in a cross-cultural context. I shall suggest that the story of the journey is in the process of turning into a myth. The psychosocial impact of the journey on the individual and on the community is analysed in Chapter 7. thus causing considerable difficulties in their adaptation. I shall present and discuss the kinds of experience related to these themes. In Chapter 8 I offer an analysis of the encounter of Ethiopian Jews with Israeli society. its meaning for the people who made it and its relation to the initial encounter with Israeli society. 5 and 6. Let me briefly present the organisation of the book. and their historical background. As I have stated above. Chapters 4. Here I shall focus on the traumatic nature of the experience of the journey. This is the most ‘psychological’ chapter in the book. where we shall meet the Ethiopian Jews in their Ethiopian context prior to the journey. This literature will be examined in the following part of this chapter. the theme of suffering (Chapter 5) and the theme of bravery and inner strength (Chapter 6). Chapter 3 centres on methodological issues. These are the theme of Jewish identity (Chapter 4). which also constitute dimensions of self-concept. as they were called. I shall first show how the three major themes derived from the journey. it argues that powerful processes occur on such journeys that affect the individual and the community in life-changing ways. and look at certain cultural aspects that could influence the traumatic or non-traumatic nature of events. describe the three themes that were found to be the major dimensions of meaning through which Ethiopian Jews constructed their experiences along the journey. I devised a systematic research project which examined Ethiopian Jews’ narratives of their journey to Israel. This includes their encounter with and adaptation to their new society. The study of the Ethiopian exodus aims to fill a gap in the existing literature in relation to journeys in migration and refugee studies. and related issues. Here I shall also examine how the meaning of experience affects people’s coping abilities. the ‘psychology of trauma’ so to speak. Then I shall discuss how Israeli society failed to acknowledge Ethiopian Jews’ selfperception.INTRODUCTION 3 symbolise? What meaning had it acquired? In what way is this meaning linked to their current encounter with Israeli society? With these questions in mind I set out on my own ‘journey’: a quest for the understanding of the phenomenon. we shall present a brief ethnography of ‘Beta Israel’. I go on to show how Ethiopian Jews use the story of their journey in order to assert their own self-concept and identity and to find their place within Israeli society.

This will include the appropriateness of phenomenological investigation for the research of the journey and methodological issues arising out of the cross-cultural context. to the best of my knowledge. The former (for example high rates of unemployment in the area of origin. sociology and history (oral history). and is located within the fields of migration and refugee studies. The germane literature on Ethiopian Jews is the basis for the sections on history and ethnography in Chapter 2. there are no studies that focus on a journey. That is. JOURNEYS IN MIGRATION AND REFUGEE STUDIES This study is about a journey. see also Watson 1977a:6. This is in spite of the fact that the literature on the former is vast and that on the latter is expanding rapidly. anthropology. It is informed by social studies and the humanities. Taylor 1969.4 INTRODUCTION experience of journeys of the kind undergone by the Ethiopian Jewish immigrants/refugees. with ‘immigrants’ at the ‘receiving’ end. while the latter (economic expansion in the host country or region) are said to encourage risk-taking and incomemaximising migration (Marshall 1994:328. According to this approach the researcher distinguishes between circumstances at home that repel and those abroad that attract migrants (Petersen 1968). either in the field of migration or in refugee studies. security-maximising nature. the relationship between meaning and coping and issues related to culture and coping will be discussed in Chapter 7. mainly the disciplines of psychology. either while they are still in their country of origin or after having arrived in their country of destination. Thus. It thus deals with a real and difficult physical endeavour overland on foot. Theories dealing with the motivations for migration tend to be dominated by the economic ‘pushpull’ model. Much of the relevant literature (other than what I intend to examine below) will be discussed at various points where applicable. This is an interdisciplinary study. the literature which deals with oral history and life story methods will be discussed in Chapter 3. It focuses on the experience of the journey and its meaning for the people who made it. Wrong 1961). as well as a social and psychological journey. or problems in housing) are usually viewed as inducing migration of a conservative. The migration literature tends to focus on people either at one end of the migration process or at the other. Jansen 1970. It is about the migration journey of Ethiopian Jews to Israel via Sudan. Economic and structural factors formed the basis of . however. Many studies are concerned with the ‘causes’ of migration. which included periods of marching and a period spent in a refugee camp. which is devoted to method. In what follows. and certain dynamics within Israeli society are considered in Chapter 8. I wish to show that. Researchers are thus dealing mainly with the situation of prospective ‘emigrants’ in their ‘sending country’ or. even more.

g. the village network or the caste. i. 1998. Palmer 1977. Chamberlain 1997.g. 1998. 1983). Stark and Bloom 1985. Massey et al. Rural-urban and urban—rural directions of movement are usually analysed within the boundaries of internal migration (Boyle et al. Watson 1975. Researchers tend to group migration movements under the headings of international. Others (e. Werbner 1990. Migration literature also deals with the direction and boundaries of the migration. Anthropologists who have reconstructed the history of various emigrant communities demonstrate clearly that it is impossible to categorise all of the relevant factors as either ‘push’ or ‘pull’ (Philpott 1977. Hareven 1975). Mormino 1982. The push-pull approach thus obscures the inherent complexity of population movements (Watson 1977a). neoclassical economics versus the network theory—may have to be applied in order to understand these different processes (Massey et al. Foner 1977. Banerjee 1981).g. regional refers to migrations within the continents or within common regional areas such as Southeast Asia or the Middle East (D. Peach 1968:93). In spite of the growing criticism of the push-pull approach. together with a group of his colleagues.g. cited in Watson 1977a:7). it seems that no other model has attracted the same degree of attention. or through some other ‘patterns of migration’—were. and still are. The patterns of migration—the question of whether migrants moved through ‘social networks’ such as the extended family. Shaw 1988. Kritz et al.e. . are using more complex analyses and alternative hypotheses (or a combination of them) to explain the causes and motivation leading to migration (e.L. An analysis of this kind in the literature is still ‘conventional’ (Marshall 1994:329) though it is more refined at times (see Kritz and Keely 1983:xvi. They distinguish clearly between models that describe the initiation of international movement and theories accounting for why transnational population flows persist across space and time. thus forming a phenomenon of ‘chain-migration’. Douglass 1970) claim that the push-pull approach often implies that ‘the subjects were automatons reacting to forces beyond their control’ rather than active participants (Douglass 1970. 1998. 1996). They argue convincingly that conditions that initiate international movement may be quite different from those that perpetuate it. has recently done a comprehensive review of the theories regarding international migration that have arisen during the last thirty years or so. and that different theories— e.INTRODUCTION 5 most of the analyses within this model (Ballard and Ballard 1977. regional and internal migration. Douglas Massey. however. Ballard and Ballard 1977. widely discussed (e. Teitelbaum 1980). The push-pull theories have been criticised by many. Some researchers. from where to where and in what area people move.Appleyard 1992). It is also clear that an analysis of push-pull factors remains at the highest levels of abstraction and that generalisations of this nature are rarely accepted by the migrants themselves. Petersen 1968). Khan 1977. While the first and the last are self-explanatory. Taylor 1969.

together with numerous studies on changes (and/or continuity). among other issues. and topics such as economic organisation. The fact that waves of immigrants indeed constitute minority groups in many countries instigated much research on issues connected with race and ethnic relations (Modood 1994. This is. Portes 1995. Rex and . Rex and Mason 1986. An extensive amount of research is concerned with migrants in their new country. Findlay 1994. especially the analyses of the mass migration waves of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Shaw 1988. Basok 2000. 1969. A considerable part of that research. Vertovec 1995. The questions concerning when immigrants turn into a minority group (thus when they should be called ‘immigrants’ and when ‘minorities’) and whether the second generation should be referred to in the literature as part of a migrant population. was concerned with the demography of migration. The effects of immigrants on the economy as well as on the social and cultural structure and dynamics of the new society still constitutes much of the research (Portes and Rumbaut 1996. push-pull paradigm.g. James Watson (1977a:5) relates how it took some months for the authors in the collection he edited on migrant and minority groups in Britain to agree on this and related issues. 1995) on the economic sociology of immigration are other important examples of this area of study. by Waldinger and Bozorgmehr (1997). This book deals with. More recent studies in this area include the prize-winning book on Ethnic Los Angeles. Cohen 1997a:57–62. Anwar 1979). Baily 1995. e. The studies by Light and Gold (2000) regarding ethnic entrepreneurs and those of Alexander Portes (e. Zetter 1999a. Chamberlain 1997. Grieco 1987).6 INTRODUCTION Labour migration is another focus of attention within migration literature.g. giftgiving. Differences in economic success of various immigrant groups were sometimes studied and related to various causes. Banton 1983. for example. 1993). Such was the classic study by McClelland (1961) of the ethic of work of Jewish and Italian immigrants and their relative compatibility with the Protestant work ethic prevailing in the United States (by which he tried to explain the difference in economic success of these groups in their new country). e. 1992. Studies of ‘assimilation’. Marriage and return-migration are also analysed in this context (as well as in others.g. HuDehart 1993). Berry 1992. Werbner 1990. 1974.g. Stark 1991. Spencer 1994. marriage. education and political organisation constituted a great deal of the research on the migrant societies. chain migration. religious behaviour. Cohen 1980. An example of this is research regarding what happens to the size and structure of the population in the receiving country as a result of the migration wave. cultural characteristics of Korean and other migrants and their relation to success in various kinds of businesses and/ or occupations. occupy some of the literature in the field.g. within immigrant groups following their arrival in the new country. ‘integration’ and ‘acculturation’ (e. and consequently to agree on the title of the book. as well as the impact on the demography of the sending country (Petersen 1968). This topic is researched either as an issue in itself (several journals are devoted to the subject) or within the framework of the issues mentioned above (e.

has written extensively on transnationalism. ‘transnationalism’ (Rogers 2000. according to Glick-Schiller and her colleagues. Glick-Schiller and Fouron 1999. like that on the various forms of black consciousness and the black-white dichotomy. 1997). on the other hand.INTRODUCTION 7 Moore 1967). while. 1990). Van Hear 1998. ‘transversal migration’. or work in one country while their family lives in another. Research and academic debate has focused on concepts such as ‘diasporas’ (Vertovec and Cohen 1999. Others. for example. 1993b. Sheffer 1986). Glick-Schiller 1998. for example. Nina Glick-Schiller. transnational migration and transmigrants. or move and return. persons who migrate and yet maintain or establish familial. a fierce debate is going on in the US in which dilemmas concerning immigration and ethnic relations are at the centre of the arguments (Cohen 1995b. ‘hybrids’ (Hannerz 2000). with people who have parts of their family in different countries. on the one hand. even as they also forge such relationships in the new state or states in which they settle.4 Another angle within migration studies which has gained considerable attention in the last ten years or so is that which deals with diasporas. there is a more recent recognition that European societies are ‘shrinking’ significantly in numbers due to low fertility rates and an awareness of the need for specific skilled workers. and to create a ‘fortress Europe’. transnationalism and globalisation. economic. Hall 1991. ‘bi-location’. They live within a ‘transnational social field’. scholars discuss the right of nation-states to defend themselves against incoming migrants and ‘economic refugees’ coming as asylum seekers. Schlesinger 1992). ‘globalization’ and ‘global movements’ (Cohen and Rai 2000) and ‘the global self’ (Zachary 2000). Glick-Schiller 1998. teaching and medical professions. join the debate surrounding . At the same time. (Glick-Schiller and Fouron 1999:344) Thus researchers in this field deal with transmigrants. religious. such as the economic sociologists Alexander Portes and Roger Waldinger. 1997). and thus the need to actually invite immigration. ‘boundaries’ and ‘borders’ (Lavie and Swedenburg 1996). some of which. where ‘persons literally live their lives across international borders’ (Glick-Schiller and Fouron 1999:344). such as in the computing. have been recently highlighted (Bhabha 1994. Such persons are best identified. in recent British government ministers’ statements followed by the editorials of major newspapers such as The Times and the Daily Telegraph of 12 September 2000. in Europe there is a debate in which. Following the publication in the United States of Samuel Huntington’s and Arthur Schlesinger’s essays. political or social relations in the state from which they moved. This is echoed. which together constitute an attack on multiculturalism from two different points of view. as ‘transmigrants’: that is. Gilroy 1993a. Racial discrimination and ethnic consciousness were key issues in migration literature and fed many debates. ‘cosmopoli-tanism’ (Vertovec 2000). or are ‘multiply located’ (Glick-Schiller and Fouron 1999. Cohen 1997b.

specifically torture. Death claimed many who left their homes with hope in their hearts. And it has not always been the case that migrants travel by air. They have focused their attention. died during the journey. It could have been argued that the reason for not having any migration research that focuses on a journey is because no such journeys exist for migrants. While this is true in many instances. how many visits. etc. some informed in the social sciences. The journey on the boat took seventy days and included many torments and obstacles. for example. for how long.—in order to form a scholarly debate on the phenomenon (Portes 1995. a fifth of those who embarked in Hamburg. humiliation and degradation by the captain and the crew. respectively).8 INTRODUCTION transnationalism by insisting on a more precise definition of the phenomenon— how many people. But even those who came safely off the ships for years thereafter were marked by the trying experience. and fear of the dangers kept others at home. and in particular by researchers working within . forthcoming). Waldinger and Bozorgmehr 1997). It probably became a unique part of their life story and sense of self. it is reasonable to assume that this journey stayed as a unit in itself in their minds. Iyer 2000. 1993b). Journalists. the social historian and founder editor of Oral History. For Paul Thompson. on the ‘global self’ or ‘global soul’ (Zachary 2000. The historian Oscar Handlin. it is not always the case. It must have affected the way in which these survivors re-evaluated and reconstructed their previous expectations of ‘the New World’ and the new life which they hoped for. They just board an aeroplane and within a few hours they reach their destination. In a chapter entitled ‘The perils of the crossing’ Handlin writes: For a long time. have also joined this debate. Many people do undertake some sort of a journey. are not a focus of research or analysis in any of this diverse literature. even if not an ordeal such as that of the Ethiopian Jews. it is the life stories of transnational families that are the focus of interest in his longitudinal study of Jamaican families (Thompson and Bauer. 1998. offers an example of a passage from Germany to the United States in the nineteenth century which could certainly be studied in itself. One hundred and five people. as mentioned above. the difficulties of the voyage between Europe and America exerted a deep influence upon all immigrants. Buijs 1993a. whether in the context of discrimination against a minority or in other conceptual frameworks (Willis 2000. influenced the condition in which they landed in America this not taken as a unit for study by social scientists. (Handlin 1959:31)5 If individuals were marked to such an extent by the experience of the journey. The issue of migrant women forms another growing body of knowledge. in his edited book Immigration as a Factor inAmerican History (1959). Migration journeys.

In the valuable collection of essays edited by Watson (1977b).INTRODUCTION 9 the fields of refugee and migration studies? and had an effect on their following adjustment and integration. sojourners and refugees. Pakistani immigrants. the various contributors to the collection take up the psychological impact of specific changes or transitions in the life of the individual or family. However. edited by Fisher and Cooper (1990). Even the two articles which deal with migrants. In more recent times. Migration. in addition to ‘modern migrations’. The same could be said about the now classic collection edited by Jackson (1969). then.g. Did it fail to be constructed in their minds as a period in itself. many of whom were villagers). deal with phenomena which take place in the receiving country.g. i. is Handlin’s book is just one example that shows that some migrants do endure long journeys and that this was known to researchers. . Between Two Cultures. with specific meaning and significance for the rest of their lives? Thus. though some of the migrants certainly made one (e. and look at them from an empirical or theoretical perspective.e. Maurice Eisenbruch’s (1984) innovative work and that of Adrian Furnham (1990). the transition to parenthood or becoming unemployed. Rather. people migrating from the continent of Europe to the US gained permission to cross through England only if they did not disembark from the trains which were carrying them from one side of the island to the other. ‘cultural bereavement’ and ‘expatriate stress’ respectively. there is no reference to a journey of any sort in the 1993 volume of the International Bibliography of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Lastly. certainly periods when there was no travel by air. More recent collec-tions. let alone an article on the subject. They thus had to endure an arduous journey which in its entirety consisted of passage by lorry. In a relatively recent publication which is (confusingly) titled On the Move. deal with the actual process of journeying from Pakistan to Britain but with what happened ‘before’ the decision to move or ‘after’ the arrival of the immigrants. Van Hear 1998). such as the psychological effects of moving house or home. Cohen and Kennedy 2000. (1983) which deals with theory and research on international population movements. there is no analysis of the actual process of moving or focus on any journey. Why. train and ship before they arrived in the United States. which deals with immigrants and minorities in Britain. the period of the journey and its significance for the wayfarers has never been studied. It is interesting to note that the useful study The Migration Process by Pnina Werbner (1990) does not. and the one on Global Trends in Migration edited by Kritz et al. with ‘primitive’ as well as ‘ancient and medieval’ migrations. in fact. journeys are not mentioned under the term ‘migration’ in the 1933 or 1968 Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences even though the 1933 volume deals. there is no mention of any journey. books and articles in journals on particular groups of migrants add nothing in respect to journeys (e.

Harrell-Bond et al. together with the operations of the humanitarian organisations (or ‘regime’) which was endowed with the power to make decisions in these complex political. juggling with different resources within the constraints of the situation (Van Hear 1998. The research on refugee movements followed. . similar issues and biases as the study of migration. or even mainly. and much more research. This body of research centred mainly on aidrelated issues in emergency or crisis situations (Karadawi 1999. Waldron 1987). with evidence that portrays the refugee as an entrepreneurial person (agent). within these studies. the World Council of Churches and various other organisations. affects policy making in relation to aid among other things (Bloch 1999. economic and social situations. 1992). much of the debate has centred on how to count the refugees. the host country and ‘donor governments’ were studied in this context. by states and by international organisations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Bank. Kibreab 1993. for a critical discussion see Harrell-Bond et al.10 INTRODUCTION Let us turn now to literature regarding refugee studies: how then is the topic ofthe journey treated in refugee studies? Is there a research category of a journey in that field? In 1981 it was still considered that ‘the refugee phenomenon has not been a topic of sustained social science research’ (Kritz and Keely 1983:xx). An intensive debate has been taking place for some time now on the contrasting hypotheses of refugees ‘as a burden’ versus ‘as an asset’ for the states and/or areas into which they suddenly or gradually flow. 1992. in policy and practice. has been generated. let alone a field of study in itself. Finney 1998b. The 1951 Geneva Convention and 1967 UN Protocol. A large part of the literature on refugees deals with policies of entry and of integration in Western countries (Schuster 2000. The policies of the country of origin. as well as Save the Children Fund. Yet in the twenty years that followed such a field was certainly established. The notion of ‘dependency’ and ‘idleness’ of the refugee is then contrasted. This is to a large extent dominated by the debate around different definitions of the term ‘refugee’ and differences in application of the same definition. The way in which refugees affect the areas in which they settle and the effect on sending areas of the outflow of population is another focus in refugee studies. As in migration studies. as well as comparisons with the African OAU Convention. are the points of departure for many of these discussions. Much of this research is focused on the responses. Bloch 2000). Finney 1998b. Harrell-Bond 1986). while at the same time developing its own directions and foci of research. constitute a burden on the economy of the host country. to a certain extent. which. of course. Researchers following the latter hypothesis show the complexity of the economic situation which develops around refugee camps and settlements and suggest that refugees do not necessarily. to refugee flows. Black 1998. descriptive as well as theoretical.

Boothby 1992. 1991. where most of the world’s refugees really are (e. Stein 1991). There is also much research on development projects which ‘produce’ refugees (M. Garbarino 1992a. 1997. Phuong 2000 and FMR 2000). in more cases than one. together with many other issues of repatriation. J. Scudder 1993.7 Refugee children are of a central .g. Issues of identity in exile (Kibreab 1999. Dawes 1992. such as the provision of the right food and nutrition for refugees. Horowitz 1991). particularly the construction of dams in developing countries (financed largely by the World Bank). Loughry and Xuan-Nghia 2000.g. Simon and Preston 1993. which carries meaning for them (Kliot 1987). an increasing amount of research is being done in developing countries. 1997. in Cooper 1994). of repatriation (Black and Koser 1999. Warner 1999. Not many repatriation schemes are implemented. Davis 1992). RPN 1992. Stepputat 1999. to advocacy (Cooper 1994. indeed.Stein 1998. Highly relevant topical issues. of torture (BenEzer 1999. The strategies of resistance by populations which are about to be displaced are also studied in relation to these projects (Oliver-Smith 1991). and a special double issue of the Journal of Refugee Studies in 1992 was devoted to the topic of nutrition). a more coherent area of study within the field of refugee studies than researchers of some other disciplines. Zetter 1988). Turton 1999.6 Repatriation is a central issue of discussion. resettlement or a repatriation allotment into a place of their own. The dilemmas of an academic field which is so close to human suffering (which may be caused by or could sometimes be alleviated by the policies of governments and NGOs) continues to be a focus of discussion for researchers within the field (e. for example. has taken place (Simon and Preston 1993). Shreke. Punamaki-Gitai 1992. is debated extensively in the literature (e. Al Rasheed 1993). and of gender and women refugees (Indra 1999. Psychologists and psychiatrists have been able to establish. Ahearn and Athey 1991. Geographers have added the concept of ‘place’ (the dynamics of turning a space into a place) from human geography. In whose interest and in what conditions is this the best ‘durable solution’? This. a special issue of the journal devoted to refugee children). Qouta et al. Bhabha 1993) form part of other debates in the literature.INTRODUCTION 11 The critical study of the part played by governments and the humanitarian ‘regime’ is somewhat controversially linked. according to some observers (e. Ahearn 2000). Zur 1999. 1992b. Bracken et al. a large-scale repatriation of Namibian refugees. Summerfield and Toser 1991. Finney 1998a. which has inspired interesting research on the way in which people actually turn the space of a refugee camp. even though the High Commissioner for Refugees predicted that the 1990s would become the decade of repatriation (Black 1993) and. Turton 2000.Bhabha 1998) and the myth of return (Zetter 1999a. J.g. Montgomery 1991). IJRL 1997. Melzak 1993. Moore 1998. have also been studied (Vivero-Pol 1999. Turton and Gonzalez 1999.g. While most of their studies have dealt with refugees after their arrival in Western countries (e.g.

Reviewing a collection of twenty accounts of migrants to Edinburgh. 1990. and some are even discussed briefly (e. refugee camps are a station on their journey. Taddele n. Research in refugee studies seems not to have recognised journeys as phenomena or life-events which deserve thorough investigation. Everingham 1980. one which may remain as such throughout their lives? Should we not.g. such a collection should be followed by some analysis if it is to be of value for the understanding of refugee or migration experiences. Powles 2000.d.10 However.g. Ha 1983). at least study whether this was so? What we do find are some personal accounts of journeys (e. Rutledge 1992. 1989) but they do not form a focus for research. Caplan et al.8 Should we then consider the fact that they boarded an aeroplane in Khartoum airport and landed in the US as their only journey? Is it not the case that even if they made the last part of their way by air. Related to this is the fact that the experience is not analysed on a time . researchers do not view the experience in the camps as part of an overall experience of a journey. there are no research projects in which a journey is the central subject of investigation. Ron Baker (1990) has written that. but these do not embark on an analysis of the experience. mainly within the refugee camps. MacMullin and Loughry 2000). Hitchcox 1993. Should we assume that for the families or unaccompanied boys and girls who endured these journeys it was anything other than a significant experience in itself. Garret 1980).12 INTRODUCTION concern within this literature (e. who made a horrendous journey by boat (hence ‘boat people’) in order to escape political coercion and persecution in their own country (Hitchcox 1993.000 Ethiopian refugees moved to the United States (ECDC 1989).g. Hyman et al. Lam 1996. For those who move on to another place where they finally settle. Moussa 1993. 2000. This is most surprising since there are clearly many refugees who make a journey from one place to another. as researchers. important as it may be. It was not long ago (during the 1980s) that some 25. They do not appear in the indexes of books produced on the groups of people who underwent such experiences or in the volumes of abstracts or references. then trekked for a month or so on the trails to Thailand where they stayed in refugee camps and only then (many but not all) were bussed to Bangkok9 and flown by air to the United States (Long 1993.g. even if (presumably) different in its meaning? And is it not the case that many other refugees arrive at their final destination by plane only after enduring a trail of suffering and heroism somewhere on their way? The Hmong people.. or the Vietnamese refugees in the detention camps in Hong Kong. 1990)—all these journeys are known. A number of studies of refugee-camp experiences exist (e. Moussa 1993. Avraham 1986. often by foot. Part of the experience of the journey of the Ethiopian Jews was the time spent as refugees in Sudan. who fled from their homes to other mountainous areas. many if not all of these refugees had made a journey quite similar to that of the Ethiopian Jews. Waldron 1987). Despite all this activity.

I shall relate to the migration journey as one which starts in the country of origin. Given the role of academics in helping shape media. and it concludes with the initial encounter with the country of . As Kristene Monzel (1993:106) wrote: ‘In the last five years there has been a proliferation of writings on refugee issues. all too frequently. Peter Loizus also stressed the importance of the refugee point of view when he asked ‘how memories of past wrongs and emergent identities are managed’ by the displaced groups and by political influencing powers to which they are exposed (Loizus 1999:238). Rather. nor do we portray the persistence and determination which is often necessary to gain an offer of resettlement. they silently suffer material and social deprivation and mental anguish. trying to relate these phenomena to future adaptation (or current adjustment. (Robinson 1992:8–9) In his recent Colson Lecture to the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre.’ In the introduction to his edited book The International Refugee Crisis: British andCanadian Responses. motivation and commitment that many refugees have needed to possess in order to escape from their homelands. research tends to focus on various issues in camp life. economic activity. prostitution. It begins from the moment of decision to migrate and includes the migrant’s (or migrating group’s) expectations. violence and so forth. first of all by focusing on a journey as a centre of ethnography and analysis and trying to understand it. control. but most take an ‘outcome psychology’ point of view. Rarely. dreams. This study tries to fill some of these gaps in the existing literature on migration and refugee studies. Most studies of migrants and refugees do not look at the experience from the point of view of the refugee (or the specific group of refugees). We describe and agonize over the circumstances which forced them from their homelands. such as nutrition. Vaughan Robinson writes: What is perhaps more surprising and more difficult to rectify is the perception which some researchers and practitioners have of refugees as passive and inert victims. preparation and separation process. Some psychological researchers do look at distressing events. do we point to the resourcefulness. It continues with the journey itself —including their experience in refugee camps —which is a significant ‘inbetween phase’ where the migrant exists ‘between the two worlds’ (and social orders).INTRODUCTION 13 continuum. He goes on to try and answer this question by looking at groups of people during the ‘unmaking’ of the Ottoman Empire. we document how they became passive recipients of under funded or inappropriate government programmes and how. opinion we could perhaps usefully adopt a less patronising attitude towards refugees. if they are looking at it already within the framework of the country of resettlement in the West). Yet surprisingly few have been concerned with how it feels to be a refugee. however. and so on. and therefore public.

I am also not dealing here with the forms of memory and narrative. It could more accurately be conceived as a study of ‘oral testimony’ of direct experiences. such as those made in Africa. and the extent to which they had to struggle for their lives. This includes the documentation of the situations lived through by the Ethiopian Jews. Daniel Bertaux (1997). however.g. The use of phenomenological approaches and oral history methods puts the person studied at the centre of the research. This study uses methods of oral history. More specifically. THE FOCUS OF OUR STUDY: RESEARCH QUESTIONS This is above all a study of the meaning of the journey and its individual and social implications.14 INTRODUCTION destination. both within the situation they describe and in the actual encounter with the researcher. 1991). notably some mythical elements and perhaps even the possible turning of the narratives into a collective myth. I hope to show that this encounter is influenced by what happened on the journey and by its overall meaning for the individual. to state just a few examples. which deals with methodology. The study thus places the migrant/ refugee as the actor and originator of meaning. grief. together with the relevant literature on the subject. the migration and refugee experience which is put forward by the person who experiences it is multifaceted and complex. is beyond the scope of the present study. such as those related and advocated in the works of Paul Thompson (2000). There are certainly aspects of ‘oracy’ and ‘oral literature’ within the narratives in the sense that Finnegan is using it. the series of traumatic events they underwent. in Chapter 3. A full discussion of the suitability of oral history (as well as the ‘narrative interview’ and phenomenological approaches) to an investigation of a journey such as that of the Ethiopian Jews will be found. I shall try to answer the following four questions and to contribute scientifically to the related subject areas: 1 What happened on the journey? I hope this research will provide an ethnographic contribution. notably by Ruth Finnegan (1970). It aims to provide an ‘oral history’ of the event of the exodus from Ethiopia to Israel. to which I relate in the last chapter of my work. It would be worthwhile to look at the narratives as a genre (perhaps of journey stories?). It necessarily includes the creative and resourceful sides of the individual and of the group. Debora Dwork (1991) and Amia Lieblich (1981). In the same way that human beings are never simply one aspect of their experiential world (e. as in the works of Elizabeth Tonkin (1992) and Alesandro Portelli (1997.11 this. thus just grieving human beings). The construction of meaning by the refugee him/herself necessarily makes us understand how it feels to be a (migrant) refugee from the point of view of an actor in the situation. Here I would like to point out that my research is not a study of an ‘oral tradition’ (Vansina 1985) or ‘oral literature’. .

3 How did the experience of the journey affect the people as they were walking towards the border and during their protracted waiting in the refugee camps? What were the implications for the individual and the group? This question refers to the impact (rather than the meaning) of the journey. and in what way? I shall look at the way in which the effect of the journey on their selfconcept was relevant to the interaction with Israeli society. and its individual and group implications affect their encounter with their new country? Did they construct the encounter with Israel in relation to the journey. the way in which people in general and children and youth in particular deal psychologically and come to terms with traumatic or catastrophic events. i.INTRODUCTION 15 The documentation of the journey is of special importance since it also constitutes a ‘salvage ethnography’. construct their experiences of the journey? In other words. what was the meaning of the journey from their point of view? Through phenomenological analysis I shall examine the major themes which come out of the narratives. It relates to psycho-social processes and consequences: for example. These constitute the principal dimensions of meaning of the journey. and the changes in the structure of the families or in the dynamics within the community during the journey. the young people in particular. 2 How did the people.e. It also considers the possible influence of culture on the experience and its representation. it is an account of a community which ceased to exist in its original form. 4 How did the experience of the journey. its meaning. .

namely the structure of their villages. the . is the square or rectangular stone house.g. The walls are made of branches reinforced with clay and ashes to prevent fires. and the walls are about three metres high. The hut has one door and no windows and is furnished with a straw table. briefly discuss their existence in the Ethiopian context as well as their relations with Jews in other parts of the world and with the state of Israel. Food and kitchen implements are kept near the fire. (In Tigray.2 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY Since this study deals with the migration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. stools. The typical dwelling (tukul) is a round hut with a conical roof. These huts are six to twelve metres in diameter. Another type of dwelling. and so forth). I shall. always near a water source. All along the walls there are wooden benches for sleeping. the various Jewish communities in Ethiopia. which is used for cooking as well as for keeping the hut warm. a synagogue (masgid. hooks along the walls (to hang up belongings) and a number of very large containers. ETHNOGRAPHY: BETA ISRAEL IN ETHIOPIA In this ethnographic account I choose to focus on certain aspects of Ethiopian Jewish society in the twentieth century. I wish in this chapter to familiarise the reader with the Ethiopian Jewish people and with the historical context of their emigration. There are four types of structures: dwellings (tukul). therefore. covered with animal skins and blankets. ce’lot bet). Some other aspects of their way of life will be included in the relevant points along this study (e.1 The structure of the Jewish village A typical Beta Israel village is located on top of a hill or on a mountainside. isolation huts for ritually impure women (mergam bet) and sheds for livestock. depending on the social standing of the owner. more characteristic of Tigray. the life cycle and their informal and formal education. their religious leadership and leadership patterns within the society. The pillar supporting the roof divides the space into living quarters and areas for cooking and storage. their material culture. communication codes.

called ‘the Holy of Holies’.THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 17 round huts also have flatter roofs. since the area receives less rain. when agricultural activity came to an end (in particular. which is usually located at the highest point in the village. When the building is complete. and only priests may enter this room. chasing away birds and other animals with stones that they were able to throw with astonishing accuracy. as well as maize and various vegetables and legumes (including beans. Economic structure Most Beta Israel villages subsisted on agriculture (mostly as tenants on the land). this design corresponds exactly to that of the First Temple. assistants to the priest. donkeys and chickens. During the second half of the last century. According to tradition. Menstruating women live in the hut for a week. It is enclosed by a circle of stones to separate the pure from the impure. The system of cultivation was simple: ploughs were pulled by bulls. Every group of five or six families has its own isolation hut (mergam bet) for women at times when they are considered ritually impure. lentils and oil-producing plants). The innermost room. This hut is lower than the usual dwelling and is made of straw and branches. goats. After the harvest. for example. sheep. Building a synagogue is a ceremonial process. contains the Orit (Bible) and other sacral objects. on which four cornerstones are laid. a great celebration takes place. a more modern structure can be found: a rectangular mud hut with thicker walls and a tin roof. The practice disappeared almost entirely around the turn of the century. Some families also had coffee plants and fruit trees. they would guard the crops from special watchtowers. on whom see below). May and June). the traditional type of building was gradually replaced by tin-roofed stone structures adorned with the Star of David (a symbol imported by Jacques Faitlovitch. the farmers would be occupied . Ethiopian Jewry continued to offer sacrifices. including the altar. The synagogue (masgid. stones were removed with hoes and the grain was harvested using scythes. the debtara (helpers. bulls or cows were used to thresh the grain. the kess) to the west. and the ‘people’—men and boys—to the north. Children were also part of the system.) Near the city. and all of them raised cows. They would grow grain for bread and Ethiopian beer. ce’lot bet). April. by means of which the men were usually able to supply the needs of their household. the high priest formally blesses the site of the ‘Holy of Holies’. They are made of wooden poles and thatched roofs. women after childbirth spend a longer time there— forty days after giving birth to a boy and eighty days after giving birth to a girl. During the summer months. An extension on the eastern side contains the altar: until the beginning of the twentieth century. is a round structure made up of three concentric rooms. The middle circle is made up of sections for women on the southern side. The outer room is a sort of enclosure around the entire synagogue. The animal sheds protect livestock from sun and rain. and fodder for their livestock.

In this way the Jews of Ethiopia were able to pass their specialised knowledge on from father to son and mother to daughter. During their entire stay. progress would be assessed to see how well a specific skill had been acquired. too. such as weaving or repairs. They specialised in the production of gun parts and agricultural implements. the raw material used by Jewish blacksmiths tended to be scrap metal. by imitation. as was knowledge of the various crafts in which Jews specialised. five men working together were needed to mould the iron into tools. sales were made in a different way (Henkin 1986). the man may bring things into the home but he is not allowed to remove anything without the woman’s permission. they would build a hut outside the settlement. such as the rearing of livestock or the cultivation of land. Skills connected to independent farming. they would visit their relatives in far-off villages or use the time to hold betrothal and marriage ceremonies. with the pupil being tested on his or her knowledge at the end of each stage. At this time. areas where both Jews and Christians lived). the men would produce metal implements and the women would make clay utensils to sell to the local villagers. a group of Jewish craftsmen (usually related to one another) would get together and travel to a Christian settlement. The blacksmiths also produced the metal musical instruments used in religious rites. As a rule. After the harvest. relative to the pupil’s age. to make injera—the staple food made of tef flour (see below)—and to ceremonially prepare coffee. the implements would be sold in local markets or even in the villages themselves. such as gongs and rattles (Shelemay 1988). scissors. The learning of work skills Children would learn their trade informally from their parents. trial and error. There. plough-shares. The method of marketing the blacksmiths’ products depended on the type of customers involved. ensuring individual and communal survival. in addition to training them as potters. In mixed areas (i. In spite of the widely accepted tradition that it was Beta Israel that discovered the iron ore in the Semien mountains and in northwest Ethiopia. tongs and pliers. this informal method was really a rather structured process of training involving specific stages.2 The men also engaged in blacksmithing work.e. slaughtering their own meat and resting on Saturday and working on the Sunday. Traditionally. When the time came for the test. the Jews would remain apart from the Christian villagers. hammers.18 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY with other work. the women take care of the . Babies on their backs. In fact. such as scythes. which they bought or collected. The women also taught their daughters to carry water from the river or spring. The role of the woman in the Ethiopian home The family hut is the domain of the Ethiopian woman. were thus retained. in strictly Christian areas. However. hoes.

t’ala is prepared once a month and drunk before it has had time to mature. an iron-rich grain found in the mountain regions. the shamma. an occasion for open conversations and the telling of tales.THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 19 house. only then grinding the coffee beans with a mortar and pestle. On Friday night. The woman begins the ceremony by washing and roasting the coffee beans. She also embroiders the woven cloth. depending on the family’s financial situation. which are usually adapted to her size and strength. She adds a specific scent before taking them in to the guest so that the aroma is appreciated. A special heavy shamma called a gabi is worn as an outer garment during the cold season. Weaving usually takes place in summer. An important part of Ethiopian hospitality is the coffee ceremony (buna). Making beer and the coffee ceremony (t’alaandbuna) Ethiopian beer (t’ala) is usually quite light. Other alcoholic drinks produced in the community include araqi (made with anise) and tej (made with honey). into special pots. When the dough is ready.4 Clothing Women are also involved in the making and embroidering of the traditional Ethiopian garment. although old men who no longer work in the fields will weave throughout the year. called berekete in Amharic. beats it and spins the thread. Each woman has her own special pitchers. fastened in a special way to the back or (occasionally) the stomach. Wot is usually quite spicy.3 Another activity that takes up a good deal of women’s time is water-carrying. Here. The weaver sits inside the loom. and wool garments are not needed. The normal white shamma. men and women have specific tasks: the woman buys the cotton. a special bread. injera is accompanied by a dish called wot (sometimes pronounced ‘wat’). is eaten. and moves the spindle by means of threads attached to his big toes. Large clay pitchers. The areas of Ethiopia inhabited by Beta Israel enjoy a pleasant climate. The coffee is finally cooked over the fire in a special pot known as a jevena and served in tiny cups that are refilled from time to time. which is made of various legumes (particularly lentils) or meat. his feet in a depression in the floor. after the harvest. and prepare a dough that is put in a clay pot and left to ferment for a number of days. about a metre . Over the years. In general. when ready. Made of barley or hops fermented with water in clay vessels. clothes made of a thicker cotton are worn. it is poured. The man is responsible for weaving the shamma. the coffee ceremony has come to be a frequent social event. are used to transport water from the nearest source. When the weather grows cool. water is usually added to produce the right consistency and the bread is cooked over the fire. Preparing the flat injera bread is a particularly time-consuming process: the women take flour commonly made from tef. As a rule.

Thus. anklets and ornaments for the hair and forehead. Basket-weaving Beta Israel’s women are also skilled in the weaving of baskets. he will pull it up to his mouth or even his nose. pendants. These objects are made of natural-coloured strips of palm leaves. is everyday wear. women who are proficient at this braiding receive payment for their work. the national dress of Beta Israel (and all Ethiopian people) also speaks a symbolic language. Tattoos are a substitute for jewellery. The types of jewellery worn include earrings. the edges of the shamma will trail on the ground. bracelets. when he is in mourning. If she is seen without her mechinat. storage containers. women began braiding their hair into tiny plaits close to the skull.20 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY wide. an Ethiopian Jewish woman would have had to shave her head after every stay in the isolation hut in order for the priest to bless her and allow her to return to her own house. long reeds and juncus plants. The shamma is worn in different ways to express special circumstances. . rings. Because precious metals are relatively rare in Ethiopia. Female appearance and adornment In the past. when he is afraid (of the evil eye). the kamis is adorned with a green or red stripe around the edge. especially when the woman cannot afford other ornaments. only applies to unmarried women). other types of straw are used. More recently.5 Ethiopian women also adorn themselves with make-up and jewellery. a woman is considered immodest and must ‘redeem herself’ through a special ritual (Kahana 1988). blue and green. chains. The woman’s garment is known as a kamis and is made of two pieces of white shamma. jewellery is fairly expen-sive and is only plated with gold or silver. together with cotton shirts. Some women also tattoo themselves. Men wear trousers (suri) that are wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. trays and tables of various sizes. For example. The third element in the woman’s dress is a shawl (natala or agademia) worn over the shoulders. Sometimes the anklets are made of chains of jimma beads. worn on both legs. and are thought to enhance the movement of the neck when dancing. he will wear his shamma folded around the throat. though. when a man is happy. Decoration is usually geometric and includes triangles or diamonds in red. When these materials are not available. For young women. but the holiday shamma is a white cloth edged with coloured stripes or made of interwoven fine and coarse threads. A long white narrow cloth belt (mechinat) with a coloured fringe gathers the garment together at the hips. a Christian custom that has spread to Beta Israel in spite of the religious injunction against this form of self-mutilation (the proscription against tattoos.

and these vessels are used to store and serve milk products. The life cycle of Beta Israel Over the centuries. the women hand-roll the strips of clay and stick them one on top of the other.6 These figures (ashangolit) first appeared in the Begamder region when more tourists began to visit Ethiopia. which do not absorb odours in the way that clay pots do. During her menstruation period and following childbirth. women make the clay figures now considered typical of Ethiopian Jewish craftsmanship. The women also make vessels out of gourds. They decorated the figures with Jewish symbols and sold them in the village market. there are a number of women staying together in the isolation hut. the woman must bathe and wash her garments7 before rejoining the regular activities and returning to her home. It may be worth noting that small children are allowed to enter their mothers’ isolation hut. or of various animals (especially lions—the ‘Lion of Judah’). Beta Israel has developed special customs associated with childbirth. . who avoid (and despise) this profession. In the village of Wollaka. of King Solomon and other religious figures. In most cases. Contact with her during this time is forbidden.THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 21 Pottery The production of pottery vessels (usually made of clay) for everyday use became a particular skill of Jewish women in Ethiopia. When the period of impurity is over. potter’s wheels and kilns were introduced into the village and. the women moved from making clay dolls for their children to producing figurines. usually of priests. which therefore also serves as a place for further bonding of the women as well as a place where they can regularly recuperate from the heavy burdens of cooking for the family and other chores. some of the pots are sealed with various materials. They then let the pots dry in the sun. pots. The principle of purity and impurity plays a prominent part in the marking of these events and to a significant extent creates a distinction between Christians and Jews in Ethiopia (Kahana 1988). as well as larger containers for produce and for the fermentation and storage of alcoholic drinks. and later bake the pot in an oven or a hole in the ground. cups and coffee dishes. Much of their work was sold to Christian and Muslim women. I shall complement the above-mentioned three events by giving a short description of phases in childhood and adolescence in the Ethiopian Jewish community. a local co-opera-tive for the production and marketing of clay figures was organised. a woman of Beta Israel keeps herself isolated in a special hut surrounded by a ring of stones. Instead of using a potter’s wheel. After baking. marriage and death. with the encouragement of the Ethiopian Tourist Board. At that time. In the 1960s. They became experts in preparing the raw material and shaping it into water jugs of various sizes. apparently.

the celebration only takes place after the mother has completed her forty days of isolation. a concept of different successive stages of growth and maturing does exist. The father then ceremonially asks for the hand of the bride and waits some time for an answer. It is . forefather of the Jewish people. Childhood and adolescence The question of Ethiopian attitudes towards developmental stages lies beyond the scope of the present ethnographic overview. According to Ethiopian culture. At this point (even if the wedding is not due to take place for a few years). and recites the Ten Commandments. Table 2. claiming that their daughter has been ‘promised’ to another boy. Sometimes the parents come to a mutual agreement when the bride and groom are children (or even before they are born). he pronounces the blessing that mentions the circumcision of Abraham. The man who performs circumcisions conducts the operation surrounded by other people. and the match itself may be arranged at a far earlier stage. 14–18 for boys). although in most cases it is the father of the groom who seeks a bride for his son. to childhood (6–12) which is the second phase of kutara for the boy or lijagered for the girl. and the surrounding society alters its behaviour towards young people in accordance with this concept. Occasionally. These proceed from infancy (0–2 years) where the infant is known as chakla. Nevertheless. the father of the groom gives the bride’s father the jewellery she will wear up to the time of the marriage. and that of the other Fathers of the nation. and adoles-cence/ puberty (13–15). because of the strict observance of the laws of ritual purity. and indicates that the girl is already intended for another groom. male babies are ritually circumcised in the women’s isolation hut. checking that she comes from a good family and trying to assess. although there are no ceremonies to mark the passage from one period to another.9 Nevertheless.1 sums up the various stages. Being ‘promised’ is a parallel status to betrothal. Marriage Marriage takes place at a relatively young age (12–14 for girls. to early childhood (3–5) where the toddler is known as kutara. life as a whole corresponds to the four elements: from air (childhood) to fire (adolescence) to water (adulthood) to earth (old age). the parents of the girl will reject the proposal. it may be said that various periods are delineated in the life of boys.22 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY Circumcision On their eighth day.8 However. if circumstances allow. At the betrothal ceremony. taking care not to approach the (impure) isolation hut. girls and adolescents. whether she will be a worthy wife. the bride moves in with the family of her husband-to-be and is trained by her future mother-in-law. The priest stands at a certain distance.

1 From infancy to maturity in Ethiopian culture THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 23 Source This table is an abridged and slightly adapted version of a table contained in Messing (1957) .Table 2.

e. The dead are buried on the day of death.).24 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY the groom’s mother who sees when the girl has reached puberty and. Usually the relatives of the deceased are told to gather even before the next of kin has been informed. Ethiopian Jews also attach a great deal of importance to the way in which relatives—near and distant—are informed of a death. Stones are then piled on the grave. are divided between the villages of the bride and the groom. decides when she is ready for marriage. At the time of the burial. where the couple are left alone to ascertain the bride’s virginity and consum-mate the marriage. so that his or her spirit may rest in peace and enter ‘the world of the dead’. and the relative who hears the news from a stranger may react very badly and may even injure him/herself. the living are responsible for ceremonies that allow the dead to reach the afterlife. It is considered extremely important that the burial be conducted properly and that all the deceased’s children commemo-rate the death. and then everyone is invited back to the village. and those who handle the corpse are considered unclean for seven days and must purify themselves with ritual immersion and the ashes of a red heifer (see Numbers 19:1ff. since it is believed that the shock of hearing news of this sort is so serious that it may even cause death. Death and mourning Practices surrounding these are also closely connected to the principle of ritual purity. crying and wailing. a commemoration is held which involves a meal and a special ceremony (tazkar). preferably the closest relative and never a stranger) to first inform the next of kin about the death. Education Most of the education received by Ethiopian Jews was informal.e.10 The marriage celebrations. a girl may live with a boy as a sister for a long time and then become his wife.12 Thus. First. After burial. observing her emotional development. The wedding then moves on to the groom’s village. all those who attend stand to one side. Children learned by imitating adults. where a light meal is served. Sometimes a ‘bride’ comes to live with her future in-laws at the age of 7 and is only married at the age of 15. Receiving the information from a stranger is considered an insult to the deceased and to the family. Family members mourn for seven days. i. talking with . On the fourth and seventh days. the celebrations begin. people sit on the ground while the priest speaks. This starts the days of mourning. Thus. in the bride’s village. in order to provide an immediate emotional support for the mourner. children were taught by their parents and older siblings as well as grandparents and other people of the village. the kessoch11 (priests) bless the couple and ask them to sign a written marriage contract. After this has been done. and once a year on the anniversary of the death. It is customary for someone who is known (i. which last several days.

the school was shut down at the beginning of the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in 1935–6. The first attempt was made in 1924 when Jacques Faitlovitch (see below) established the first Jewish school in Ethiopia. it is estimated that in 1980–1.000 pupils. taking responsibility for the family unit and traditional care for the elderly. For example. Beside the fact that parents could not give up the help that children provided at work or in the home. the children of only 22 (out of 500) Jewish villages attended school: that is. see below). such as the role of the synagogue (ce’lot bet). These reservations notwithstanding. parents also tended not to send their children to public schools for fear of assimilation.THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 25 their parents. Most of the schools adjoined missions or churches and were influenced by their message. marriage customs. Only a minority of children were given a formal education. who were then meant to educate the villagers. and girls stayed at the tukul under their mother’s supervision and learned women’s work. If a child displayed an aptitude for learning. The most talented pupils in the village would be sent to study with great teachers in Semien. Fasika (Passover). among other aspects. at the height of the involvement in the education of Ethiopian Jews by the ORT (Organization of Rehabilitation through Training. This school managed to educate a selected number of Ethiopian Jewish scholars. since their help was needed to earn the family’s livelihood. Jewish values (such as ritual purity) and a work ethic.15 Children of poor parents had little or no chance of schooling. the Ethiopian Jews placed a high value on education and on knowledge in its various forms (whether from informal or formal processes) and tried as hard as they could to establish mechanisms for promoting this goal. and an increasing number of girls entered formal education. Every attempt to create an ongoing system of formal Jewish education for Beta Israel ended in failure. Informal education started from the age of 5 approximately (depending on the child’s development). listening to stories. The goals of this informal education were: 1 to transmit social norms and ethical values such as the Ten Command-ments. just over 5. Ba’ala Massallat (Tabernacles). the students found refuge in the . When Mussolini’s soldiers approached Addis Ababa in spring 1936. when boys began to help their fathers in the field as well as to perform various other tasks.14 Girls had less opportunity to be sent away for formal education. 2 to teach Jewish customs. respect for elders. etc. 3 to transmit knowledge regarding the establishment of a family and of behaviour within the family. who would teach them reading and writing as well as religion. with the Ethiopian revolution. he (less often also ‘she’) might be sent to study with the kess. and rituals for burial and mourning. However. holiday rituals for Seged. which includes.. However. fables and proverbs which are widely used by Ethiopian Jews13 and (silently) to the conversations of adults. this started to change during the 1950s and later.

and worked at home early in the morning and later in the afternoon.m. anti-semitism18 was on the rise in some areas of Ethiopia where Jews were living (Itzhak 1988:32) and the few Jewish schools that existed—set up by the Jewish Agency—were shut down. But in 1937.17 During the 1950s and 1960s. where a large new village was established by the Italians who first favoured the ‘Falashas’ as an ‘oppressed minority’.26 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY French embassy in the town. which looked askance at the teaching of Jewish subjects and began to claim that the ORT teachers were agents of the United States. and parents have complete confidence in the ability and moral fitness of their children’s teachers. This allowed children to learn according to their individual ability.00 a. was forced to flee again.30 a.20 There were three types of pupils: 1 those who studied four days a week from 6. Their social status is somewhere between that of a kess and a community elder (shemagleh). to 3. accusing them of holding Zionist views (Itzhak 1988:32). this time out of Ethiopia. A year later. junior high schools. 3 pupils who studied without working at home. Taamrat Emmanuel. the Organization of Rehabilitation through Training (ORT) operated a system of twenty-two primary schools. Fascist racial anti-semitic laws were enforced in Ethiopia by the Italians and no education for Jews was possible at all. and then went home (a walk of several kilometres) to work in the fields. but these were shut down in 1981 by the Marxist regime. a situation usually only possible for children from well-to-do families. who was a driving force in education in the area. It also enabled children to adapt their hours of study to the time left from working in the field. their books were then stolen and sold in the marketplace (Kaplan 1988:19).16 The next step was in Ambover. Teachers in Ethiopia are very highly regarded by parents as well as by children. 2 those who studied four days a week from 8.m. vocational training and adult education. high schools.00 p. and sometimes older students would decide to attend school (at an age that would be considered unusual in the Western education systems). destroying all its equipment and textbooks.00 to 8.. pupils respect the teacher’s opinion.m. . There was hardly any class discipline problem. From 1974. Most schools had classes where students of different ages studied together. following publication of his anti-Fascist article in an Italian paper.19 The school system The school system included primary schools. This damaged the efforts at education. On the whole. This followed an attack in which the first and largest school in the village of Wuzava was set on fire.

most probably the tribe of Dan. James Quirin (1992) suggests that most of the theories fall within three broad perspectives: 1 ‘Lost tribe’ theories suggest that Ethiopian Jews descended directly from the ancient Israelites. Since the ninth century the Jews were believed to have had an autonomous area which amounted. Quirin 1992. this name meant ‘Jews’ or ‘Jewish group’ (Quirin 1992:202). there existed groups of ayhud. when a ‘period of wars’23 erupted between the Christian kings and the Jewish autonomy or .g. 2 ‘Convert’ theories imply that they were Agaw converts to Judaism who refused to convert to Christianity when it became Aksum’s official religion in the fourth century (e. ‘of the tribe of Dan’). Waldman 1985. 1989).g. That is. The situation started to change in the fourteenth century. 1877. It is clear from recent research that at some point before the fourteenth century.g. soldiers and people of other occupations similar in status to some other societies in the Ethiopian matrix (Sabar-Friedman 1988. Presenting this debate in full is beyond the scope of this study. farmers. To the dominant Christian culture of that time. It was also during the ninth century that Eldad Ha’Dani (‘the Danite’. The major debates among scholars still concern the question of the origins of the group (e. Kessler 1985. Krempel 1972. Faitlovitch 1905.21 This view was the basis for permitting their immigration to Israel in 1975 under the Law of Return (see below).THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 27 Historical background The Ethiopian Jews of today have a long history.22 They functioned as a society with kings —for example. leaving considerable space for varying interpretations. 3 ‘Rebel’ theories suggest that they were rebels or dissidents against Christian Orthodoxy and the state at various times since the fourth century (e. Halevy 1868. 1906. the Ethiopian Jews are direct ethnic and religious descendants of original Jewish immigrants (perhaps exiles) to Ethiopia. brought the news of their existence and information about their Jewish religious laws to other Jews in the Middle East (Epstein 1891). a Jewish traveller. Quirin 1992). though the details are still obscure in many important places. it is worth noting that the official view of the Israeli government and the belief held by the Ethiopian community now in Israel is that of the ‘lost tribe’. either at the period of the exodus from Egypt (around 1300 BCE) or at some later time (e. However. to a Jewish kingdom in the Gondar and Semien region of Ethiopia. Kaplan 1992). Ullendorff 1968).g. Leslau 1951. Kaplan 1992). when written documents first mention them. the legendary Gideon (or several Gideon kings)—and with landowners. Shelemay 1989. as some researchers hold. 1959.

Jews in Ethiopia.24 In the 350 years since 1632. people who work with fire or make things out of earthen material were of the lowest social status. It was their expertise that made them so essential. . This resulted in a gradual yet persistent deterioration in their conditions and also in a decrease in their numbers. they became essential for the Ethiopian economy but were marginalised in their social status. and in modem times they had also become experts in the repair of weapons. sickles. Messing 1982. Furthermore. Jews went through a further deterioration in status: they were no longer employed by the kings to build and decorate castles and churches. The others would become Falassi (Taddesse 1972). From the 1950s onward. strangers. As mentioned above. and therefore required a high level of skill in their making. and were personal. when a Christian died or was about to die. spades and other tools. This resulted in a downturn in the conditions of the Jews.e. Jewish women came to be specialists in making pots for carrying water. This kingdom was finally crushed by the Ethiopian King Sosenuis in 1632. people without right to land. they had to be well adjusted to the size and strength of the carrier. declared that only those Jews who would convert by immersion (baptism) to Christianity would have a right to own and inherit land. as well as musical instruments for religious purposes. The term ‘Falassi’ first appears in chronicles of the fifteenth century. since they were thought to have acquired the power of the ‘evil eye’: in Ethiopian terms they were ‘soul eaters’. Holding these trades. lasting for about three hundred years. exiles. in their survival capacities. a small section of the rural Jewish population moved to the cities and found work in commerce. derogatively called Falasha thereafter. During the period of these wars. After losing their lands (and also the right to inherit land in the future) they became tenants in a harsh feudal system.28 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY kingdom. They were called buda.e. potters and blacksmiths continued until modern days. knives. underwent a serious decline in their occupations and in the related social status. The men at first (1632–1755) became builders and the women specialists in ornamenting the palaces and castles that were built by the new rulers of the Gondar region (Quirin 1992). the Jews turned from ‘Beta Israel’—literally meaning ‘the House of Israel’ (sometimes used in Ethiopia as ‘Israel’)—into Falasha or Falassi. during ‘the era of the princes’ (1755–1868).25 Then. and the men became blacksmiths while the women turned into potters (Quirin 1992:126–64). when the Christian Emperor Is’hak. i. Quirin 1992. Therefore.e. According to Ethiopian Amhara traditional belief. i. Beta Israel’s inferior socio-economic status as tenant farmers. i. these were made by a special technique which included baking the clay. these people were believed to be able to control satanic powers. able to turn at night into a spotted hyena and consume the soul of another person (Levine 1965. after defeating the Jews and burning their villages. Jewish neighbours were often blamed. persecuted and killed as an act of ‘preventive medicine’ or ‘justified revenge’. The men were almost the only blacksmiths in their region (north of Lake Tana) who produced ploughs. Solomon 1999).

However. which consisted of royalists opposing the Dergue government. The Christian (Orthodox) Church was of course much stronger than the minority population of Jews and could evade most of the measures in a variety of ways. At one point.THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 29 factories and the civil service. the kebele (the village associations) frequently allocated them only the worst parts of the distributed land. For the Jews the consequences of the revolution seemed favourable at first. the nationalisation plan was only partially successful. fled to the forests and remote places in order to avoid it. This was a measure taken by the landowners in order to protect themselves from the threat of their land being claimed by tenants who were already cultivating it. of which the Jews were potential beneficiaries. when the man who had been thus rewarded died. . as well as of the Jewish faith. Even in the rare cases where Jews were able to claim the land. but on the whole it resulted in the landlords expelling many of them from the land they were cultivating and turning them into refugees. Jewish youngsters could rely less on Christian villagers’ support and on other fleeing conscripts. private and churchowned property was nationalised and divided up among the citizens of Ethiopia. 4 Forced conscription of minors was another factor: at a certain point. among other reasons. targeted the Ethiopian Jews (among other groups) for fierce attacks. to the EDU’s strong opposition to the land reforms. Conscription was adopted as a practice by various underground groups as well. and some were indeed able to benefit from it. the state or the Church. Because of strong opposition from the land-owning (feudal) social stratum. A few Jews had managed to acquire property. In 1974. A number of processes accounted for that deterioration: 1 The land reforms gave land rights to Beta Israel for the first time for hundreds of years. 2 The Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU) resistance group. since these maintained the buda notion about the Jews. following the Marxist revolution in Ethiopia. and taken right away. 3 The Dergue’s concerted effort at secularisation and at crushing any other power centres resulted in an attack on the religious leaders of the Christian Church. which they received as a reward for service to the army. This was due. They would be sent to the Somali border from where ‘no one returns …unless as a corpse or being seriously crippled’ (BenEzer and Peri 1990: 36) or they would be sent to fight in the fierce civil war. marketplaces and wherever they could be spotted. including Jewish ones. any Jewish practice was banned. so that many young Ethiopians. the property still reverted to its original owner. The Jews had to comply. the age of conscription was lowered and youngsters were rounded up in village centres. but then exacerbated their situation and caused further deterioration in their status.

Faitlovitch hoped that the two boys would then teach their own people when they returned to Gondar. the French Jewish philanthropic organisation. The visit of Halevy. shattered the hopes of Ethiopian Jews raised by his appearance for a significant renewal of contacts with their ‘white brethren’ (Waldman 1989:174). epidemics. to raise awareness within their communities as well as funds for further activities.28 In the course of his initiatives. Jacques Faitlovitch. he issued a call to save the Ethiopian Jews. there was a growing concern in the Jewish world. with the intention of giving them a traditional Jewish and general education. In practical terms. His journey was the start of fifty years of intensive work for the cause of the Ethiopian Jews. asking that the Alliance establish schools for them (Waldman 1989:161–6). This brought about an effort among Jewish individuals and communities to contact Ethiopian Jews and find out about their spiritual (ethno-religious) conditions (Waldman 1989: 130–56). Joseph Halevy. Halevy’s journey was significant in renewing communication in modern times between the Jews of Ethiopia and other Jewish communities. His first act was to bring back to Europe two village boys from Gondar. During these years the community dwindled in numbers. however. it was a failure.000 people. a student of Halevy—later known as ‘the father of the Falashas’—travelled to Ethiopia as the emissary of Baron de Rothschild and the Alliance. see below) to be only about 50–60. since his call went unanswered and no assistance was given to Ethiopian Jews for the next forty years. In 1867 the French Jewish orientalist. At the beginning of this century a new era commenced in the relations between the Jewish world and the Ethiopian Jews. following reports which arrived in Europe about the success of an intensive campaign by missionaries of the London Mission for the Jews to convert the Jews of Ethiopia. The great famine (Kifu-qen) of 1888–92. Among other things.30 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY Relations with the Jewish world26 Some contacts between Jews from Ethiopia and Jews in other communities took place along the centuries. Faitlovitch was also involved in the exchange of letters between the leaders of the Jewish . and the expansion of the activities of the London Mission—all had led to a dwindling of Jewish numbers to such a degree that. they taught Hebrew and Judaism to their people. who went away and never returned. In 1904.27 In the nineteenth century. their numbers were estimated (by Faitlovitch. however. Later he initiated the sending of other Ethiopian youths to study in prestigious rabbinical institutions around the world and return as teachers to Ethiopia. When he returned to Europe. the invasion of people from Sudan (raids by dervish soldiers) who destroyed whole villages. to check the truth of these reports. was sent by the Alliance Israelite Universelle (henceforth the Alliance). He also set up a Jewish school in Addis Ababa (1924) and initiated the establishment of several pro-Falasha committees around the world. at the beginning of the century. Taamrat Emmanuel and Getiah Yeremiah.

The state of Israel needed. and the anxiety about damaging the good diplomatic relations with Ethiopia that had only begun to be formed during those years (Haddas 1958 in Waldman 1992:182–3). however. was mounting. He was able to enlist very influential figures in the Jewish world to participate in the international committees that he had created. there were political issues that contributed to the tendency to postpone a decision on the matter. Waldman 1989:261. These consisted mainly of concerns regarding the potential difficulties in absorption and integration in Israel (Corinaldi 1988:183). nothing should be done and Israel should not be directly involved even in helping them in Ethiopia. They explained that. For twenty-five years this question remained undecided. Faitlovitch’s dedicated work created a growing interest in the community among Jews around the world. The pressure to enable the community to emigrate to Israel. hopes would not be raised in order to be shattered later (Yeshayahu 1958:64. In addition to the religious problematics. cited in Corinaldi 1988:182). Others said that as long as there was any doubt regarding their Jewish identity it would be better to limit operations to assisting them in Ethiopia (Goren 1974). consolidated with success. and then suddenly neglected for no clear reason. Some people argued that they should be recognised as Jews and brought to Israel as soon as possible.30 Thus. to ascertain and formally (legally) recognise the status of the community as Jews in order for them to be entitled to immigrate under the Israeli ‘Law of Return’. their turn would soon arrive. became a political question. This lack of decision and ambi-guity of goals regarding Ethiopian Jews was then reflected in the activities of the state of Israel and the Jewish Agency. in this way. Still others recommended that until such a decision was taken. put on Israeli state officials by members of the Ethiopian community (including the few who were already in Israel) as well as by other Jewish organisations. on the whole.31 see also Corinaldi 1988:182–3 and notes. the influence of the Mission among the Jews was reduced and the community’s sense of Jewish identity was invigorated (SabarFriedman 1988). Since these activities nevertheless added to the historical process .29 The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 increased the hopes of Ethiopian Jews that. with the immigration of other Jewish groups. A debate ensued. such as those from North Africa and other diasporal locations. which until that point was a question that concerned only scholars and rabbis. cited in Waldman 1992:180). the uncertainty and therefore the fear regarding the numbers involved in possible immigration (Yeshayahu 1958.32 Thus. the issue of the authenticity of the Jewishness of Ethiopian Jews. As a consequence of his visits to Ethiopia and the nature of the contacts he was able to create between Ethiopian Jews and the Jewish communities around the world. the twenty-five years following the formation of the state of Israel were characterised by activities which were started. and ORT Report 1959.THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 31 community in Ethiopia and prominent rabbis in European countries and in Palestine. 1992:187–91.

was the ancient dream of a return to the land of their ancestors. the lack of clear support for the cause of the Ethiopian Jews by Israeli public opinion at the time (Corinaldi 1988:182). an intensification which culminated in a formal recognition of their Jewishness and their inclusion under the Law of Return. It was only in 1973 that the (Sephardic) Chief Rabbi of Israel recognised them as Jews. and in 1958 all schools.35 In their hunger for education many Jewish children decided to accept offers to join the mission schools from where ‘the way to assimilation [leaving the community] was short’ (Sabar-Friedman 1988:17).32 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY leading to the migration (thus. who visited their villages in December 1958. This was confirmed in 1975 by the government. as stated above. The Jewish Agency became increasingly involved in the education of Ethiopian Jewish children. In 1957 there was a sudden change in the policy of the Jewish Agency. whose children were suddenly left without the newly established Jewish education. to the setting out on the journey) I will briefly describe a few of them below. economic and social situation in Ethiopia and the long constant deterioration of the situation of the Jews. So great was this crisis that the heads of ORT in Geneva. however. In 1954 it established a teachers’ training college in Asmara33 and in 1955–6 groups of youngsters (some of them from that college) were brought to Israel to be educated in the Youth Aliya education village34 of Kfar Batya. apart from the central one in Ambover. a decision that opened the way to their immigration. wrote that ‘surely it would have been better not to teach them at all than to teach them and then neglect them’. twenty-seven schools were opened in Jewish villages in Ethiopia and maintained by the Jewish Agency. THE JOURNEY: FACTS AND FIGURES The context in which they set out on their migration journey was constituted by the political. While the formal reason given was lack of money. The teachers were not told of the intentions of the Jewish Agency regarding future activities and remained formally linked (and in their raison d’être) to the Jewish Agency. and described the history of the Jewish Agency’s operations within Ethiopian Jewish villages as a ‘sorry story’ (ORT Report 1959). the migration began with Jews from the Tigray region on the north side of the highland plateau. This created a major crisis in the Jewish community in Ethiopia. thus enabling them to receive Israeli citizenship under the conditions of the Law of Return. both in Ethiopia and in Israel. in the following years. and the contiguous Jewish population from the Gondar . were shut down. The cause underlying the journey. They did not receive their salaries and were in a very bad state. reducing activities to almost zero reflected. but they did not know whether they should look for other work. The smaller group from the Wolkite area to the north-west joined in. the Asmara training college was closed. Geographically. In addition. together with the intensification of their relations with Jewish communities in other parts of the world and with Israel. This ‘approach-avoidance strategy’ continued. in one form or another.

the largest group in the community. . The numbers of Ethiopian Jews who could be taken along the dangerous lengthy route were in any case not sufficient. mainly in a 36-hour airlift (‘Operation Solomon’) on the very last days of the Mengistu Haile Mariam regime. Then.000. however. in which about 14. The distance to Sudan depended on the point of departure. however. What does ‘the Ethiopian-Sudanese route’ imply? The Jews of Ethiopia were. in effect. The Israeli authorities who dealt with the immigration of Ethiopian Jews looked for alternatives and came up with the possibility. 25 and 26 May 1991. shortly after the revolution in 1974 the borders of Ethiopia were closed and immigration became illegal. however. for a journey to drag out for some months and sometimes even for years. between 1977 and 1982). It was not unusual. The journey to Israel was not simple. These Jews were brought to Israel during 1990–1. and 60 per cent under 18 years of age at the time of their arrival. but often people were forced to trek back and forth over hundreds of miles of minor paths. Subsequently immigration almost completely ceased until 1990–1. The opening of an Israeli embassy in Addis Ababa (end of 1989). reaching and crossing the Sudanese border—whereas the Israeli secret service—the Mossad— was responsible for bringing them from Sudan to Israel. invested many efforts in removing all obstacles to the Sudanese route. then followed. of a migration through hostile Sudan. from an operative point of view and for political reasons. A relatively small number of Jews—approximately 600 of them—managed to reach Kenya and were flown to Israel without any trouble. in the first stage. another 7. the vast majority of the emigrant population made the passage to Israel by this route. among other factors. responsible for the first part of the journey—that is. Between 1977 and 1984. to the capital. It was followed by a stay in a refugee camp in Sudan for. approximately 25. Most of them are young: 80 per cent were under 35.37 Ultimately. A typical journey to the border lasted for three to five weeks. where they had to stay in refugee-like conditions (Naim 1991 in Waldman 1992:241.THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 33 region. caused a flow of the remainder of Ethiopian Jews. and leaders of other countries. on average. BenEzer and Peri 1990). roughly 8. In this way a growing trickle of Ethiopian Jews started to flow towards Sudan. Another 1.000 of them. one to two years. when Ethiopia and Israel resumed diplomatic relations.000 immigrants reached Israel through Sudan (only 2. which seemed at first unfeasible. Ephros 1990.200 or so were taken out of the camps under ‘Operation Queen of Sheba’ which followed two months later. Israel. My interviewees all came during these years. between November 1984 and January 1985.000 were airlifted from the refugee camps in Sudan in what became known as ‘Operation Moses’.500 of them were flown in. This route was not satisfactory. In the following ten years the Jews of the Quara region of Ethiopia and the Fallas Mura people36 emigrated to Israel.000 Ethiopian Jews now in Israel. There are altogether some 85. Whereas in the past the isolated individuals who had reached Israel had been able to fly directly from Addis Ababa. In an effort to escape the sealed-off country every possible channel was exploited.

It would also have enabled them to claim benefits from donor countries and aid agencies as well as letting the agencies (such as the Red Cross) offer direct assistance. when the camp turns into ‘a different place’. and Tewawa camp. in the first period the Jews had found it not so difficult to move to the towns. As many people are knifed every night as die of hunger’ (Parfitt 1985:1). men become aggressive as their role definition cannot be enacted in the camps (Hitchcox 1990). Abderafi in the centre. especially during 1981–4. The Jews were then concentrated in four main refugee camps in Sudan: Wad Sherifat (Sherife) in north Sudan. This is accentuated at night. in terms of food. Nevertheless. As the numbers of new arrivals were constantly rising. Um Raquba located south-east of the city of Gedaref. Indeed. The Jews were even worse off since. or at least of receiving the meagre financial support that was coming secretly from Israel. This meant a better chance of quick migration to Israel. where his Eritrean guide and translator told him: ‘It is a dangerous place. The year 1984 was particularly bad as drought was affecting both Ethiopia and Sudan. which was closest to Gedaref to the north-west. The Jews had an additional reason for wanting to move to the towns: getting in touch with the Israeli ‘messengers’ (see below). 49). the situation in the camps deteriorated continually. Avraham 1986). water. and the camp itself is often controlled by gangs of youngsters who resort to violent means. after 1982 there was a concerted . where they stood a better chance of survival since they might find work as well as live in a healthier. as Tudor Parfit witnessed in 1984 in Tewawa refugee camp. The refugees. less disease-stricken environment. In many cases. a territory which is also ‘free’ of the staff of humanitarian agencies and operates by different rules than during the day. Rapoport 1986. these crossing points determined their location while in Sudan (see map 1). This in turn affected the type of difficulties and sufferings encountered and their chances of survival. The Sudanese experience consisted of a short or long stay in a refugee camp and/or a period (long or short) in one of the towns in the vicinity of the refugee camps. Wad el Hileau in the central district closer to the Ethiopian-Sudanese border north-east of Gedaref. and Metemma in the south. Most trails converged towards the border points of Humara in the north. preferred the towns. as we shall see below (thematic chapters). A catastrophic situation ensued in the camps and many people died of disease38 (Parfitt 1985. near the city of Kassala. Many women have to work as prostitutes in order to survive. The Sudanese authorities would have preferred all refugees to be directed to the camps and to remain there. This would have enabled the authorities to manage the incoming population in a centralised way. the group’s social organisation is destabilised by the conditions.34 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY The wayfarers walked along numerous trails but they crossed the Sudanese border at three major points. to Gedaref in particular. disease and employment possibilities. on the other hand. As happens in many refugee camps in other parts of the world. they also suffered from the hostility of the other Ethiopian refugees and of the Sudanese authorities (Parfitt 1985:2–4. and famine followed.

This was the last of the operations through that route. as well as in the nature of the dangers involved. More people were then brought in through the Gedaref air route. These representatives were actually Ethiopian Jews who came from the small group who had already migrated to Israel in previous years. These people were taken to the airport after being smuggled through the army posts on the road from the east to Khartoum and staying in hiding for a number of months. At that time it became more difficult for the Jews. It included an airlift from Sudan in which about 7. mostly people who had come to Sudan from the Gondar region. Operation Moses began. The Red Sea route came to an abrupt and bloody end in early March 1982 when a group of Sudanese soldiers appeared amid the unloading of three truckloads of refugees while eleven Dabur boats were offshore. and in 1984 had reached an estimated number of half a million people.41 All these escape routes together were not fast enough in 1984. The Sudanese had become stricter about the stream of refugees from Ethiopia and hence tightened the security around them.300 people were brought directly to Israel from the desert point near Gedaref (Rapoport 1986:85). The earlier ones were by flights through Khartoum and by boat through Port Sudan on the Red Sea. They were compelled to remain in the refugee camps. This started with the landing of one Israeli Hercules aircraft in March 1982. as well as others of the community who were selected at the camps and towns in Sudan. The first was opened up around 1980 (Rapoport 1986:83) and involved the migration of no more than sixty people per week. During their stay in Sudan they were supposed to be gradually located by the Israeli ‘messengers’ and ‘distributors’ who were to place them in the queue for aliya (migration to Israel)39 and give them (an extremely modest) financial support to assist their subsistence while they were in Sudan. About 600 people came to Israel in this way during one year of operation.40 and over the next twenty-five months six such landings were made. The biggest group numbered 350 people (Rapoport 1986:83).THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 35 effort to contain the refugee problem in the refugee camps. to get to Gedaref and other towns. Operation Moses involved international . Neither allowed for many people to be taken at one time. following which Operation Moses took place. as for many others. Military and civilian boats then took them to the port of Eilat at the southern tip of Israel. These were used in different phases of the clandestine migration process and differed in terms of the number of people who could pass through them. On 21 November 1984. A short battle ensued. where Israeli soldiers were waiting for them. It was then that the Mossad had to turn to the American government for help. in which 1. The flow of refugees continued.000 Jews were flown to Israel. There were a few different escape routes to Israel through Sudan. The second route involved taking the Ethiopian Jews from a meeting point a few miles outside the Tewawa refugee camp and transporting them by truck or bus 400 miles to a relatively secluded point in the vicinity of Port Sudan. when the number of Jews in the camps rose rapidly and the death toll was reaching catastrophic proportions. in which there were some casualties (Rapoport 1986:84).

directly to Khartoum airport. escorted by the Sudanese secret police to avoid trouble on the way. which up to that date was flying Sudanese pilgrims to Mecca. and immigration then stopped until 1990/1. some were on their way to Sudan. the eldest among Ethiopian religious leaders. through Brussels to Tel Aviv (Rapoport 1986:126–8. 136. took place two months later. Operation Moses came to a halt due to a breach of secrecy by one of the high-level Israeli officials that resulted in a leak of information to the press (Rapoport 1986:137–49). with the support of the Belgian government. many Jews were stuck at various stages on the journey: numbers of them had sold all their possessions. The Jews were driven from the camps to a meeting place just outside Tewawa refugee camp and from there. five hours away. and others were left in refugee camps in Sudan. Operation Queen of Sheba. Belgian Trans European Airlines (owned by a Belgian Orthodox Jew). reading the holy book . Families were thus separated for a long time. Parfitt 1985:95–107).1 Kess Menasheh. As a result. As mentioned before.36 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY co-operation and the tacit agreement of the Sudanese government. Figure 2. the next operation. was to fly the refugees.

2 The Orit.3 Buna. the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony . the Ethiopian Jewish Bible.THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 37 Figure 2. in the Ge’ez language Figure 2.

38 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY Figure 2. the Ethiopian traditional bread .4 Injera.

by the 1970s a dissatisfaction established itself concerning epistemological claims as well as the latent or secretive political uses of the mainstream perspectives of both sociology and anthropology (Diamond 1992.3 INTERVIEWING AND INTERPRETING IN CROSSCULTURAL RESEARCH A growing dissatisfaction with quantitative methods over the past two decades has brought about a ‘quiet methodological revolution’ in the social sciences (Denzin and Lincoln 1994. replication. (cited in Vidich and Lyman 1994:24) This growing discontent with the positivistic and statistically oriented methods. Thus. Van Maanen . and theory construction. also see Richardson 1996. hypothesis. Fox 1991. and with their claim for exclusivity in ‘doing science’ was felt in the various disciplines of the social sciences. In 1971 Goffman dismissed the scientific claims of positivism altogether: ‘A sort of sympathetic magic seems to be involved. the assumption being that if you go through the motions attributable to science then science will result. Boyatzis 1998). verification. Social methodologists (R. As Filstead (1970) writes: ‘Most sociologists seem to have forgotten that reality exists only in the empirical world and not in the methods sociologists use to measure it’ (cited in Yanai 1986:66). Brenner 1981) believe that the measurements of social phenomena directed by the paradigm of ‘causal laws’ fail to describe adequately the social world. Filstead 1970. that we find described in textbooks and courses on methodology.Turner 1974. for example. Robert Nisbet (1977) recalls: While I was engaged in exploration of some of the sources of modern sociology [it occurred to me] that none of the great themes which have provided continuing challenge and also theoretical foundation for sociologists during the last century was ever reached through anything resembling what we are to-day fond of identifying as ‘scientific method’. cited in Vidich and Lyman 1994:40). But it hasn’t’ (Goffman 1971:xvi. Speaking of sociological methods. replete with appeals to statistical analysis. They believe that social scientists distort the empirical world by trying to make reality fit their methods. problem design. I mean the kind of method. and therefore most social research remains irrelevant to people’s experiences (Yanai 1986). Vidich and Lyman 1994. Horowitz 1991.

40 CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING 1988. which allow the researcher to obtain first-hand knowledge about the empirical social world in question. etc. and highly quantitative techniques that pigeonhole the empirical social world into the operational definition that the researcher has constructed. McAdams 1988).. qualitative research has a separate and distinguished history in education. Gandhi’s Truth (1969) and Young Man Luther (1958). The use of such a method makes it possible not to force the meaning of the journey and the following encounter with Israel into preconceived categories. Habermas 1971.g. thereby developing the analytical.1 Social phenomenologists who are interested in methodological issues of the social sciences claim that the purpose of social inquiry is to emphatically understand the social world by describing and interpreting the meaning and the significance of social activity (Yanai 1986. Fischer 1982. total participation in the activity being investigated. Erik Erikson was already using some aspects of it in his writings.g. therefore. Ricoeur 1971. the Chicago School (e. Oevermann et al. anthropology and sociology (Denzin and Lincoln 1994:15). seems to be most suitable for this study which focuses on the experience of the journey of the Ethiopian Jews and their encounter with Israel. Manganaro 1990. and to understand its full meaning—psychologically as well as socially. 1965). particularly in its debate of nomothetic versus idiographic approaches (Plummer 1983). or ‘pigeon-holes’. as well as leading figures such as Jerome Bruner (1987. 1986) and Kenneth and Mary Gergen (1983). qualitative methodology refers to: those strategies. According to Filstead (1970). Vidich et al. 1981). conceptual and categorical components of explanation from the data itself—rather than from the preconceived. psychology. in sociology. students of McClelland (e. Richardson 1996. Qualitative methodology allows the researcher to ‘get close to the data’. which provides a deeper sense of the complexity of human experience. organisational studies. have adopted the life history and life story methods and have come closer to literary critique and history in their methods of interpretation (also see Atkinson 1998. Thomas and Znaniecki 1958 [1918–20]) exerted its influence on the social sciences from the 1920s and 1930s. Dilthey 1977. social work. such as participant observation. a descriptive method based on phenomenological interpretations of ‘narrative interviews’ (Rosenthal 1989. 1979. in-depth interviewing. Thus. Clifford and Marcus 1986. field work. Richardson 1996). see also Gadamer 1982. rigidly structured. Further. Atkinson 1998).g. they argue that the social scientist ought to use a qualitative method in order to understand the meaning of social phenomena. Even earlier. communications. In psychology. (cited in Yanai 1986:16) A qualitative methodology. The method which was chosen as the central tool for this study is. e. as did Allport (1942. history. medical science. Josselson and Lieblich 1995. .

The method is based on the assumption that the narration of an experience comes closest to the experience itself. cultural and historical context. Interventions tend to disrupt the train of thought of the narrator and to impose the system of relevance of the interviewer on to the narration. This method is interpretative as well as explorative in its nature. because it has more to offer than a list of events. the life story of an individual and of a group reflects a specific social. the focus of attention in the study of life story is ‘upon the symbolic in social life and meaning in individual lives’ (ibid. as Gelia Frank states. as well as being influenced by this context.’ This method of interviewing produces a life story which is significant. Henceforth. In contrast to a deductive methodology where there is a structured interview which is aimed at verifying (or refuting) detailed hypotheses stemming from a particular theory. also see Riessman 1993). Thus. and which is related both to the original experience and to the person’s present situation at the time of the interview. This is basically an ‘open’ interview in which the person is asked to tell his/her story about a particular experience (or his/her entire life story) and is allowed to do so without interference on the part of the interviewer.CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING 41 Schüetze 1976. As Rosenthal. in it resides the evaluation of one’s own existence’ (Frank and Vanderburgh 1986:74). (Rosenthal 1991:34) This kind of interview enables the interviewee to choose those aspects which seem important to him/her in relation to the topic he/she is narrating. with the help of a set of non-interfering techniques applied by the trained interviewer. As Yoram Bilu puts it: The interpretive act is perceived as an on-going dialogue between the researcher and its research subject/text. and to produce a ‘construction’ (a ‘product’) which is personal. through the negotiation with the subjects and on the basis of the interpretation of their stories and their analysis. In addition. As Wong (1991:154) puts it: ‘In the subjective experience of biography…the account is never free of the accounting. the phenomenon studied will be understood and a theory will be formed.2 In addition. The interview The interview was carried out in the tradition of ‘the narrative interview’ (Schüetze 1976). a student of Schüetze’s principles.. where the ‘translation’ develops into . 1999:16). here the methodology is inductive. It is ‘a narrative rather than a chronicle. see also Leydesdorff et al. participant observation was employed. puts it in her studies of the narrations of the Nazi period by contemporary German people: The aim of this interview method is to elicit and maintain a full narration by the interviewee.

1997). images. The narrative interview enables us to learn in the most direct way about the perceptions. this method is especially suitable when dealing with issues that have not been sufficiently researched (like our subject). We could also learn how the wayfarers perceive (retrospectively) the influences of the journey on their lives and (in principle) the changes in this perception as they grow up or become distanced from the experience (Runyan 1984:61. it tries to explore as many aspects of the phenomenon as possible and raise as many hypotheses as could be discerned from the text—in other words. of the phenomenon (Atkinson 1998. (Bilu 1986:350. Kholi 1986. in reading the results of such a study. Thus. This is a phenomenological study. In addition. experiences and emotional states which are ‘retrieved’ from memory and are not a precise description of things ‘as they happened’. that which relates to the nature of truth within the narratives. The aim is not validation of hypotheses which derive from a general theory. It therefore reveals the complexity. when the central aim is to understand the major research questions and to suggest new theoretical principles rather than to validate existing theories. narrated life history enables the researcher to arrive at a dynamic conceptualisation of the researched phenomenon. Bertaux 1981. I would like. to address one major issue. I shall not try to discuss these exhaustively here. One of its major aims is to provide an understanding of the way the journey is seen through the eyes of the wayfarers themselves. to develop a grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967). Thus. whether during the journey itself or in Israel. Bertaux 1981). This method enables the interviewee to present his/her life (or a period within it) as a unified whole which includes various ‘layers’. symbols and meanings which exist in relation to the experience of the migration journey and its impact on the young people. my translation) The narrative interview and life story method suits the present research for a number of reasons. Lastly. whose rules are context-free [where context has no relevance]. it exposes a general perception of the experience of the journey and its effects which is multi-dimensional. I would thus be able to study any changes in the perception of the journey and its meanings along different phases of the individual’s life. Life stories are of their nature retrospective. and sometimes the inconsistencies and double meanings. Thus. a few methodological issues arise. Rather. Because of the nature of this research methodology. it seems to me that one should bear in mind a clear distinction between the different kinds of truth within the . Lomsky-Feder 1994. through repetitive movement between these poles of the personal and the general. They therefore consist of a reconstruction of events.42 CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING a more refined and sophisticated one in a dialectical way. however. not a statistical study. There is no intention in this research to arrive at the statistical significance of the results. but…giving meaning to an unclear text by a system of interpretations which is reasonable and internally consistent. the part and the whole. this is an explorative research.

the hostility of the Sudanese towards them.CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING 43 narratives. The Jews avoided any treatment. A circle was thus closed between ‘objective’ (external) reality. in a manner more akin to mine. • Historical truth This relates to what we tend to call the ‘objective reality’ of the situation. certain conditions at particular periods. and there is no imma-nent distinction between these two categories of truth. They experienced this attitude of the Sudanese in their regular encounters with them as well as in incidents of extreme torture. these psychological (experienced) facts also influenced the Ethiopian Jews’ behaviour.e. in their eyes. and so forth. to discuss briefly the relation between three kinds of truth: historical. i. which gained ‘over relevance’ (see Bar-On 1991. and most probably was not a ‘reality’ of the camps. The Ethiopian Jews knew that the Sudanese objected to their departure to Israel (‘the enemy’ for the Sudanese) and that they would try to prevent the migration in all possible ways. in Debora Dwork’s (1991) excellent study of Children with a Star. just a particular part of that policy. Furthermore. a psychological one. or even a detail of a certain situation. Everything was then perceived in view of that knowledge. psychological and narrative truth. I wish. Such. Realising that a certain truth is a psychological truth enables us to arrive at a better understanding of the emotional condition of the person at the time of the event. thereby exacerbating their condition. would be the existence of the described routes. This topic was treated by Spence (1982) and. It is only the researcher who is able to do what was impossible in the actual situation: to become aware of many sources of knowledge. That is. the interviewees explained. i.3 It is treated in the same manner as most of the other facts of the situation (the contextual facts). in the present research. usually consisting of many contextual facts. Chaitin 2000) and the exploitation of medication for these purposes was. The individual not only grasps but actually experiences this as a reality of his/her life (thus an ‘experienced reality’). therefore. and the death toll among them rose. • Psychological truth Let me start with an illustration.e. what ‘really happened’. This had been done. . While this is not recorded anywhere else. it is nevertheless a perceived reality. just as other facts (truths) did. The researcher has the time to do the cross-checking of all these details and is therefore made aware of the possibility that a certain truth is psychological rather than an ‘objective’ historical truth. by the Sudanese workers in those camps. an account of the lives of Jewish children in Europe under Nazi occupation prior to and during the war. based mainly on oral sources. the belief in the poisoning or metal-inserting reveals the anxiety and terror under which the Jews lived in Sudan. psychological (‘subjective’ inner) reality. the camps. In the course of the narratives many of my interviewees recalled that pieces of metal and of poison were inserted into pills (and other medications) given to Jews in the refugee camps in Sudan. For example. causing the death of Jews. we are able to understand the psychological state which was at the basis of the perceived facts.

whether a story consists of a flowing narration or a sequence of arrested/interrupted excerpts. . This includes. always exercises choices within the interview. his/her ‘identity card’ for the constructed event (or ‘entrance ticket’ into the life story). with the encounter with Israel or with the flight or boat trip towards it)? And so forth. it is as if people tell a story which answers the question ‘What happened to me?’ rather than ‘What did I do?’ (Dwork 1991:xxxviii). As Dwork pointed out.4 Another relevant point here is the fact that people tend to give more ‘space’ in their stories to dramatic occurrences and changes in their life than to their daily routines. by what is remembered. • Narrative truth This is the truth which is related to the interactive process with a particular person/interviewer. and ‘objective’ external reality again—their avoidance behaviour and its results. therefore. It is highlighted in its own right because it is. of the ‘research text’. • A silenced content Narrative truth also relates to what the interviewee chooses not to tell. part of the story. Here we should remember that the person is narrating a lifetime history. The silent content is thus ‘the other side’ of the person’s choices of what to tell. are also influenced by the nature of memory. It also includes the sequence of the episodes. i. of course. many people prefer to keep silent about those facts which affect their self-image in a negative way. in a sense. The person. Within this context narrative truth could be conceived as consisting of four aspects: • A chosen content This refers to what the person chooses to narrate. in an hour (or a few hours) of interview. stemming from a state of anxiety and terror. the first thing the person relates. or an event which occurred over an extended period of time.44 CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING poisoning and inserting metal pieces in the medications. for example.6 • The organisation of content This refers to the way in which the content is organised within the story. is affected by all these factors. in sum.e. The silent facts form an ‘untold story’ within the interview. prefers to keep silent. The choice of content. This might be done for a variety of reasons. For instance. finding a need to justify or explain his/her behaviour or feelings in a certain situation) instead of narration (Rosenthal 1991)? Where are the turning points or even the ‘watershed’ within the story? With what does the person choose to end the story (for example. some of it is revealed at times in the phase of the interview which followed the uninterrupted narration or through other aspects of the interview or the life story. at a specific biographical and historical moment and at a certain place (including the conditions and constraints of the interview). When does the interviewee use argumentation (i. These choices.5 However. in the present research. the way s/he chooses to open the interview. what is elaborated and what is told in an abbreviated manner.e.

could such a thing have happened at that time?’ ‘Was this point as far from the border as described? Or is it a feeling that colours that distance and “extends” it?’ The researcher needs to cross-check historical facts and distinguish them from the psychological dimension of the narrative. This raised some issues and problems. Ethiopians (Amhara) are expected to ‘contain themselves’. as mentioned above. I would like to stress. This aspect of the interview lends itself to analysis and interpretation in much the same way as the other aspects. The narrative truth provides us. with an additional way of understanding the experience of the life-event and its meaning for the individual. The issue of trust and initial rapport Ethiopian culture dictates emotional restraint. Troubles exposed in a group. rather. its construction by the individual and community. One should ask oneself such questions as ‘From what we know from other sources. silences. facial expressions. and so on.7 as well as the psychological state of the wayfarers on their journey (their feelings. are kept to oneself and contained ‘within the stomach’ or abdomen. manifestations of flatness of emotions in certain narrated circumstances but not in others. What interests me is exactly the combination of ‘objective’ (or.). Psychological and narrative truths are thus a major focus of interest within my research. envy and seeking vengeance. The existence of the three types of truth in the narratives obliges the researcher to be attentive to the kind of truth emerging at each ‘moment’. attitudes. where narrative signals of trauma are discussed. For instance. . etc. crying or laughing. especially ‘negative’ ones like anger. and patience is advocated as a coping mechanism. Body language. which I had to find ways of circumventing. should not disclose what one really feels or thinks. exacerbate the pain. and facial expressions in particular. or in public. both during interviewing and when interpreting the material. In the present study these are also taken up directly in Chapter 7. anxieties. Feelings. that this study focuses on the experience and meaning of the event. The cross-cultural context While using the narrative interview method I needed to take into account the fact that these interviews were set in a cross-cultural (or inter-cultural)8 context. however. thoughts about various events. posture. it can give us additional clues to the person’s psychological state of mind. not to share personal details of their life story with others. The interviewees were immigrants from Ethiopia at their initial stages in Israel interviewed by an Israeli-born person.CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING 45 • The non-verbal text This refers to various non-verbal cues which accompany the narration: aspects of body language. in my opinion. verifiable) facts and non-verifiable facts.


There is a belief that ‘the abdomen is wider than the whole world’, hence it could actually contain all the troubles, misfortunes and feelings which are engendered in the social context (BenEzer 1999, 1992: Chapter 12, 1990). The Ethiopian (Amhara) child goes through a process of socialisation which relates, among other things, to this aspect of social life. Folk stories also emphasise the danger of naivety and the value of doubt and mistrust. Suspicion and caution are thus cornerstones in social interaction. Sharing personal experiences, attitudes and feelings in such a cultural context is done only when trust is firmly established and usually only with a particular friend or within the family. The definition of a friend in this context is interesting: s/he is first and foremost one who can keep a secret.9 On the basis of the above, one could assume that the interviewees would not readily share their personal story of the journey—which may include painful or stressful events, experiences of loss and other trauma, feelings of guilt over survival and, possibly, anger at treacherous members of the community—with a stranger they do not necessarily trust. If I wanted to enable them to narrate their story I had first to gain their trust.10 It is worth noting here that alongside the difficulties in telling the story to a stranger and a native Israeli there was also a wish to do so. This wish reflects the community’s desire that Israeli society become aware of what they went through in order to reach Israel.11 However, this communal desire does not necessarily make it easier for the individual to relate painful or guilt-provoking details. This needed a level of trust. The problem of cultural suppression/denial There is a phenomenon whereby immigrants refrain from including expressions from their culture of origin within the stream of communication in the crosscultural context (BenEzer 1992; Grinberg and Grinberg 1989:110). Two reasons for this tendency are discussed in the literature: 1 The existence of explicit and implicit pressures exerted by society to ‘become alike’ as quickly as possible, what is sometimes called ‘to assimilate’ or ‘to integrate’12 in society (Halper 1987; Deshen and Shokeid 1974). In spite of the lessening of the ‘melting pot’ ideology in Israel (and elsewhere) during the 1970s and 1980s13 and the current ‘politically correct’ pluralist and multiculturalist ideology, there is still a fair amount of pressure towards change in the direction of similarity (Goldberg 1994; Halper 1987: 125– 36).14 Ethiopian Jews were under such pressure. The pressure was especially strong on the adolescents in boarding schools and youth villages (from which about half of the interviewees in this study came). This is due to the fact that, on the whole, these residential educational settings are ‘powerful envi-


ronments’ (Kashti and Arieli 1986; Arieli 1986)15 geared to bringing about significant change in the individuals who go through them (mainly disadvantaged or immigrant adolescents). In these ‘total’ educational environments (Arieli 1986) the ‘mainstreaming’ towards ‘Israeliness’ (whatever that means)16 is stronger than within the community. The inclination, therefore, to refrain from using Ethiopian cultural codes or to present cultural contents in a cross-cultural encounter is enhanced in these educational settings.17 As they are adolescents, hence at their ‘age of plasticity’ (Honzik 1984; Liebliech 1989), the Ethiopian boys and girls are prone to such pressures to an even greater extent. 2 The second reason for the negation of aspects connected with the culture of origin is an urge that most immigrants and newcomers share to ‘be like’, to resemble members of the receiving society; this tendency is stronger in children and the young. Being in their ‘formative years’ (Erikson 1968; Bloss 1962) they are more orientated towards their social milieu, depending on it for support and feelings of safety (Sandler 1960). Their need to belong is stronger and their tendency towards resemblance within a particular group of reference is pronounced. In a context of immigration, particularly when it involves majority/minority relations as in the case of Ethiopian Jews in Israel, these inclinations are targeted upon the receiving society. A need to quickly resemble the members of the receiving society thus becomes operative within these youngsters. They not only suppress past behaviours and cultural patterns of communication by ‘switching’ according to context, but try to quickly learn some new behaviours, attitudes and values, ones that are more similar to those of the receiving society, which would become part of their new self.18 In view of the above, there is a danger that the interviewees will automatically block any cultural aspects that arise in the course of the narration. This could refer to the content of the story as well as to cultural ways of expressing oneself. It could also negatively affect the flow of narration. It would constitute ‘avoidance points’ or ‘breaks’ in the train of thought and stream of feelings which serve as a basis for any process of narration. Choices will be affected not so much by what the individual wants to convey in relation to the experience of the journey but by these obstacles to free narration. If this happens, then the fact that a ‘representative’ of the new culture is the counterpart in the interview would play a negative rather than a creative part in the context of the interview. I could not, of course, revert the course of these powerful processes. What I did try to create in this particular interview, however, is a situation that differs significantly from most encounters of the Ethiopian immigrant youth in Israeli society. There was an effort to create a unique ‘micro-cosmos’ where there is not


only legitimacy and acceptance of cultural norms and ways of expression by the interviewer but a genuine and active interest in these expressions. The emotional context Narrating emotionally laden life-events in particular traumatic experiences could be a painful process. Therefore, people would sometimes tend to avoid narrating these experiences in the course of their interview. This is reinforced by the Ethiopian cultural code which dictates emotional restraint and ‘containment’. In order to overcome this barrier I have devised various measures, partly drawn from my general psychotherapeutic training and partly from the communication skills developed throughout my particular experience of working with Ethiopian adolescents. I tried to establish an atmosphere of support and acceptance in which the interviewee would feel safe to enter and ‘revisit’ any pitfall, ‘downslope’ and ‘deep gorge’ within the experience of the journey. I had to find a way to convey to them a ‘promise’ to ‘be there’, with them and for them, at the difficult parts of the experience of the interview and that, if necessary, I would help them ‘get out’ of these relived painful experiences. This kind of effort on the part of the interviewer is in accord with a growing body of literature surrounding the issue of ‘testimony’ which has developed in the past two decades. The research concerned survivors of Nazi concentration camps as well as interviews with refugees and others who had been subjected to torture (see Leydesdorff et al. 1999; Agger 2000, 1994; Rose 1999; Felman and Laub 1992; J.Herman 1992; Melzak 1991; Dwork 1991; Montgomery 1991; Blackwell 1990; Buus and Agger 1988). It is worth noting that there is also a therapeutic aspect to testimonies. People feel somewhat relieved (at least temporarily) after they have shared their painful experiences with a compassionate listener/interviewer. For some of the interviewees there is also a therapeutic experience in the very fact of allowing them (even inviting them) to create a story out of their ‘pieces’ of memory of these traumatic experiences (see also Holmes and Roberts 1999; Leydesdorff et al. 1999:8). The therapeutic effect of interviewing traumatised people is also noted in the above-mentioned studies. Many interviewees who have gone through such traumatic events have noted that they had not told their ‘story’ to anyone until the research (or testimonial) interview took place. A number of reasons for this are mentioned in the literature. One important reason is the fact that the interviewees were never approached in a way which enabled them to do it. I believe that at least some of the measures related above are the needed facilitating factors. The interviewer’s success in creating a ‘safe micro-cosmos’ by conveying a feeling of support is, in my opinion, crucial for these interviews. Similar spontaneous reactions followed the interviews which took place in the current study, in which the adolescents spoke of a therapeutic effect of the interview or of some aspect of growth as a result of it.


A culturally adapted initial phase of ‘defreezing’ and formingrapport In order to create trust, to enable a spontaneous flow of cultural aspects and to facilitate the narration of painful or otherwise emotionally loaded material, I have devised a special technique of ‘defreezing’ (Lewin 1948) which was performed during the initial phase of the interview. This phase was longer than would be necessary under intra-cultural circumstances. The phase of defreezing, as taken from the context of group work, is usually that in which people are made to realise that they are in a situation which is different from their normal course of life. In this situation the rules may be other than the usual, even created anew; human encounters may be differently regulated and one could experiment with new behaviours. Individuals are taken out of their former environment (and self), ‘defreezed’ in order that they can become open to the new situation and experiment within it, and then stabilise or ‘re-freeze’ the new learnings as they come out of the situation (ideally, staying more open to further change). This phase is where trust and rapport are established with a particular facilitator or, as in our study, with the researcher/interviewer. In short, it is a warming-up phase which prepares for the main task and in which the ‘newcomer’ to the situation is familiarised with the ‘rules of the game’. It could be a short or a long phase.19 In the present study I tried to use this phase in order to convey to the interviewees that I know and value their culture and am interested in their ‘Ethiopian side’ as well as in the much more recent ‘Israeli side’ which they have started to acquire. I tried to do that through various mechanisms such as presenting myself to them through their familial network and by beginning the interview using the Ethiopian way of initial encounter. A particular technique which I employed regularly and extensively was related to their Ethiopian names. If at the beginning of the interview they told me their name in Hebrew, I would inquire what it was in Ethiopia. Then, in what is considered a traditional Ethiopian manner, I would ask about their father’s name (‘X, maan? the son of whom?’); and I would continue to ask in this way about their father (i.e. ‘Y, the son of whom?’) relating to their grandfather, and sometimes one generation further back into the past. Most of them were at first surprised, but then responded willingly to this mode of opening the interview. In this way I addressed the personal rather than the general from the start of the interview, while at the same time connecting the adolescents to their past in Ethiopia. Another part of this defreezing phase dealt with the various names by which the interviewee was called in Ethiopia, i.e. by his or her relatives (e.g. grandmother, grandfather, aunt, big brother or sister, etc.). The Ethiopian cultural code cherishes names which are ‘relations-dependent’ (BenEzer 1988). In the same manner we also discussed the special names (or nicknames) by which the interviewees addressed their elder brothers and sisters in Ethiopia and which would usually convey their respect for them. These practices were aimed at transferring the interviewees to their life in Ethiopia prior to the journey.


I assumed that, in general, besides helping to ‘dislodge’ the interviewee from present worries and anxieties connected with the current situation in Israel, this mechanism would also transplant the interviewee into a situation in which they felt more at one with themselves, more ‘powerful’ and ‘integrated’ than in the current immigrant situation in Israel. It also transferred them to the family setting from which they embarked on the journey. In my experience, the use of these techniques brings to the surface of the interview the extent to which the Ethiopian youngsters employed ‘cultural suppression’ in Israel, because these measures invite the person to relate to cultural aspects of the self. If I discovered that an individual employed a strong cultural denial I could then extend the defreezing phase and use various techniques to tackle these and create the necessary interview micro-cosmos. Through these measures of defreezing I also tried to assess how alert I needed to be to the possibility of the person omitting cultural aspects during the ensuing narration part of the interview, or whether this could be a reason for getting stuck along the narration. The main purpose, however, was to prepare the person for the inclusion of the cultural aspect of the self if s/he chose to do that in the course of the narration. Humour was also employed from the very start of the interview. This was in order to break, or at least lower the effect of, Ethiopian cultural codes operating towards authority figures (such as the ‘code of honour’, BenEzer 1999) which could negatively affect the interview. Humour, as I found, was a good way to work at it without negating or resisting the code as such. This is, of course, in addition to the general defreezing and anxiety-alleviating influence of humour in interviews, especially with children. For example, I started the interview by saying: ‘First, I am going to ask you a very difficult question, which I hope you can answer.’ I paused for one or two seconds and then continued by asking: ‘What is your name?’ There was a second of surprise, and then the child smiled with relief and told me his or her name. By employing this method I played into the youngster’s anxiety and tension, present before the start of any interview, raised them a little with my pause, and then relieved the child of them by the surprising contrast between the preceding sentence and the actual question. And, as stated above, I used conduct that was atypical for the way figures of authority address the young in Ethiopia. I also used Ethiopian non-verbal communication codes and body language in the encounter, e.g. the way of addressing each other in terms of hand gesture, and brief inhaling as a sign of absolute attention of the listener and encouragement to continue a story. Lastly, I used traditional ‘codes’ or ‘signals’ of ‘sharing’ such as the buna (coffee) ceremony in a creative way within the interview in order to ‘signal’ that this was a ‘sharing’ and storytelling situation.20 Part of my adaptation as an interviewer to the interviewees was not in terms of ‘doing’ but of ‘not doing’ certain things which could negatively affect the interviewee. I refer to the need to ‘positively accept’ cultural signals of various kinds, especially non-verbal, which the interviewee would certainly convey

not try to change it. that s/he could change the language in which the interview was conducted. and would change it as necessary at the beginning of the interview. which formed a problem of eye contact (and tape-recording). for example. especially when searching for a word while recounting.CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING 51 within the process of the interview. It was interesting to note how. Most adolescents preferred having the interview in Hebrew (probably since this is their general mode of expression while encountering a native Israeli). . but a form of expressing respect at the start of an interview and a way of complying with cultural codes of not gazing at another person (BenEzer 1987). would be prevented. as related above. I tried to accept these cultural codes so that cross-cultural misunderstandings. The structure of the interview The structure of the interview thus consisted of four stages: • Defreezing and establishing rapport A longer phase than ‘regular’. in prediction of his/her behaviour according to the code of honour (respect). I would. They were encouraged. however. however. by more than just stating it (i. which might have ensued in a break of communication within the interview. Even the most transformed among the Ethiopian youth would express some of these signals. since I knew that this posture was not a sign of any reservation. In this pre-narration phase of the interview I also made clear to the interviewee. as explained above. It is worth noting that some of these considerations and adaptations in technique were relevant not only in the initial ‘defreezing’ phase but throughout the interview. For example. Thus. As an interviewer I should ‘receive’ this and other behavioural signals and adapt accordingly. they were more applicable in the non-verbal communication and in the receptive stance towards cultural expressions. to move freely between the languages. as if just thinking of it in their previous language released it in the new one.e. both in the communication flow and in the technicalities of the interview. nevertheless. I could later cross-check what they meant with a native speaker of the language. At any event. • An uninterrupted narrative The major part of the interview which is the initial story as done in the narrative interview technique. Ethiopian interviewees tended to sit at a ninety degree angle from the interviewer. by actual behaviour). this freedom to return to their language of origin in their minds in fact triggered the right word in Hebrew. and move to Amharic or Tigrinya as s/he wished. Since the central part of the interview employed non-interfering techniques. which was Hebrew. resistance or untruthfulness on the part of the interviewee. when the adolescent used the original language to a significant degree. when looking for a word. I would put the tape-recorder microphone at a ninety degree angle to where I would assume the interviewee would be sitting.

Chapter 7). This phase is not part of the narrative interview technique and is complementary to the storytelling. Complementary tools In addition to the interviews. It is important to remember here that I did not ask about issues which were already related to by the interviewee in the initial story or within the elaboration phase. as the interviewer suspects. in educational and vocational projects and absorption centres where I served as a consultant. please?’. Were they reminded of the journey in Israel? If so. which are done after the initial story had been told.52 CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING • Requested elaborations These are requests for elaboration made by the interviewer. thought or did then. I was invited to communal celebrations and festivals. In this phase. These could relate. and which. and so on. • A set of complementary questions These were constructed within the preceding pilot study. in which understanding grows in the course of deepening participation and in the gradual acquisition of interactive competence (Wong 1991). and from interactions with Ethiopian youngsters and Israeli staff. to whether the interviewee was very ill on the journey and what they felt. for example. . questions are asked which are of specific interest to the researcher. and are generated from his. may have a supplementary story ‘behind’ them (and ‘hidden stories’. to hospitals. ‘What did you do whilst…?’. both formal and informal. or condensed. and relate to some aspects of the journey and the encounter with Israel to which the person is asked to respond in either an informative or an evaluative way. They are usually concerned with aspects which remained unclear. In this phase the interviewer may encourage the interviewee to elaborate or tell more of his/her story by phrasing the questions in the form of: ‘Could you please tell me more about…x or y?’ or: ‘I am interested in …could you elaborate on that. was it at certain times? And did they feel that this journey made them stronger/weaker than before? And so forth. three complementary tools were employed— mainly for the analysis of the encounter with Israel (Chapter 8): • Participant observation Being in the field impels a mode of inquiry which is not textual but existential. in the initial narration. I was fortunate to be able to derive observations from a variety of situations which were related to my work as a clinical psychologist/psychotherapist with Ethiopian Jews. While many encounters were connected to my work. I had almost as many which were just part of my affiliation with particular members of the community. ‘Could you share with me how you felt when…’. and mixed neighbourhoods. as well as funerals and mourning periods. see section on trauma signals. army units. as well as the interviewee’s. Hence this phase was at times very short or even completely missing. to family gatherings as well as friendly meetings of nonrelated members. frame of reference.

All interviews in these papers with Ethiopian Jews.CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING 53 While I was making field notes during the whole period of my work. An analysis of interviews with the media A second tool was provided by an analysis of an abundance of media interviews given by Ethiopian Jews in Israel during the 1980s. and 105 such interviews with adults (including elderly) members of the community. I conducted interviews with workers at the refugee camps—Sudanese. Another newspaper—Hadashot—was also included for one year. The three major Hebrew newspapers were included in this analysis (Yediot Aharonot. Second. in fact. by their referring to the journey when asked about other topics or about themselves in general. therefore producing data which add another dimension to our study. I was particularly aware of the need to systemati cally write entries during the four years of interviewing for the present research. Television interviews researched included those by Israeli Television (one channel at that time) as well as the Educational Television channel. apart from my work. and a youth paper (Ma’ariv La’noar). It seems that the dynamics of a media interview differ considerably from the autobiographical monologue generated by the narrative interview. During that period I had. and workers coming from Western countries. Interviews within four longer documentary programmes shown on television were also analysed. At that time I also tried to observe the various contexts and ways in which people were referring to their journey from Ethiopia and its relevance to their life in Israel. these media interviews were a source of more direct information on the relevance of the journey to specific aspects within their current life in Israel. or particular aspects of it. in particular during the research period between 1984 and 1988.Ma’ariv and Ha’aretz) as well as the major newspaper in English (The JerusalemPost). to national and local newspapers. These were government officials as well as staff of . a regular and quite popular station in Israel). as well as to radio and television networks. its content and its significance for their Israeli existence. The incorporation of these two tools—participant observation and the analysis of media interviews—into the research design has been motivated by their complementarity to each other. Each provides access to a different aspect and dimension of the researched (individual and social) reality. which includes many programmes for Israeli youth. 195 informal interviews with young people on their life in Israel. and to the narrative interviews. The interviews with the media served two purposes: first. adolescents in particular. as a cross-checking of the initial assumption of the special role of the journey in the eyes of Ethiopian Jews. which is. Context interviews It goes without saying that I inquired about the reality of the journey from other sources as well. Also included were the special programmes for immigrants on Reshet Aleph. For example. The same was done with interviews to the four main radio stations (three of the Kol Israel network—Reshet Aleph. Reshet Beth and Reshet Gimel— and the Army station. were analysed in relation to any mention of the journey. Ethiopian.

Oevermann and others. particularly that of the United States. Interviews were also taken surrounding the involvement of other governments. Gabriele Rosenthal’s method of textual analysis and hermeneutical reconstruction based upon Schüetze. Giorgi’s method is based on interpretations of verbal reports. are delineated in relation to the particular goal of the study. in bringing forth Operation Moses. in their subjective phenomenological sense. the first important principle for analysing protocols is to remain receptive to the phenomenon. says Giorgi. When the essential themes are recognised. 1975) as well as by others who followed his work (e. 1991). Italy and England. The central themes. This technique of reading the material was found particularly suitable for eliciting meanings out of a text. Ethiopia. The accounts in this study were therefore rigorously treated along the following guidelines: . AAEJ) who were involved in some aspects which led to the journey. It can never be overstated. I had first experimented with different methods of analysis which I shall not detail here (e. see Rosenthal 1989. Interpretation How is the textual material to be read? This remains highly problematical. Yanai 1986). that while the information provided from these interviews was important in order to understand the contextual facts of the journey. the researcher can delineate central or essential themes which dominate them. whether these were members of the community or others. we can identify ‘natural meaning units’ in the text.54 CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING international agencies. It keeps as its centre of attention the interviewee’s (as opposed to the researcher’s) point of view in relation to an event or a concept. while using information elicited from the subjects in a direct way. I then chose the phenomenological analysis employed by Giorgi in the United States (Giorgi 1970. and they reflect the natural divisions in the text itself. on the other hand. Canada. it is the experiential account of the people who underwent the journey which is the focus of this research. People who were operating in central positions within Ethiopia whereby they could observe (or were part) of the initial phases of the mass movement were also interviewed.g. I was privileged in being able to interview some of the people who were involved in organising the clandestine operation.g. Giorgi recommends summarising them in general descriptive statements. however. The natural meaning units are divided without accounting for the specific aim of the study. the United States. These interviews were carried out in Israel. In his method essential themes of the phenomenon are delineated from the experiences described by the interviewee. According to Giorgi. and of individuals (e.g.g. Once the natural meaning units are identified. By keeping our minds open and by using our intuition. Congressmen) and organisations’ representatives (e. especially since this is a study of a migrant population.

‘What does this statement tell me about (the experience of/meaning of) the journey?’. Try to remain as open as possible to the experiences described. which is possible. then leave it blank.CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING 55 1 Carefully read the interviews and get a sense of the whole. of Sudan. whether substantive or formal. ‘What does this statement tell me about the phenomenon?’ If there is nothing explicit about the phenomenon within a given natural unit. 4 Once the themes have been named. The researcher.e. codes and analyses his data and decides what data to collect next and where to find it in order to develop his theory as it emerges. following Giorgi’s instructions. non-redundant essential themes. delineated natural meaning units and essential themes of the walking journey up to the Sudanese border. The ratio of agreement was 85. A question was related to each of these phases. and then assigned each theme to the general categories/meanings of each phase. 2 Divide the text into the natural meaning units as expressed by the interviewee. and of the encounter with Israel (when the interviewee related to it in the initial story). tie the essential. General meanings were extracted also in relation to the encounter with Israel. (Glaser and Strauss 1967:45. non-redundant themes together with a general descriptive statement. the researcher delineated a few general categories/meanings of each phase and for the whole journey to Israel. see also Richardson 1996. and state as simply as possible the central themes dominating the natural meaning units by asking oneself. ‘…about (the experience of) Sudan?’ and ‘…about (the encounter with) Israel?’ From the non-repetitive. Interviewees/subjects Selecting the interviewees The selection of interviewees followed the principles of ‘theoretical sampling’ (Glaser and Strauss 1967). which is the process of data collection for generating theory whereby the analyst jointly collects. A second person delineated themes in four interviews. This process of data collection is controlled by the emerging theory. i. which centres around those general themes of the phenomenon that have emerged in most interviews. without altering the text and without accounting for the specific aim of the study. 3 Look at the natural meaning units with regard to the specific purpose of the study. Glaser 1992) .

even more so. and thus possibly the length of the trail. I realised that there was another area of origin from where people set out on the journey—Gojjam—and that people who started their journey from there might have had a different experience of the trek since they went first to the Gondar region (some youngsters did it by bus) and later trekked to Sudan. the Jews of Wolkite were closer to the border than the other two groups. Thus. set out last and therefore might have had different experiences in Sudan than the Tigrean and Wolkitian Jews.21 Locating the interviewees Most (95 per cent) of the Ethiopian adolescents in Israel aged 12–17 at the time of my research studied in boarding schools and youth villages. which seemed relevant to the experience of the journey: one related to area of origin in Ethiopia and the other was sex of interviewees. for instance. The former determined the distance to Sudan. It is worth noting that I tried to be ‘theoretically sensitive’ to emerging groups which seemed (theoretically) relevant to the experience of the journey rather than to any aspect in which these people would differ from each other (Glaser and Strauss 1967:46. During the process of interviewing. I started sampling with two criteria in mind. It also determined the period in which they set out and therefore the conditions on the trails and. to generate theory and not to establish verification of the facts. and then for others who walked in mixed groups of relatives and strangers. and then for those who made the journey among their peers. So I looked for people who walked with their families. I have also discovered that a possible significant category was the social support of the individual along the journey. in particular the many who arrived amidst the famine situation and the flood of refugees. Another example of a relevant category were people who were known to have been severely traumatised. on the whole.56 CROSS-CULTURAL INTERVIEWING It might be worth mentioning again that this technique is suitable here since the main purpose of the present study is.e. as in the grounded theory approach advocated by the above authors. For example. In relation to sex I assumed that the experience of the journey might be different for members of each sex.3). such as those who lost a close member of their family. I stopped interviewing when I arrived at a ‘theoretical saturation’ (Glaser and Strauss 1967:61) concerning the journey. see Glaser and Strauss 1967:47 n. 48–9). Thus. At that point I also felt that I had a good notion of the experience of the journey for the Ethiopian Jews. Gondari Jews. when it seemed that no more groups were emerging and that the narrated experiences started essentially to repeat themselves. i. the first step in sampling was to interview people who fitted these categories. This is partially due to the fact that many children and adolescents had arrived in Israel without their . in the refugee camps in Sudan. some ‘groups’—in the sense used by Glaser and Strauss—began to emerge (we should note that a ‘group’ in that sense could consist of one person.


families, and partially due to personal preferences among the Ethiopian young people (see Chapter 8). Thus, in order to locate potential interviewees, I contacted a number of boarding schools and youth villages, and worked with the teachers in charge of the Ethiopian pupils, trying to locate suitable candidates. I first asked for certain pupils to be included: these were those with whom I had had previous contacts in the community or in the educational setting or whose close relatives I had known. This ensured that some of the potential interviewees already trusted me to a degree, which is an important aspect in the cross-cultural research context as stated above. They could ‘transfer’ my ‘trustworthiness’ to other potential interviewees in the group, in accord with Ethiopian cultural codes where trust is mediated by familial contacts or after some testing of the stranger. A list was suggested to me, out of which I then selected those who suited the various criteria stated above. In addition I asked the teachers to suggest to me pupils who, apart from the criteria stated above, would in their eyes be as different as possible from each other, even if they could not always explain what the difference was or on what they based their judgement. I also asked them not to select youngsters with severe emotional problems. This was mainly because I feared it might be too difficult and cause greater distress for the emotionally disturbed to relate and re-experience events that can be emotionally very painful. It is interesting to note here that this request was often not easily accepted, because sometimes the co-ordinator for the immigrant youth, or the head of school, would try to use the opportunity of their students being interviewed at length by a psychologist for diagnostic purposes. Thus they encouraged me to interview some of the more disturbed students. While theoretically the interview setting could have been used for diagnostic purposes, I had to resist these requests and insist, for the reasons stated above, on a choice which did not endanger the well-being of interviewees or make them enter a situation which included a ‘hidden agenda’ unknown to them. After a group of candidates at a certain school had been located, I conducted a group meeting with all of them in which I explained to them at length the purpose of my research and encouraged them to ask me any question they thought was important for them to have answered prior to the interview. I made it very clear that they should not feel obliged to join in the research and that I would respect and accept anyone who chose not to be interviewed. I then had a series of individual meetings with the candidates who had agreed to join my study in which I began by giving them the opportunity to ask in private about the purpose of the research, stressing again that they could withdraw at any time. I also allowed them to stop the tape-recording if they wished to do so at a particular point along the interview and let them become familiar with the technical way to do this.


The pilot study Sixteen full journey interviews were conducted during the pilot, nine of them with boys and seven with girls. The pilot study also included an extended interview with four youngsters, two girls and two boys, which was aimed at investigating at length the areas of their lives which the journey had affected. These related to areas of psychological functioning as well as those of integration in Israel. These interviews were conducted with adolescents with whom I had had previous acquaintance and with whom trust was already established. Each interview was, in fact, a series of meetings which took about eight to ten hours. The main goal of the pilot study was to find the best way to conduct an interview about the journey. In the course of the pilot study the specific form of the ‘journey interview’ was devised. Two versions were experimented with: the first, a structured interview, which included guiding questions; and the second version, an ‘open-ended interview’ in the tradition of the narrative interview, which included a phase of requested elaborations, to which later I added a phase of complementary questions. The second version was chosen for eliciting the ‘journey stories’ of Ethiopian immigrant adolescent girls and boys. This open-ended uninterrupted version was found to elicit data in a form which seemed to be a better expression of the way the Ethiopian adolescents constructed the events of the journey and the way such occurrences, including traumatic ones, were made part of the person’s life history. During this phase I also created the initial categories for the theoretical sampling that I was going to conduct (e.g. boys and girls, different geographic areas). The pilot study was also used to try out various tools for defreezing an interviewee who comes from an Ethiopian cultural background. A certain method of pre-narration warming up was then developed. The phase of complementary questions, which included evaluative judgements following the journey story, was also built up during the pilot study. I experimented with various questions: some were found to be not very efficient and were adapted, while others were found irrelevant and were dropped altogether. Description of the sample Forty-five interviews were carried out, focusing on the journey and on the initial encounter with Israeli society. Twenty-nine of the interviewees were males and sixteen were females. They came from different areas of origin in Ethiopia: twenty-six were originally from Gondar, nine from Tigray, seven from Wolkite, one from Gojjam and two from Addis Ababa. They also differed in their age of setting out: seventeen were 13–16 years old, twelve were 17–20 years old, eleven were 9–12 years old, and five were 21 years old or more. In terms of their level of education in Ethiopia, seventeen interviewees had no schooling, six went to


school for one to six years, ten were in school for seven to twelve years, and eight had more than twelve years of education. These were mainly high school graduates who had undergone an additional teaching course, usually for less than a year. The number of school years for four of the interviewees is unknown. As for the number of years in Israel, twenty interviewees had been between one and three years in Israel at the time of the interview; nineteen interviewees between four and six years; and six interviewees between seven and ten years. Their place of residence in Israel at the time of the interview was either within the community (twenty-three interviewees) or living in an educational setting, a youth village or a boarding school (twenty-two of the interviewees). For a detailed description of the sample see the Appendix.


Jewish identity is a major theme within the young people’s narratives. It is experienced by the individuals in relation to themselves and their group as well as in relation to non-Jews. I shall attempt to discuss these experiences and their manifestation in four separate phases of the journey: 1 The phase of decision, which includes the context in which the decision to set out occurred and, at its centre, the motivation for migration or the reasons for flight. 2 The phase of setting out, during which Ethiopian Jews actually left their homes and villages. Here I shall examine how Jewish identity and relations with their neighbours determined the type of leave-taking. 3 The phase of the walking journey, during which they were trekking within Ethiopia towards the border with Sudan. I shall examine whether their passage was influenced in any way by their Jewishness, i.e. beyond the experience of regular trekkers or even of other Ethiopian refugees fleeing to Sudan. 4 The phase in Sudan. Here I shall consider the Sudanese experience, trying to assess what were the major aspects of that phase and whether the fact of being Jews coloured their time in Sudan in any significant way. In particular, I shall try to explore the extent to which their Jewish identity was a risk or a resource for survival within the context of Sudan. The phase of decision Jewish identity played a crucial role in the decision to migrate. This decision is described as a fulfilment of the ancient dream of the exiled person to return to Jerusalem. The Jews of Ethiopia perceived the return to Israel as a rectification of the situation of exile. They felt themselves to be a part returning to the whole, a drop, a stream or a river that will join the sea, so that no one could ever distinguish between river and sea. Henceforth, they believed that once in Israel, among their brethren, they would feel more ‘complete’. This migration dream of their return from a long exile to Israel, to ‘Yerussalem’ as they called it, and of reuniting with their brethren, was


fundamental to Ethiopian traditional Jewish society. In the migration stories I collected, the dream appears as a cross-generational message. It was handed down from one generation to another. Through a total integration of that dream into their family and community life they succeeded in keeping it so much ‘alive’ that it served as a blueprint for action. Shmuel describes how the dream was kept alive in his family. When he and his father were ploughing their field together, his father would tell him: ‘You know, my son, the land that we are ploughing is not our land. Our land is far away, in Yerussalem.’ Shaul, a 17-year-old shepherd from Wolkite, tells of the ways in which the message of the dream was transmitted through the generations in the villages: And the grown-ups, the parents, always used to give us a blessing, if we did them some favour [service for them]. Instead of saying, ‘Thank you’, or something like that, or giving sweets [smiles compas-sionately]1—not many sweets to give2—they would then say to us: ‘May you reach the country’, ‘to your country’, ‘to Zion’, or something like that. Daniel, aged 16, a student from a village near Gondar adjoining the exquisite Lake Tanna, refers to the beauty of ‘Yerussalem’, and other aspects of the crossgenerational dream: It is known, to the one who is in exile, the land of Israel, Yerussalem, this is the most beautiful country in the world…our parents had told us that, so we accepted this thing and it was in our blood… At home, at celebrations, everywhere, everybody would say: ‘Soon the time will arrive, to ascend, to walk to Israel.’ This word, ‘to ascend’, is how we say it now; but to walk to Israel, they would always speak about walking to Israel, always! [emphasis follows his intonation] And he continues: The older people would say, ‘Next year to3 Yerussalem.’ I myself knew this word. We had a synagogue, on the Day of Atonement we would have a celebration;4 we would go to the synagogue and then we had that song, which was ‘Next year to Jerusalem’. So I knew. So that is how they would always tell us, and we believed our elders. Another mechanism of integrating the message into their lives was through the interpretation of children’s dreams. Since, according to Ethiopian culture, dreams are perceived as a prediction of future events, particular dreams were interpreted as a prophecy of reaching Israel. Esther recounts:

First. Sarah recounts: My father used to say.’ We would hear him tell these stories about a country for Jews only. ‘We shall ascend. These were many. the concept of ‘Tzion-Yerussalem’ was drawn in metaphysical terms of splendour and holiness. Yet we did not know when… I becamé very attached to this country.62 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY Once I dreamt that I went to the sea and was drowning. Shaul explains: In the village no one had ever been to a Western country: no one had ever travelled even within Ethiopia to Addis Ababa or to Asmara. and whether only Jews were living there… I used to imagine a city where there’s always light. so that …we expected that all people in Israel were religious people. whether it was true that people there were living peacefully. as seen through the narratives. The name clearly conveyed to the child the intent of the parents and what was important for them. I was getting deeper and deeper into the sea and could not get out. since this is ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’. that has everything. the day will come when we shall go to Jerusalem. I told my mother of the dream and she said to me that I would get to a big country— Yerussalem —and stay there. dressed in white gowns. I shall not leave that country and I shall be satisfied with it. Israel. who prepared money and other means of payment for the way. both spiritually and materially. Israel also signified an end to any economic difficulty. where there was no communication. Lastly. because people did not know exactly…especially in the remote villages. I was curious to know what this country looked like. and nobody came who had been . Therefore even well-to-do Ethiopian Jews. This is Yerussalem [stressing the word]. lived in Israel. any place relatively more developed from a technological point of view. it is worth noting that some of the Ethiopian Jews used the practice of naming a child ‘Yerussalem’. was conceptualised in idyllic-Utopian terms. where we could live peacefully. like my own. Ethiopian Jews believed that only righteous people of brownish-black skin colour. did not imagine or think that they should prepare themselves for economic struggle when they arrived in the Promised Land: I think that…every Ethiopian Jew tells more or less a kind of a similar story in terms of the expectations concerning Israel. One can identify three major dreams that were translated into expectations about Israel. They were all villagers telling these wonderful legendary stories.

They [the older people] said to me: ‘What?! How come? Jerusalem is the largest!’ And the name ‘Israel’ was not familiar. which conveyed a belief that there would be a ‘right moment’. and legends that were passed on. Thus the concept which defined the timing of migration had the power to activate the ancient dream—of getting people to begin their migration journey. nobody reached us from Israel…everything was through the stories that the older people used to tell from the Bible. a specific point in time at which it would be appropriate to go to Jerusalem. The generations after the event (as became clear from discussions of the . And also the true story that we were told . probably in the Tigray area. This story shows the power and the vividness of the dream of getting to Jerusalem. all kinds of stories… Once it happened that I heard on the news. We did not start this whole thing [of migration]. and that I had heard that it was the largest in Israel.100 years before him). The attempt failed. the legendary tradition about that journey developed in quite a different direction. Since for most of the last three hundred years or so Jews had been forbidden to have their own educational system. As Elazar. ‘when the time comes’. and I told them. like Moses (the Jewish patriarch. They believed that when this moment came they would have the means to recognise it as the right time.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 63 to Israel. in the mountains and desert. 3. Although the 1862 exodus is presented as a disaster by written and oral sources. a distinguished Ethiopian Jew called Abba Mahari announced that the time had indeed arrived. in the direction of the Red Sea. but Zion5 or Yerussalem. A feeling seized us that called to us: ‘Go! Go! These are God’s words’. that there was a city called Tel Aviv. Thousands of Jews gathered around him in the Gondar region and started the long march towards Jerusalem. they believed that in Israel they would close this gap of knowledge no matter how much they needed to learn or what age they were. our time has arrived… No one told us. meaning that they should go to Jerusalem. Ethiopian Jews nourished this concept. When this did not happen. Some continued until they arrived at a big river.’ An essential element within that dream was the concept of ‘the time will arrive’. pointed his walking stick towards the river waiting for God to part it so that the Jewish people could cross. Most of the migrants died on the way. the remaining survivors turned and walked back to their villages. As far back as 1862. and overcome our deficient education. and the readiness of Ethiopian Jews to leave everything behind and go at once. They would then start on their way and God would lead them towards the land of Israel. In their words: ‘There we shall study from morning to night. rather. that Israel is a land of milk and honey…one was told that there was a lot of milk there. where Abba Mahari. Their third expectation was that in Israel they would be enlightened through education. other than the Blessed God.

64 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY event with the elders of the community of the present time) viewed the failed exodus as a sign for the future. so as [the elders] used to say—a war did actually happen. there was also a very strong feeling of non-belonging and estrangement within . If they do not come out at that time. and father fought against son. (Ben-Dor 1987:30. there is no chance that they will [ever] come out. in Ethiopia. yet the community had become more cautious and reacted by prayers and fasting for the sake of that goal. then this story should reach our children. judging people. finally convinced him that the story was true. yes. As one elderly man said recently: ‘Since he [Abba Mahari] had a very strong belief [in God]. So the elders also said: ‘At that time the Jews will come out [of Ethiopia]. There is some information about individuals who tried in later times to announce that ‘the time has arrived’. we shall arrive at Jerusalem. and those who administered justice.7 and there will emerge people who can judge near a tree. as if their office is in the tree. selected for the underground. there they shall carry out justice. that the time had indeed arrived: When the elders talked. what was revealed to him in his dream. was [a reference] to the future’ (Ben-Dor 1987: 30.8 This had come true. If not. all kinds of underground groups came about in Ethiopia. a very formidable war will take place. He explains how the current events in Ethiopia. there will be a Gog and Magog. all the time we thought about going to Jerusalem. As Kess Avraham said: A person thinks [wishes] all the time to arrive. All these things had actually taken place. the hope that he had.6 meaning one shall eat the other. my translation). my translation) The crucial role of the old dream in the decision to set out on the journey finds a special expression in Shlomo’s story. there will be a civil war.9 and they were judging under a tree. Abba Mahari’s failure and the longing for actualisation of the dream became a spiritual asset that was then transmitted from generation to generation. rather than setting out on the way (Ben-Dor 1987:30). under a big tree. they were actually representatives of the villages.’ And they did not say ‘by aeroplane we shall come out’ [but] ‘we shall come out through Sudan’. Until our time arrived. They [elders and parents] would say and tell us. to get close to their feet and listen to what they said…they used to say that. I am quoting this as I have heard it with my own ears! The social context: a sense of non-belonging In addition to the Ethiopian Jews’ yearning for the return to the land of Israel. if we have [the right time]. as well as the proposed direction of the Jewish migration through Sudan. I liked to listen.

”’15 Jews were thus perceived in Ethiopia as a source of evil.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 65 Ethiopian society which seems to have influenced their decision to start on their journey. This relates to their social situation and to relations with their Ethiopian neighbours. in geography classes. you’ll do it again.’14 Migration to Israel. Even if we treat the Christians’ accusations about drought as an exaggeration on the part of the narrator. You won’t find it!’ What she meant was that ‘since we won’t be here. since you will have no choice you will do it.10 Baruch tells about his feelings in his social environment: In Ethiopia I felt cut off. Shlomo portrays the relations with their Christian neighbours. there was drought. the teachers paid no attention to the land of Israel and I was afraid to ask. Christian Amhara in particular. because we shall leave you.13 then [she told them:] ‘And you…this curse that we get. these things that you claim to be worth just two bir11 you will have to buy these for fifty bir. well. then no one else will do it for you’. This was due to years of constant insults and accusations directed towards them. or at Jewish adults at the market and elsewhere. and were accused of spreading death. even on the radio: “It happened because the Jews had left Ethiopia. as Jews and as holders of occupations they were driven to because of ever growing restrictions. Another peculiar accusation made towards the Jews is related in Elazar’s narrative with an undertone of vengeance: ‘After we arrived [in Israel]. The most regularly used was the term buda. Elazar narrates: . and also the curses against Jews made me feel bad. Also at school. Insults and curses directed at Jewish children at school. and then she always used to tell them: ‘You’ll see. when she responded to these insults and allegations: The Christians that were coming to buy her things [household pottery]. this kind of work.12 and because they were cursing us. including the cursing-accusation practice. is viewed as an act of taking revenge. I was a Jew in a Christian school. it still shows the feelings of the Jews in Ethiopia. As we have seen above (Chapter 2. there was no rain in Ethiopia. ‘Historical background’) this could actually constitute a real danger to the ‘accused’. were a common phenomenon in Ethiopia. I was frightened of what they would think about me. something which ‘cannot be true’. in this context. through his mother’s words. I didn’t belong. And this is what we heard from the Christians. and the way they conceptualised their situation among the Christian Amhara.16 Jewish identity in Ethiopia was thus associated with the causation of evil. they would argue about the prices. whether by their presence or by their absence. Describing his feelings about leaving Ethiopia.

The fact that the Jews of Tigray were moving. And so we gathered all sorts of evidence. they brought back the message of the open route to Israel to the villagers. These letters are mentioned in the stories as having had a particular effect on children. of feeling displaced and non-integrated in society. they used to say: ‘Look. Groups. Another aspect which comes up frequently in the narratives is the role of the letters which started to arrive from relatives who had set out and had already reached Israel. through Jewish villages in Gondar region added to this process and made the Jews of these villages realise that the time had indeed arrived. but my friends visited their relatives who got the letters. It is the moment when they were convinced that their generation was the one destined to fulfil the dream of their forefathers. Shaul experienced it from the point of view of status relations: ‘They looked down on us. and when they actually set out to fulfil this dream it was the moment of ‘the arrival of time’.66 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY A place that you were born in—you miss and long for. did exist in reality and was not only a concept or a dream. but for adults too they enabled them to digest the fact that Israel. Daniel recounts his experience in relation to this correspondence: And there were the letters—people who went before us. They experienced this period as bringing to an end centuries of exile. The Jews started on their migration journey and a snowball effect began to take place. It awakened the desire to go too. not on the same level. and many years of waiting. since we felt oppressed: even if we would mend their agricultural tools they were still cursing us for this occupation. Like the dove setting out from Noah’s ark. The letters changed their view of what was possible. at least in part. These served as a more immediate piece of evidence that the route to Israel was open. agovai!’ and they would try to humiliate us. ‘before the way was closed’. They had this view that the Jews were inferior to them. and when we were in public. . I did not know them. in our situation. Nevertheless. The very fact of the start of migration and the growing trickle of Ethiopian Jews which started to flow towards Sudan enhanced the feeling that the time had arrived and that others should go as well. this person is Beta Israel. families and individuals went out from different villages and at various times.’ The phase of setting out The moment when Ethiopian Jews decided to realise the dream of the return by setting out on their journey to Israel was a critically important and highly significant time for them. so it drove us to go and that is how we decided to set out. when they reached Israel. they sent back letters. there was nothing to long for. or rather Jerusalem.

(Jerusalem. It proved that the trek was surmountable. is ‘where earth and heaven meet and where the horizon ends’. Years of previous imperial rule. Shlomo recounts how he read these letters and understood that they portrayed ‘a tunnel to Israel’. The beginning of the migration also affected their relations with their Christian neighbours. partners in centuries of history. maintain groups called ‘Youth of Zion’. which predominates in Ethiopia. coupled with very slow technological change have left the country almost entirely agrarian (95 per cent). many regard them as buda .18 The relations between Jews and Christians in Ethiopia during the 1970s and 1980s became even more complex. The Marxist regime following the 1974 revolution. people of lesser rights. But then. a proof of a hoped-for change on earth that determined—together with other signs of the ripeness of time —the setting out and the opening of a new era. then at least for burial.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 67 Yoav was sent as a scout on behalf of his family in Tigray. was unable to change the economic situation in a major way. meaning ‘eaters of souls’. The relations between Ethiopian Jews and Christians in modern times. Its per capita gross national . exiles. and in many cases aspire to reach Jerusalem— if not during their lives. As I have mentioned earlier. 3 The Jews were part of Israel and Israel is an object of admiration to many Ethiopians. and ‘Falasha’. in both its ancient and its modern forms. were already quite complex. In the Ethiopian tradition. His letter assured his father that there really was a passage through Sudan. some believe. The attitude of the non-Jews of Ethiopia towards the Jews was comprised of three major facets that were not necessarily consistent with each other: 1 The Jews were perceived as part of the Ethiopian nation. It brought about an escalation in the hostility and harassment of the Jews. is the closest to Judaism of all Christian denominations in terms of its religious practices. particularly during this century. run by the Dergue and headed by Mengistu Hilè-Mariam. The letter was sent as an olive branch. strangers. ‘step by step these things continued to roll and one started hearing more information’. The Ethiopia-Israel connection is an old one. in which social cohesion is highly valued. Ethiopian Christians pray to the ‘God of Israel’. Most Ethiopians have a profound and basic sympathy for Israel. which has designs on Ethiopian lands for the purpose of creating Arab and Muslim territorial continuity in eastern Africa. Ethiopia at that time was engulfed by serious economic and social hardships. At first he was not at all convinced that this could be employed as a way for the community as a whole.)17 Ethiopians at the present time also identify with Israel because of their objections to the surrounding Arab world. 2 The Jews were regarded as an inferior element within the Ethiopian people. which employed feudalism. Orthodox Christianity. thinking it suited a few individuals only. the Jews were perceived as an integral part of the Ethiopian social fabric.

the Jews were performing an essential economic function for the Christians as a professional caste (Quirin 1992) in Ethiopia. and they believed that the Jews displayed an unwillingness to share the country’s burdens with them and survive the hard times together until they all arrived at a situation of socio-economic well-being that was expected to emerge at the ‘end of the tunnel’ (BenEzer 1990). Cliffe and Davidson 1988. and in some areas they were either the only ones—or the best—at producing metalwork and clay crockery as well as mending weapons and agricultural tools.68 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY product (GNP) stood in the 1980s at around $125. was regarded as an act of ‘treason’. has made emigration impossible. They resentfully noticed the desire of the Jews to leave Ethiopia. In what way.). Even moving between districts was not a simple matter: one needed a permit even to leave one’s own area of residence and move to another district within Ethiopia. During this period. were the Jews ‘superior’ to them? These feelings of resentment and envy frequently found expression in the way the Jews were treated by non-Jews when the community’s migration had started. This was a time of distress. The Jews were not only resented but also envied for their ‘imminent’ departure for Israel. Halliday and Molyneux 1981). Escaping illegally. Also. Underground organisations in both areas were fighting the government (Sorenson 1993. It was manifested in recurrent assaults. Many others. The Marxist regime. especially while having some emigration scheme in mind. bullying of small children. and the province of Tigray demanded autonomy or a change in the way of governing the country as a whole. A lot of them felt that the Jews were abandoning them at the worst time. higher education. At that time it was illegal to leave Ethiopia. Lefort 1983. Anyone who tried to leave and was caught faced harsh punishment. of all the people. Many Ethiopians were asking themselves why the Jews alone. They were frequently pushed away from their lands or homes and had to leave. as comes out in the narratives. When the government learnt that the Jews were actually migrating to Israel. It was considered as a declaration against the ‘correct’ political ideology implemented by the government (see Wagaw 1993. and so forth.19 The so-called ‘province’ of Eritrea was clamouring for independence. verbal insults. . were deemed worthy of the option to migrate to a country that would welcome them. they tried to prevent a snowball effect of mass Jewish migration from taking place. many citizens of the country were looking for ways to better their situation and find food for their families. was claiming massive reserves of energy and manpower (Schwab 1985). due to the socio-economic hardships in Ethiopia. The complex relations between the Jews and Christian Amharas in Ethiopia brought about specific reactions by both the government and their immediate neighbours to the beginning of the community’s migration. Firebrace and Smith 1982. forceful confiscation of property. even if for different reasons (quest for affluence. which has prevailed since the revolution of 1974. humiliations. etc. at least dreamed of visiting ZionJerusalem. Another war. as noted. on the Somali border. This is because many Ethiopian Christians also wished to emigrate to other countries. they asked. BenEzer 1994).

for example. local authorities took further measures. made their escape even more dangerous. voluntarily or by force. and so forth.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 69 Government officials initiated meetings with Jewish villagers in different areas as well as with Jewish students at schools. which made it essential to set out in secret as a measure for survival. Also. meant (at least in these localities) being hunted for a prize. the Underground and Fronts that controlled some of the areas and were generally more receptive to people’s wishes or sometimes even favourable to aspirations of self-determination. the group started to walk. as Jonathan tells. So everyone at that time. Muslims and Christians. They said: ‘What will you find if you go to Jerusalem? There is no country like Ethiopia. Their neighbours’ reaction to the beginning of emigration was. you do not belong there at all!’ and so on. that they had a particular interest in the fleeing Jews and that anyone who intercepted them on their journey and turned them over to the authorities would be given their belongings and property. People constituted their major resource against the government. Rammy was a student at a school in town. This. He recounts: They warned us. of course. producing food. because the government announced that everyone who caught a Jew on the way would get all their belongings as well as a prize. negative and hostile. The Jews needed the permission of those Fronts and local resistance organisations in order to leave. In some areas (such as the Gondar region in the early 1980s under Major Malaku’s reign). the people working for the government. Even the opposition groups. announcing. They watched the steps of Jewish neighbours and tried to catch them when they escaped and return them to their villages. The Jews’ neighbours co-operated with the government in trying to prevent them from leaving Ethiopia. they kept warning us. For reasons stated above they strongly opposed it. All were threatened that they would be intercepted en route by government patrols and punished in various harsh ways. Jonathan tells how he was with a large group of Jews who gathered in a certain area. their future in Israel was painted in grim colours and contrasted with an ideologically bright future if they stayed in Ethiopia. or at times had to set off without such consent and had to dodge their patrols as well as those of the government. They were so many that the line was . which made the neighbours react by attacking them and not letting them proceed. therefore. in general. In the morning. Being Jewish. There isn’t a better one! So why would you go? You are black. were against the movement of the population. was searching for Jews. Baruch recounts a story of the Jew-hunting: At that time they were looking for Jews. including long imprisonment and even sentence of death. joining the fighters.

even when a group of families from a certain village started leaving peacefully. They were living ‘outside the law’. the shifta might lie in wait for them on the way. bands of outlaws who lived independently in the forests and desert areas. The people of the area watched that long procession with amazement. into fleeing as refugees. and told us: ‘That’s it! We shall fight and kill you. so they all took their guns and ran towards us. they never ceased to be ideological migrants.70 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY very long. You had better move yourselves back to your area. They were returning for ethno-religious and spiritual reasons to their land of origin. Ask for forgiveness of the authorities. If it became known in the area that some individuals. Thus we can see that the situation of the Jews when beginning the long process of migration to Israel was not a simple one. In any case. They might forgive you. from the point of view of the Jews themselves. Then they went to the forefront of the group. Thus. Go back!’ Well. shutting up their houses. However. selling all their property. subsisting on the proceeds of robbery. when many people tried to escape forced drafting to the government army or to one of the rebel groups. saying to themselves: ‘Why suddenly? What happened? Why are all these people leaving. we did not have a choice.’ But we went on as if we did not hear them. on their journey and in Sudan the refugee experience of the migration became even stronger. having to leave their country because of fear for their lives due to certain political and social circumstances. stopped. On the other hand. those who were left behind were in many cases expelled from their homes or persecuted to such a point that their lives were endangered and they were forced to run away. When they reached us they said: ‘If you move on we shall fight and hurt you. They expected the Jews to carry large sums of money as well as all the gear needed for such a long journey.20 In addition. On the one hand they felt that they were at last fulfilling a historical-mythical dream: by bringing the drop of water back to the sea they were correcting the wrong done many generations ago. and began to consider them as ‘Israelis in transition’. are they crazy?’ Soon they moved into action. part of the struggle for a better life in Ethiopia. even a group. These groups flourished during the years of civil war in Ethiopia. they were becoming refugees. So. it should be borne in mind that. . the exodus of the Jews had started as an ideological migration but soon turned. When it became known that they were heading towards Israel and not just going to Sudan. The Jews were easy prey since they were not protected either by the government or by people in the villages along the trek. were planning to leave. as Jonathan recounts: Each of them had a gun. at least in part. there was the problem of shifta. people stopped seeing them as part of Ethiopian society. They would raid the villages or attack trekkers on the trails. what has happened to them? They must be out of their minds.

’ But when they saw that it didn’t help. and parting ‘in a nice and polite way’ from his Christian customers. She described her father’s way of selling their property: ‘He did not sell everything at one time. and then robbers and others could wait for us on our way. Here may be noted the words of Sarah in relation to hiding the plans for migration from their Christian neighbours.’ At times the Jews kept their plans secret even from relatives. Elazar recounts a much more heated discussion over the migration whereby group boundaries were restated and major affiliations renegotiated. who was a blacksmith in the Wolkite area. I revealed it to no one. in some cases it ended with a friendly parting. we shall help you. He continues to tell how their neighbours tried to persuade them to stay: Several times they came and tried to talk with us: ‘Stay. Because if he sold everything at once. as detailed in Chapter 6 which deals with the theme of bravery and inner strength. And there were even tears. He tells how his father. we will do everything for you.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 71 The Jews responded to all these dangers by keeping their plans to depart as confidential as possible.’ Excluding their non-Jewish friends from their otherwise shared secrets also had emotional implications. By realigning their affiliations they actually started to separate themselves from their social environment and native country. Yoav recounts not telling his Christian friends: ‘I did not tell my Christian friends because they might have spread the information. we will plough your fields. would sense that we were planning something. then the Gentiles. It also stressed. He recounts how in their area they were less cursed as buda and there was somewhat less intimidation of the Jews. started selling his things. Stay here. This was done partly to protect the relatives from being accused of concealing information or of being accomplices to a criminal conspiracy if they were caught and interrogated by the authorities. There were. our neighbours. then there were many of my father’s and my brother’s customers [his brother was a weapon repair specialist] who came to say goodbye on parting. These were Gentiles! This was moving. we will help you in any agricultural task. In this instance . These instances took place in areas where the relations between members of the two groups were somewhat better or where the Jews were badly needed economically for their special professional skills. If you wish. Shaul recounts how their Christian neighbours were active in trying to prevent them from leaving. Why are you leaving? You don’t know what awaits you there. however. cases in which the Christian neighbours tried to persuade the Jews to remain in Ethiopia. I kept silent. that they were not succeeding. While in most cases this ended up with the frustration of the Christians’ request and hence in enhanced hostility and attempts to prevent their departure by force. the distinctiveness of their Jewish identity. even for small children. In such cases a process of renegotiation of social identities ensued. To do this they used various measures.

”’ Then they said: ‘You will die on the way. especially of the young ones. the last to conquer their region.e. parents or children. both politically and religiously. rather.’ We replied: ‘Yes. which is impossible. And what you are telling us now. i. Forget your justice. that we should stay. Law]. while others believe in Muhammad.’ ‘Tell us who told you. the Christian neighbours would relate how these had been arrested or killed on the way or in Sudan.72 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY they had to struggle for permission to leave from the authorities of the area. die. this is God’s justice. we asked the rebels for a permit to leave. as he recounts: First. They told us: ‘What have you got to do there? There is war there as well!’ So we told them. some of their neighbours resorted to inventing and spreading stories about the tragic fate of those who had already left.’ They could not respond to the persecution and hostile attacks by the Christians and had to flee. As for us. and we started preparing ourselves for the journey. even if it is for one night and then die. but you are divided into several parts. even the insects go on the attack. Our desire is to return to our homeland. ‘We are not afraid of the war. Our aspiration is to reach a place called Yerussalem. An elaborate debate ensued. Our will is that those who are to die. they could not defend themselves as before. we continue to believe and to observe the Orit [Tora. Then they issued an order that everybody could leave. which happened to be one of the rebel groups.’ To that we answered: ‘Well. Also. . we have become so determined that even if you murder us we shall continue to set out on the way. and those who are left will arrive.’ These were the answers that we gave them in a general assembly that had taken place. Since those left behind were weakened by the fleeing of their relatives and friends. There were also more than a few cases where the response by the Christians to the Jews starting to emigrate was quite different: they saw it as an opportunity to force the rest of them off their land. or out of their homes. We did not raise the whole thing [of migration]. and get possession of everything they owned. our time has arrived. As Daniel related: ‘When a tree falls down. which called out: “Go! Go! These are God’s words. In order to prevent those who were still in the villages from following their brothers and sisters.’ they said. this is the difference between us. A feeling got hold of us. but the Blessed God. is like trying to build a house out of children’s marbles. The Jews then had to reaffirm their priorities of affiliation. Some of you believe in Jesus.’ They continued arguing with us: ‘But that Yerussalem belongs also to us. We replied: ‘No one told us. The phase of setting out included this process of renegotiation of social identity. When nothing could move the Jews from their plans to go.

’ She refers to it again later in her narrative. we did not ask people to show us the way.’ So one day I stopped going to school. He prevents them from excessive stumbling and falling. God is perceived as directing them as well as being their shield. for instance. but to my brother I said: ‘What we have we have. at a time of a great civil war and along the route by which their ancestors were believed to have arrived in Ethiopia. and we would decide [to take one] and walk on. that of the walking part of the journey.’ . were abandoned by their guide in the middle of their trek. as if reminding Him of a ‘promise’ made within the dream about walking to Yerussalem. Hence. Undertaking the journey was thus perceived as acting under God’s guidance and protection. makes their food last. The belief in God As we have seen. I kept quiet. They had no clear bearings and were walking through what they knew was a hostile environment. Some of the aspects described above continue to play a central role within that experience. They believed that He would show them the way and defend them against any serious danger. Tena and her group. while other elements are added to it. She recounts: ‘They left and we went on. Only God directed us. Yet they seemed to have had guidance from above which gave them a sense of direction. This belief in God’s guidance and protection acquires a dimension of ‘reality’ after they set out. and God will help us. protecting them against any potential harm on the way. as Yehuda recounts: I needed money for the journey but I didn’t ask for any. supplies them with ideas for survival. It was thus taking place as had been prophesised. sends people to save them when money is short. Another adolescent remembers how they appealed to God to protect them against any harm. when she relates: ‘We went with the help of God. and it would be exactly right. many of the events that they experienced are interpreted as God’s intervention on their behalf and they have no doubt of His power to make things happen. leads them through hostile people to the safety of the family. With God’s help. there would be two ways. and finally gives them the necessary power to actually complete the extremely demanding trek to Sudan. the Ethiopian Jews perceived their exodus as part of a divine scheme to bring them back to the Promised Land. I knew that if I asked my parents they would forbid me to leave.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 73 Jewish identity on the journey The Jewish identity of the wayfarers is an important part of their experience during the third phase.

and we also had enough food on the way until we reached Sudan. so we [know that we] have family here and maybe we should go to them. Really impossible. It was also to help them deal with the physical difficulties of the journey. they somehow managed to escape. They refrained from going on to the path and waited for the soldiers to disappear. when these girls suddenly said: ‘This place is the place where we were born. that by losing their way they had been saved from those who had tried to track them down.74 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY Jonathan recounts how. but with God’s help it did not happen so much any more.’ Then we said: ‘This is really an idea that has come from “above”’… [and the fact] that instead of going towards Sudan we accidentally went in this direction which was neither towards Sudan nor the path back to our place…it was just walking in the clouds…and we arrived at our family. I was not used to walking. soon taking another route. they arrived at the safe haven of their family. the girls among us had some family [relatives]. then. Truly. Who could have dreamt it? I don’t know. They then had to cut through the bush. Who would think that we could get along that path? If you saw the path! I haven’t seen such a trek in all my life. a girl of 17 when she started on the journey and a student from the Gondar region. We walked so fast that we were deadly tired. He would then take care of us. That is why we did that [part of the] way in only four days. But God gave us the strength. The next day these relatives supplied them with two guides who would take them to a point beyond which they would again have to count on ‘God alone. He. who was less than 10 years old when she left with her family on the journey.’ Katchil. God. In Jonathan’s case. It was incredible. When they finally found their way out and were on the slope of a mountain above the main path they realised that soldiers were tracking them. .’ Marito. The role of God was not only in directing the wayfarers on to the right way. after being caught by Christians right at the start of their journey. Tena recounts: ‘We had been falling over constantly. the idea of the girls seemed to them to have been ‘planted’ by God who directed their path so that. He really helped. though they were walking ‘in the clouds’. they believed. They then ran away in a direction that they knew nothing about. narrates how they had lost their way somewhere on the trek. It was the act of God. attributes God’s presence to the strength needed for the actual trekking on the extremely difficult mountainous path: We walked quickly. yet: I can say that God arranged it for us so that in the area we reached. with no traces of the trail. this is not possible for a human being [to make that journey and] to reach Israel in that way. gave us the power.

They went without knowing the path to Sudan. Boaz. The narratives reveal three areas about which they were particularly concerned: 1 observance of the Sabbath and the Jewish festivals.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 75 Another function of God was to send special people to save them from a tragic end. When you walk for a month on such a path. but the bridge never survived the night. he ordered a kind of taxi. It seems that their belief in God helped them endure the hardships of the trek. and these people said to us: ‘Come. The observance of the Sabbath comes up as a major theme in the stories of the journey. Observance of Jewish laws and customs Ethiopian Jews on the journey were concerned about the need to keep the Jewish laws and customs. with his own money. with children. The water would not level down. Sabbath is the holy day. 2 adhering to the Jewish food restrictions (kashrut). gave them a sense of continuity in terms of their identity and a psychological feeling of safety. It was a place of Christians… and it was difficult…we were near a river which was so full that people were continually making a bridge out of some trees. Keeping these precepts. Now. and the rivers were full… So then suddenly it was Shabbat21 and we did not have a choice. Directly after climbing down from that mountain we found an Ethiopian. young people. So His shadow never left us. including lighting fires or carrying weighty things. in a place where there is no water or bread. a day in which people refrain from any work. But God. we did not have any more birs [Ethiopian money]. we arrived there and it was Shabbat. you are young. Katchil continues to relate how she and a few of her student friends ran away from an area where they were partial captives. a 17-year-old boy. The journey put strains on their ability to observe their religious laws. tells of how they tried to observe the Jewish Sabbath while encountering the natural hurdles of the trek. yet as shé tells it you can see God’s intervention: God guided us. as Elazar recounts: It was difficult. to every Jewish person He attaches a shadow behind him. It was winter. 3 keeping religious commands related to purity and impurity. Suddenly. and sent us in such a taxi to…this was really a miracle. it is difficult. Yet this person. not even one. the water would take it away. a time of rest. however. come…there …there is a .

Elazar tells how observing those duties could sometimes lead to trouble. Bible].”’ It was then that they realised that there was someone with a machine-gun waiting for them there. Elazar relates such a case. Then they were close to the Sudanese border. Among these were prohibited fish. because of hometz23. That food gave us some strength. out of which they moistened the lips of their children. Beside the need to observe the holy Shabbat and keep the food restrictions. Marito narrates: We went on the journey a week before Pessach. The wish to preserve Jewish customs was especially evident in the case of the religious leaders of the community.22 We had our Pessach on the way. the Christians [instead of doing the work myself]. looking for a place to rest when they noticed a shallow tukul where Ethiopian women sit during their menstruation period. They were eight people on the trek. but The God of Israel does not neglect His people. they were more strict in their religious observance. commands and prohibitions. Then they met a Sudanese person whose language they could not understand. Also. however. Because I was really concerned about the Shabbat.24 To begin with. but not to actually cut it. They walked at night so that the sun should not make them even more thirsty. The Jewish festivals included a need for special arrangements in order to observe their special customs. only —only to pull the tree I helped them. So he gave us flour and we boiled water and cooked. He also gave us fish. ‘So we said: “How can we sit in an impure place? Let us sit away from it. etc. They still tried. They had been walking for a long time without food or water. they tried to observe religious duties concerning rituals of purification and pollu-tion. They arrived at a water reservoir so they were relieved. So we found someone who knows our language. and half for regular days…and also all the [special] crockery. there are specific restrictions for these . Another concern was the strong wish to observe Jewish food restrictions [kashrut] on the journey.’ So I was really fearful [to do that] on a Shabbat. You! You! Come here!’ And I was guiding them. while they are considered impure. We selected those which we are allowed according to the Tora [Law. They had only one canteen of water. those which we should not eat. We took things so that we could make it…[we took] half for Pessach days. Tigrinya. as much as they could. They let their children drink and were very happy. In most cases this was impossible for a variety of reasons. So I said: ‘Just a moment. the kessoch. Never in my life had I worked on a Shabbat.76 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY tree…let us make it like a bridge. and he translated what the Sudanese told us about the food that we could get. so that we can cross the river. and he robbed them of everything they had. Then.

So they started shooting at the horse. They also served as a source of emotional and mental . But what we have done is actually what here would be pikuah nefesh. So let us continue.’ Yet we refused to move. Then when it was noontime he said to us: ‘Come. restrictions that made it even more difficult for them to endure the trip. but he could not leave us there. shelter and guidance. Though I know that you don’t move on a Shabbat. whether based on the familial or the community (ethno-religious) bond. But if I leave you here it would be worse. we could not move. Yet on a horse it could be regarded as if he was not doing anything. then it would be defiled. in case he would have to discard all his belongings afterwards since the horse would be contaminated. I shall catch them [the attackers]. Yet the horse is tied with a kind of string. so we stood on our feet and saw that a few donkeys and the horse were dead. He narrates: It was night. So the kess got up—I was present there just beside him—he got up amidst the shooting and untied the string of the horse. And in the morning we stood up. let’s move! I want to take you as fast as possible.25 There was no such thing. served as a source of food. Jewish islands on the way. So he said: ‘I should have gone back. they also had to serve as models for all the others. and I was beside the kess. We refused. as they say here [in Israel] it was pikuahnefesh. some time in the afternoon. There [in Ethiopia] people did not know pikuah nefesh. Our guide was furious. But finally there was no choice. he is forbidden to walk on foot. and they knocked it down. The attackers could probably only see the white horse (of the kess] and that is how they discovered us in the area where we were. Suddenly. He forced us to walk on a Shabbat. killing has started. So he did it in spite of the shooting. Kess Mesganaw was here and the horse was here [shows a very close distance]. he is connected to it…the string is tied to the things [belongings] of the kess. So we stayed where we were and the horse was knocked down. but there was no choice. Relations with non-Jewish populations on the trek Ethiopian Jews experienced their passage out of Ethiopia as a crossing of a very hostile environment. It was dark so no one could see anything. they would hit us [with their shooting]. yet we could not get up because if we got up.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 77 persons ensuing from the fact that they act on behalf of the community. So the kess. and there were other people sleeping around him. So now. we started again on the journey. He forced us. especially the kess. very dangerous indeed. so that the kess had to release [unload] the horse before it died. He would have endangered us if he left us there. The horse fell. warmth. Shlomo tells of such a problem for a kess. And the kess. we had not slept that night. This was Shabbat.26 So then. amidst the problems of the whole group trying to cling to Jewish customs on the journey. and if it died.’ We refused. Of course.

and after the rain had stopped they made a fire there to warm them. They felt that they could not trust any non-Jew any more since they had been betrayed even by the people with whom they grew up. Then he waited for us on a kind of hill. They started going around us and taking the girls. loaded his gun and told us: ‘Unless you give me your money. he grew up with us. with whom they had grown up. It was sunny. They sat down there and were praying to God for help. he brought a gun from these people. in our neighbourhood. Suddenly. But we had already seen him there. who belonged to the first group of students to arrive in Israel from the Gondar region. and they had guns. They fed them. Yet he covered his face with his shawl. So he went. during the journey their identity was reshaped. Then we walked some more until we found the place where the relatives of the person whom we had helped before were living. the Jews experienced the gap between them and the Christians as growing. Suddenly. tells of how they were left by their guide in the middle of a winter storm. and again rain. and ran after us. Thus. in a place with which they were not familiar. The minute he saw us he tried to hide himself. Jewish people appeared —three men with guns—and saved them.78 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY support on a journey that seems to have been felt as a crossing of hostile human territory. So we were taken there by the elders and we sat there. you cannot go on!’ So people said to him: ‘What . could turn into enemies when encountered on the journey: Then we saw a Christian who we knew. Yoav tells of his shock when he discovered on the trek that those who were previously their neighbours. then again beautiful sunshine. One can even detect an emerging sense of Israeli identity. then suddenly raining hard. when we started to load our things. Eighteen-year-old Boaz. and we continued to walk. until it was evening. five or six of them. observing us and circling us. Looking at us. This is how it is in the forest. arrived with Kalashnikov machine-guns. We stayed there for the night. At that time. They reconstructed their identity with a fresh and stronger emphasis on their Jewishness. it was a kind of desert but there were places where people were working in agriculture. Moreover. Then he went back. We followed on the same route. a group of Christians. They further separated themselves from their Ethiopian identity that included Jews and Christians (as well as others). until we passed. they arrived and passed us with their cows. In the morning. Suddenly—there was a Jewish village somewhere that we did not know about—so Jews came with all kinds of weapons and rescued us from there. because he knew we would recognise him. He was a merchant who goes to Sudan to sell cows. In another incident Boaz tells how they were saved from Christian captors by Jewish rescuers: We were walking in the woods.

So there was no choice.’ ‘If you want to go to Humara. Jonathan narrates how. they went through a village where people started gathering around them. we can’t live in the conditions that we had. So each one took out his money and we gave it to him. Three days. They asked Jonathan and the other Jews to remove their shoes so that their captors could see if they had hidden their money there: Then they said: ‘It is good for you that you reached us. something like that. we were there. they are not Ethiopians any more!’ I really got scared because of what they said. You are Jews! You are Beta Israel.’ That is what we said. but now it was a toilet. We did not want to tell them the truth. they put us into…it was a bank a long time ago. well. even begged him. . We shall take care of you. Amos recounts how. who said: ‘You are going to Israel! You are going to Israel!’ He was cursing us. if I am not mistaken. There they put us. I shall kill the horses or I shall kill someone. after being arrested by soldiers on their trek. We want to go to Humara’ [a place near the Sudanese border. we are… empty. but they insisted…they really knew. Then we were there for three days. coming from the whole area. as if we are not alive… Then. Empty! We have nothing! We are caught. you know. we will come back to… our country. but he just refused us and insisted on having our money. as to where we were heading. They started to search them for money. so we want to stay in Sudan for a few years. after the last guides had left them. and are being held. they have somewhere to go.’ We asked. ‘Why are you going to Sudan?’ they asked. They said: ‘So you want to go to Humara?’ We said: ‘Yes. one could not believe the kind of curses that he used at us! And we. I shall not release you and there will be bloodshed. When in Humara they took us to an army officer. at the end. How did they know? So we started to lie and deny that we were Jews going to Israel. we will take you there. and then took us to Humara. scrutinising them and then intending to rob them.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 79 happened to you? We grew up together and you do such a thing to us?’ He then said: ‘No way! If you don’t give me your money. we shall take you. We already know even where you are going: to Sudan and from there—well. they were interrogated: They asked: ‘Where are you going? Are you running away? You intend to leave your country? Where were you heading?’ We then said: ‘We are not running away. If things get better with the government here in Ethiopia. We said that we really wanted to go to Sudan. on the Ethiopian side]. oh. They interrogated us. we know where you are going and we also know who you are. We answered: ‘The government is not good. For three months we were there. what could we do? All the weapons had been taken away from us.’ they said.

We came here without any guide or help. that you were born here but your religion is not ours. ‘You eat human beings [souls]. The Jews experienced themselves as a minority amidst an ocean of hostile Christians and Muslims. They were so exhausted and sick of the repeated robbery by Christian villagers on their way that they replied: ‘You can do with us whatever you wish. you tricky people. So now you can take us wherever you wish. even back home.’ Then they said: ‘We know you. This was in an Arab country which was (and still is) in a state of war with Israel. Jonathan and his party were again stopped and asked for their money. We also know what you are doing and what you are going to do. so we are left with no money and no strength. attacked them and tried to expose their identity. This aspect exacerbated the hostility towards them. thus causing them to be arrested by the authorities. since the Sudanese local authorities were either not favourable or not privy to the deal made by their central government. and the place that you were born in is not yours.’ I remember what happened to our Jewish neighbour in the refugee camp. We know everything: that you have a place [a country]. The Ethiopian Jews saw it as a ‘proof’ that there was a divine intention behind their return and that they were indeed being guided to God’s land. and that is how we know where you are heading!’ Jewish identity in Sudan The very fact that they reached Sudan was perceived as a realisation of a central part of the prophecy of the return mentioned above (see ‘The phase of decision’). One girl recounts: The [Christian] Gentiles were accusing us.’ Furthermore. according to which the Ethiopian Jews could move from Sudan to Israel. they were regarded by the non-Jews as Israelis in transit. . The Jews were taunted and harassed by the Ethiopian Christian refugees residing in the little towns and in the refugee camps in Sudan. As Shaul describes it: ‘In Sudan we were enwrapped by Gentiles. Relations with non-Jews What had started on the journey as an experience of ‘Jewish islands in a sea of (Christian) Gentiles’ was intensified in Sudan and became the most fundamental aspect of the Sudanese experience. we are ready to go.80 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY In a different section of the journey. They feared the Jews. who continued to believe that the Jews were the source of the ‘evil eye’. As we shall see below (Chapter 5). and hence the cause of diseases in the camps. they did not at all expect that they would have to stay in Sudan and live as refugees for a long time. the buda.

and many cousins of mine. They asked them: ‘Where do you want to go?’ No . screamed at. and started searching everywhere. and others whom I did not know very well. The Sudanese. Much distress was inflicted upon the Ethiopian Jews by the Sudanese authorities. and my brother-in-law. Yoav recounts the fate of the Jewish community. At a certain point the boys were taken to the prison yard and severely beaten. being interrogated and beaten. wretched and dispirited. without being allowed water or anything else to drink. The young ones were there all night. she said she did not know him. They were accused simply of being Jews who were planning to go to Israel. harassed. Alamnesh still cries when recounting it. Nevertheless. who had already discovered that she was Jewish. incarcerations and terrifying threats.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 81 The Gentiles told her that she had eaten some Gentile people. These included beatings. sent back or abused in various ways. It was a terrible scene for the girls to watch. They took the whole population of the neighbourhood. under the omnipresent sun. tried to prove that he was Jewish too. That evening they took my brother. And they took my older brother. the young in particular. Alamnesh recounts how the group of fourteen Jewish adolescents to which she belonged were reported as being Jews to the Sudanese police. following an incident when operators of the migration process within the community were identified by the Sudanese: Once something was discovered and the whole process was stopped. They were caught and jailed by the Sudanese. They put them in jail and beat them to the point where they were almost dead. but they were neighbours and friends. Then they were ordered to remain standing in the middle of the yard. In another part of her story. The more extreme cases of torture and humiliation are discussed further on in this work in the section on trauma (Chapter 7). He was younger but looked bigger than me. and endured other distressing experiences. The girls were brought to sit on the steps of the yard and made to watch their friends’ misery while becoming dehydrated. The Sudanese caught some people who were acting as links between people [the ‘operators’]. They were going to kill her. They were intimidated. the Sudanese brought them to the neighbourhoods where many of the Jews were gathered. sparing only the old people. His face was crushed and other signs of severe beating were apparent. When they couldn’t take the beating any longer. He was indeed her brother. threats of being drafted to the army. He was bleeding profusely. especially towards children and adolescents: for example. Here I would like to mention the many instances of suffering inflicted by the Sudanese. She knew that his fate could be even worse if the Sudanese were absolutely sure that he was Jewish. Alamnesh narrates how she was brought by the Sudanese to see whether she could identify a jailed youngster who was believed to be her brother.

The sight of the Palestinian soldiers made the accusation appear more real. One such phenomenon was the rumour. Hence they were held responsible for the deeds of their fellow Jews in Israel. that the Sudanese and Ethiopian Christians who worked at the refugee camps’ clinics were attempting to harm them rather than to help them through the treatment provided. The atmosphere of fear and suspicion resulted in various phenomena. and the general attitude of the communities they came from. It made them identify with the Israeli cause while they were still on their way to Israel. since if the Sudanese had known that we were Jews we would have been in trouble. There were many [Ethiopian] Christians and Muslims there. because of the problems in Ethiopia. Jonathan recounts how they were identified with Israel and treated accordingly: We were in Um-Rakuba where we suffered from the weather and from the Sudanese people. . We were shown who they were by those who recognised them by their special army uniforms. At the same time. the Sudanese used to take and beat and sometimes kill them and dispose of their bodies thereafter wherever they wanted to. So they told the Sudanese that we had come to work in Sudan. previous section on the journey). it added another dimension to their emerging Israeli identity (cf. were thus taken one step further in the minds of the Ethiopian Jews. the fact that they were going to Israel turned them. A widespread rumour related that these workers were trying to kill them by poisoning the medications they were giving the Jews who approached the clinics. The threat to their lives was also experienced as being more real. The actual signs of hostility on the part of some of the clinic workers. they then became aware of the presence of Palestinian soldiers in Sudan.’ The accusation of ‘actions’ against the Arabs in Israel was thus reflected in the reality of the social environment of the Ethiopian Jews in Sudan. Indeed. They realised that they were already perceived by others as part of this conflict.82 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY one wanted to tell them that we were going to Israel since we knew they wouldn’t let us go. Those who were indeed discovered to be Jews. They would say: ‘You Jews want to go there [to Israel]. As one of them recounts: ‘We then realised that. The Sudanese insisted that they should tell them the truth. We disguised ourselves so that we were inconspicuous amongst them. into Israelis in transit. in the eyes of the Sudanese Muslim population. We know what you do to the Arabs there! We know what Israel does!’ The Ethiopian Jews then became aware of the way in which they were involved in the conflict between Israelis and Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular. which turned into a strong belief (a subjective truth) among the Jews. Their ‘enemy’ took form and shape before them. in fact. there were Palestinians there. and were being taken to account for it. As mentioned earlier. but they did not want to tell them…so they continued to beat them.

about my sister who died in Sudan. And also in terms of Pessach [Passover]—we were obliged to observe it. I told him: ‘Father. my little sister said: ‘Telaynesh. Yet she continued to say to me. among other things. to keep the holidays and to bury the dead according to their customs. You had to observe it.’ I thought that she was just talking. I know. Suddenly. They included poison. Hiding their identity thus became a crucial factor for their survival. Telaynesh recounts: The medication was not good. and we had to prepare it in secret so that they would not see us or sense anything.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 83 Others strongly believed that this was done through pieces of metal (parts of shaving blades) which were inserted into the pills given to them by the hostile clinic workers. She asked me: ‘Why are you crying? Are you ill?’ I told her: ‘I am not. I think that what the nurse gave me were not good pills. They tried to keep the Sabbath. So we needed to eat matzot there. why don’t you go and bring me pills?’ She was crying and I started to cry too.’ She gave me some pills and told me: ‘[Give her] one now and one at night. my tummy aches. Then my sister died. Baruch tells of the struggle to preserve Jewish laws: It was very unpleasant…one had to live amidst the Gentiles as they were… Nevertheless. we tried to keep kashrut no matter what or how we did it.’ He went home. time and again: ‘Telaynesh.’ I gave my sister the pills to swallow. being tortured or disappearing into the unknown. But my sister is [ill]. please go and eat at home and then you can come back. They felt that they had to disguise their Jewish identity. recounts their efforts to keep Jewish rituals: . which deals with bravery and inner strength. a girl of 11. in terms of food. I went to the nurse. Maintaining a Jewish way of life The Ethiopian Jews experienced their Jewish identity in their struggle to maintain Jewish laws and rituals even in the very hostile environment in which they found themselves. to observe Jewish food restrictions. My father was hungry. As a consequence of Sudanese hostility and the danger of being arrested. People [of the Ethiopian Jewish community] did not know about it and were therefore taking it. They had to get their wits together and devise ways to prevent their exposure. from the moment they crossed the Sudanese border the Jews lived in dread of their identity being exposed. for example. My father was with her at the hospital. A further discussion of these efforts will be presented in Chapter 6. Esther. while being among the Gentiles.

Burial rites were particularly difficult to observe. Elazar recounts: . The Gentiles used to check to see if we ate it or not since we had told them that we were Gentiles. Often they felt distressed and sometimes guilty about having sinned. Then we would move to another house. Marito recounts other ways in which they tried to observe the Jewish law: They [the Sudanese] used to come on purpose to our house on Shabbat and tell us ‘Let’s eat!’ They did it in order to find out whether we were Jews. He paid money on the side [bribe] and got us out. I remember that every time they brought us food people would hide the children. The things they did in order to know [whether we were Jews]! So the elders used to leave the house on Shabbat. For some. the Jews had to transgress Jewish laws. Otherwise they would have discovered that we were Jews by the way we buried our dead. it meant trouble… But afterwards there was somebody who rescued us. they did what they could. We had to do it at night. section on trauma). so that we would not be tempted to eat it. A kind of representative.84 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY We told the Sudanese Gentiles that we were Gentiles from Ethiopia [Christians] so that they wouldn’t kill us… They would bring us their food and we could not eat it. So they would take it and throw it in the toilet. However. the young ones. they felt. out of fear for their lives. someone from Israel. There was no other choice. as Baruch recalls: And we had to cope with many other things. and they opened it and found all the bones and stuff… They said. like how to bury our dead in a Jewish way. Marito adds details about ways of observing burial rites: We did not have anywhere to bury our dead. then we would bury them within the house [tent] and that was that. not kosher]. it constituted a traumatic experience (see Chapter 7. but it was not our thing [it was not prepared according to Jewish law. ‘You are Jews!’ Well. That is how we would do it… It was very difficult… otherwise they would have known that we were Jews. They would bring us a cooked chicken. So we did not eat it. There were many other instances where. All the grown-ups used to disappear from home…while we. Until one day the toilet got clogged up. This was the hardest of all. They didn’t let us see. went to play somewhere. and we were ‘dying’ [eager] to eat it. At night we used to hide them and bury them…and if it was not possible.

The Jews would thus be ‘choking on their shammas’ so that their crying would not be heard.’ A specific psychological problem that resulted from burying the dead in a nonJewish way was the guilt related to the method of burying without proper respect. At times they were so exhausted that they would not have the strength to dig a deep grave and the dead would just be put somewhere with the traditional pile of stones covering them. The burial would frequently take place in secret. mentioning Mariam [Mary] and so on when burying them so that others around us would not suspect that we were Jews… And whenever there was a search for Jews.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 85 We were in a lot of trouble in Sudan. The feelings surrounding such experiences could be viewed as a particular form of survivor guilt.27 They would bury their dear ones together with all the other dead. the children and the young in . As in survivor guilt. we were not able to observe the purity ritual. which could be traced by the number of bodies of declared Jewish persons. Sudan was no place for Jewish Ethiopian burial procedures. In the first place. in a Christian ‘graveyard’ or just anywhere. The specific method of burial is an obligation on the kin of a deceased person. The survivor feels that by his/her very struggle for survival he/she has made it happen. The Ethiopian Jewish survivors. according to Ethiopian culture. the niddah [whereby a woman had to stay out of the house for seven days]. This would have created a safety problem and could have risked the whole rescue operation. the fact that one had no control over what actually happened. people did not want to identify themselves as Jews by carrying out a Jewish burial ritual. we would light a fire on a Shabbat in order not to be identified. about those times when they did not succeed in escaping the inquisitive visitors and had to light a fire on a Sabbath: ‘We had to do it but we were deeply sorry that we sinned. Thus. The psychological effect of all this was the ‘burial survivor’s guilt’. It is the responsibility of the children in particular to ensure that the person is buried in a way that expresses the honour and respect the person deserves so that the goal of the separation of the soul is achieved. or at least that they are guilty of not doing enough to save their dear ones from such a shameful fate. Or they would bury them within their tents or huts and then try to find another place to live in. We couldn’t do it for fear of being discovered as Jews. did not matter at all. or choice in the situation. We would light it but not cook on it… In addition. We felt very bad about it. There were many who died and we buried them according to the Christian custom. the guilt experienced over surviving the refugee camps while not carrying out one’s duties towards one’s dead kin.e. which is supposed. there was no Jewish cemetery as such. to express respect towards the dead person and to make sure that his/her soul can actually separate itself from the world of the living. They also did not want to expose the fact that there were so many Jews in Sudan. at night. in the fear of being noticed as being Jewish. i. but what could we do? And one girl adds.

People are then asked to play their traditional or newly elected roles and exercise their relative position within the social system. While a strong and cohesive community can help its members. It also enlists the support of the community in the painful process of separation and the beginning of the process of mourning. continuity and control amidst a chaotic situation. This exemplified for many within the community the possibility of successful integration into Israeli society: of becoming an Israeli-Ethiopian. thus increasing. affected the individual. as well as the soldiers of elite units of the Israeli army (e.86 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY particular. This in turn. Second. either directly or indirectly. Being unable to bury their dead had a negative effect on the individual as well as on the community in relation to important aspects of their functioning. a weakened one is unable to do so. Third. operators and agents of various kinds. It can provide. it would have served as an affirmation of social identity. also added an element of pride to the self-image of the . from other groups. through the performance of burial rituals the community as a whole could go through a process of acknowl-edging its dead members and of separating themselves from them as a group. For most of them. in their own eyes. It is also important because during ritual practices of burial the community reaf-firms its social order and its power. and to bring them to ‘the land’. feel that they should have done more to prevent such a sacrilege. The fact that representatives of Israel were endangering their lives in order to do this made them feel that Israeli society regarded them as part of itself. is known to be of help in coping. The heroic nature of their actions. further enhanced Ethiopian Jews’ sense of belonging to Israeli society.28 It is worth adding that many of the Israeli representatives sent to Sudan were actually veteran Ethiopian Jews who had arrived in Israel in previous years. the individual’s suffering. among other things. in turn. These were messengers. Preventing the Jews from carrying out such customs made it impossible for them to fulfil these important duties. Contacts with Israel Contacts ‘with Israel’ in Sudan. First. as will be elaborated below (Chapter 7). The Ethiopian Jews became aware of the efforts the state of Israel was making to rescue them from Sudan. and thus had a special place in asserting their identity. Not being able to carry out these rituals added to the disintegration of the community and diminished its powers. it was the first time that they had encountered Israelis. or at any rate not alleviating. which gained from the mythical quality ascribed to any clandestine operation. This. following burial rituals helps the individual in separating themselves from the dead. Burial was one of the most important rituals of Jewish life in Ethiopia which also served to distinguish the Jews. a sense of purpose. marine commandos). if the individual had been able to perform Jewish rituals and practices in spite of the struggle for survival. where death awaited many of them. They feel guilty for what they have ‘done’.g. thus strengthening their emerging sense of Israeliness.

was essential in compensating for this situation (by buying replacements) and other aspects of their special vulnerability in the camps and towns. their identity ensured them of an option for getting out of the Sudanese situation. Jewish food restrictions prevented them from using some of the products distributed by the Red Cross and other organisations in the camps. unlike most other Ethiopian refugees.29 . The Israeli complementary support. in rescuing them when they were exposed as Jews by the Sudanese authorities and in some severe cases of attack by others in the camps. as will be elaborated elsewhere (see Chapter 6). It was clear to them that. acquiring a stronger sense of an Israeli identity. or available in Muslim shops in Gedaref and elsewhere. In view of all the above-mentioned factors. which was crucial for their survival. not only into a simple member of Israeli society but into one who is a subject of general admiration and glorification. It also constituted an example of transformation. it may be concluded that being Jewish in Sudan was experienced not only as a risk factor but also as a major resource for survival. It was. Through its messengers the Ethiopian Jews also received financial and other support from Israel. a fact which placed their lives in even more danger than those of other refugees.THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 87 community. however. an option of hope. Jewishness within a new context: that of becoming Israelis. even if small in volume. when possible. This took the form of some financial aid as well as help.

I turned round. Hard and hurting! My parents accompanied me a bit. saw her and wow. parting from our loved ones. We parted in tears!’ And Isaiah narrates: Separating from one’s parents at the age of 15 was a very difficult thing. parental in particular. I shall describe these within the three phases of the passage of the Ethiopian Jews: those of setting out. Agonising decisions and impossible choices within both nuclear . They knew that it was a separation that might last for a longer period than they had ever experienced before. Since the family is the social unit which Ethiopians consider the most important and in which they invest the most emotion. this was very hard.5 THE THEME OF SUFFERING Suffering is a major theme in the stories of the exodus from Ethiopia. wow! The second aggravating aspect of the separation was the disintegration of the families. Parting with their mothers and fathers. In this chapter I shall consider both the physical and the psychological suffering experienced during the journey. The first and most painful aspect was the rupture of the bond with their parents. At that time I cried… everyone was crying. are discussed below. which were experienced as painful. and the experiences in Sudan.1 As Daniel recounts: ‘Separating from our parents. The different aspects of the separation. I could not go forward. are extremely intense and a person without a family feels incomplete. I would turn round. its breaking up during the process of setting out was experienced as greatly upsetting and emotionally disruptive. from their love and protection. This was especially hard in view of the fact that familial relations in Ethiopia. The phase of setting out A major source of pain and distress which many of the adolescents relate is that of separation. see her and cry. They were hurt at the prospect of being far away from their parents. of the journey within Ethiopia. and sometimes with other relatives with whom they maintained very close contact. was felt to be hard and the cause of great grief. My mother—I could not separate myself from her.

thus being separated from their preferred sibling. But she had to. My mother then told me: ‘You go. Devorah recounts: My mother had parents.’ Because they were very frightened of the Christians. my grandmother and grandfather. brothers or sisters. Because I did not wish to separate myself from my mother. such as their parents. Then my uncle said: ‘It would be a pity if I leave you here. A mother would have to choose between her old parents and her own children. his condition was very bad. or wait for them to go. They could not ascend because they could not negotiate such a path. And youngsters had to determine whether they would go with friends. so she had to go with them. Some adolescents experienced this as a premature separation. Couples would face difficult choices between breaking up for the journey or leaving behind people who needed them. Sometimes they would join an elder brother who was setting out from another village. She was sad. then. And I shall come later. They therefore persuaded the children to leave.’ But I did not want to leave. They were old. which might never happen. hence separating themselves from their parents and other relatives. for fear that relatives would be harmed if they escaped. with others. He had an important job in Ethiopia. who were very old. and there was no one to go with them. Even children. If he left with us. My mother then made me go. But my father insisted. is a firm one. infants and toddlers in particular. The image of the parents which comes out of the narrative. My father wept. had to be left behind. He tried to tell my mother not to go. and they [mother and uncle] were afraid of what the Christians would do after my uncle left. to convince her. . they would kill his brothers. who did not like us. Some fathers had to stay due to their position within the government administration. In many instances families could not all set out at the same time and members had to decide whether they were going to go ‘now’. ‘or later’. The suffering of separation was thus felt in relation to the break-up of families. almost aggressive and cruel.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 89 and extended families accompanied the departure. who could not join them. with certain relatives. In other instances it was the mother who had to stay. Her parents wanted to go to Israel.2 Another account of a saddening experience of separation within the family appears in Nurit’s narration: ‘My mother didn’t want to go to Israel [yet] because her brother was sick.’ Painful decisions were sometimes made by parents who for various reasons thought that it would be better for their children to leave without them. especially when one parent or both had to suddenly run away. as if they were being ejected from the womb. So my father paid the guides extra money to take special care of his family. I wanted to come together with her. as Nili recounts: My father couldn’t leave.

He told my brother that he should set out too. being forced out by his father meant that he was made to leave his brother. They told me that it was better to go soon. Because I was—I was his only family. since later the path might be blocked. setting out for one evening to visit one’s parents… My parents. But it was impossible for my brother to do so. I thought of it as the end of the world. those who were born with me. Because this separation. the only one who lived with him so that he regarded me as an entire family. with whom he lived. He said: ‘Your friends have left already. however. insisted that I set out. It is not like going from one town to another here. when shall we meet? This is not a thing to do lightly. and maybe there would be trouble… They said to me: ‘God knows.] It is hard to explain. had left. remains silent briefly]. in agony. I mean. with whom I lived. he did not wish me to go. All of a sudden it materialised. and he has not succeeded in doing it yet. They are not in Ethiopia. they could set out [whispers. [Silence. where he was also studying] and told me that my friends in the village. Separating from one’s parents without knowing when we shall meet again is a kind of a trauma. There was—there was an argument between my father and my older brother. It wasn’t that my brother did not want me to ascend to Israel but he was afraid of staying alone. He did not succeed in getting me to remain with him and nor could he go with me either. It was experienced as leaving his ‘nest’ and painfully flying away. And then my older brother.’ So they persuaded me. sometimes crying… We parted in tears [long silence].90 THE THEME OF SUFFERING Daniel narrates his experience of being expelled from the family into the dangerous outside world: My friends left but I did not want to part from my parents. You should also go. We couldn’t even talk. it is not the kind of separation in which . We were sitting and just looking at each other. until we parted. that we all had to leave. For Jonathan.’ I was startled and shocked to hear that all my friends had already escaped. His work was such that he could not move away. like from Jerusalem to Haifa or even from Haifa to Beer Sheva. if they wished. My father came to where I was living [at his eldest brother’s place. [Remains silent for a few seconds. but you shall go. And then it was hard. They walked to Sudan in order to ascend to Israel and that is the reason why I came to fetch you and tell you what is going on. He said that maybe I could stay at his place and the rest of the family.] Then [pauses] my father wanted to take me with him but I told him that I needed to remain with my brother for a few days. Both he and I had no choice but to separate. At the end my father won the argument. If I separate myself from them. Jonathan recounts: I knew that at a certain time I would make aliya to Israel but it happened when I was not prepared for it and when I did not expect it at all.

This was also a source of pride among the children of the village. I mean fondness and so forth. I remember in particular some calves. People usually pay attention more to the calves because at a certain point they would become the ones who give birth. Also my mother found it very painful to leave. others over a much loved stream. I shall count on your promise to come. somehow. Homes. of course. When they started selling them it was very saddening for me. with all that comes with it. [Silent again. At that moment—well. In the meantime I shall go. and also. calves. who are the future. Some were grieving over their familiar village. or other things. these calves were—they resisted going away.] So my father said: ‘Fine. What was hard for me. You know. maybe I was also attached to them because they supplied me with status. well. was when they started selling the herd. . in our village. scenery. separating them from the [mother] cows and the rest of the cows to which they were attached. because with us. though. I don’t know [pauses]. I was the one who took care of them and I was. for these. Because they were used to this place. Those leaving agonised over losing what they had known all their lives. may be more to your liking. Shaul tells of those lost parts of his world which caused him most grief during the separation: As a child [setting out as part of a big family] I did not have to worry about preparations for the journey.’ And he went. He—he separated them from the rest of the herd and started to take them away and. So we had a relatively big herd of bulls. a person is considered rich or poor by the size of his herd. What to sell? What not to sell? She had a feeling that all the things in our home could be taken with us. Mourning the loss of their old world constituted a third dimension to the pain of separation. animals. there were some among them who were more beautiful than the others. even culture were hard to part with. it was—very. And suddenly a certain rich person came and bought them. right? And the ones who give milk.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 91 we shall see each other tomorrow. When they start selling these things…well. people tend to prefer those who are giving fruit. I was upset. Moreover. or after a week. So what to give up? What not to give up? What to take? What to throw away? This was hard. cows. I mean that in Ethiopia. When you have that many. and still others tell of the pangs of separating from the specific point where youngsters used to meet on the Sabbath to sit together and talk. three or four of them. etc. and was taking them away. more attached to these cows than the others were. So I had a special bond. But one had to give up many things. and so on. when one gets attached to them then certain colours. it is a status symbol [smiles] and you have a special place among your friends. eh—I think it was—it was sad.

narrates: My mother told me that we were about to go to Jerusalem. She waited for me to come home from school. being aware of the fact that one is not going to come back… Then you turn your head back time and again. as if making a kind of a sign. Another aspect of the separation experienced by some of the adolescents was their inability to say goodbye and to separate in a proper way from their loved ones— parents. They regretted having . At last I told them that I was going to a faraway place [within Ethiopia] and that this is all that I had been told by my mother. When we got to the city I went to school and she went off in another direction. I did not have the courage to tell her because if I told her I knew that she would cry and that it would be so painful for me that I wouldn’t be able to leave. Slowly. Baruch recounts: That day my mother went with me to Gondar. I did not tell my mother that I was actually going to Israel. no vegetation. to see your place. or even their parents’ heartbreaking tears. relatives or close friends. slowly one started getting away from the green countryside and entered a desert. tried to memorise his village while they were setting out: One pays attention to particular places when one leaves. An additional tormenting aspect of the separation concerns cases in which the adolescents realised after they had departed that they had not estimated correctly their ability to cope with the separation from their parents. This was a disturbing experience for those who had to live through it. We were the only Jewish family in an area of Gentiles and these girls were my best friends. Esther. Ours was a forest area and we were going westward towards a desert area where there were no trees. I could not say goodbye to them as I wished. Afterwards they wrote to me in Israel that on that day my mother waited for me until the evening. like many others.92 THE THEME OF SUFFERING And Shaul continues to tell how he. So I didn’t tell her and she thought that I was coming back home. as if it was not actualised in emotional terms. trying to put things in your memory. because I was very much attached to them. then she added: ‘Do not tell anyone!’ But I wanted to say goodbye to my friends. the goyot [Gentile girls]. for if you ever come back there … And from the scenery [one had to separate] as well. This form of separation was caused either by the secrecy surrounding their setting out or because they tried to avoid their parents’ refusal to allow their departure. This left them with a feeling of an unsatisfactory separation. then a girl of 11.

Tigest also remembers: I separated from my family and then I was crying day and night. Yehuda. most of whom were 14 or 15 years old… We thought. The second night was very difficult. In most of these cases. recounts the difficulties of moving at night: The first night wasn’t so hard. Very hard. who had reached Israel. there was no real opportunity to go back. so they found it very hard to manage in the dark. a place of Jews. Naturally. In Ethiopia this meant service for life. however. and a holy country. Ten of us students went out. and in some areas. and wanted to go back. our village. and also in order to avoid the heat of the sun.’ I thought that I could [easily] come back… I did not think at all that I would remain like that. But some of the boys said: ‘Why do you cry? First you wanted to come and now you cry!’ They were encouraging us. from the family… In the end I decided to set out with my older brother. Suffering on the journey The journey out of Ethiopia typically started at night. And to separate myself from my brothers and sisters. we wanted to ascend to Israel. consisting mostly of mountainous trails. Hana recounts: At the beginning I did not want to set out. tripping over unseen obstacles. And I thought it [Israel] was close. anxious about wild animals. ‘We shall follow you. I could never forget how I set out. and our parents had told us. . and the letters of our friends from Ateyeh. made us decide to go at that time. After two days we wanted to go back. all the way to Sudan. This was done as a preventive measure lest they be seen by people who would inform the authorities of their—often illegal—escape. Then all the way I was crying. They felt that they had not done the right thing for themselves. He had completed twelve years of studies and would have had to go into the army. aged 15. I did not wish to part from my parents. We were walking slowly because we were thinking of our families. saying that our parents would soon follow. but we just kept crying. The path was extremely difficult. We had to walk quickly. Most of the wayfarers were not used to night trekking. or they were persuaded to continue by their fellow wayfarers. being afflicted with cuts and injuries. We walked slowly with the man who acted as our guide. without my family. So this. Half of the way I was weeping. While walking they were therefore constantly in fear of getting lost. In many of these cases some feelings of guilt for having left their parents behind were also involved.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 93 left home and set out on the path. It was really agonising for me. sometimes bare rocks and at other times deep forests.

sometimes without shelter or food. like that of the wild boar which could kill human beings. in order to increase their chances of arrival they had to walk incessantly. Baruch narrates: We walked quickly. It was a large and dense forest that we were in and there were no human voices there. and you can get lost. which was equally frightening at night. Boaz narrates how they arrived at a river that was impossible to cross. could suddenly carry this kind of bridge away. yet we were so frightened that we did not feel the pain of our bodies…for all that time we heard around us the sounds of wild animals. They could not stop often for rest. And that’s the problem. we were covered with blood. however. These were the only kinds of food they could carry with them that would last the journey. This required extreme physical effort. They were then also at risk of being discovered by government patrols or falling easy prey to robbers. I told them. You can get mixed up and get left behind on the way. In three weeks we got there [to Sudan]. In spite of these difficulties. The rushing river. The morning after. I am not going any further!’ Crossing rivers was another concern on their way. It is a very strange sound. These conditions sometimes forced them to sit on a bank of the river and wait for the water to subside. and was an exacting experience to which many of the wayfarers were not accustomed. ‘That’s it. they . It was made of tree trunks and was thus rather narrow and not very well balanced. We couldn’t see a thing. I remember the first day of walking. We were falling down and getting up and falling again. The pace was fast. they knew. Food was another major problem along the journey. just the sounds of the wild animals…and the sound of falling water. They had to wait until some local villagers got organised and erected a very provisional bridge. Eaten on their own. and as quickly as possible. I could not move a muscle or feel the same as when I started. The wayfarers had to rely mainly on dried food like kolo and tubunia—dried chick-peas or fried bread (and other kinds of grain and pulse). We were wounded all over. This was especially so if the journey took place during the winter season. what can you see? You don’t see and you are not familiar with the place. They just hoped and prayed that this did not happen while they were on it.94 THE THEME OF SUFFERING It was very hard to keep up. when the rivers overflow and passage through the strong current is either impossible or extremely dangerous. though I really tried to force my gaze through it. I thought that if we had to walk like that another night I couldn’t go on… When you walk like that at night. I’ll never forget it. Jonathan elaborates the fears and dangers of trekking at night with no moon: We had no choice but to walk in that darkness. This delay also prolonged their journey. night and day.

though. Often. in return for some service. I mean. When his turn finally arrived. We felt the thirst and we were very weak. but it was quickly finished. It is not easy without water. Having no relatives in that group he was the last one to be allowed to cook. It was hard. Mekonen narrates his experience of crossing the Armatch’ho: . I think we would have been in great danger. the source of every spring. Others were not as lucky. Shlomo remembers how he was squatting on the ground. Even when the rain soon stopped he knew he would not be able to do anything. Moreover. was once given some flour by one of the members of the group he had joined on the way. so most of the time we didn’t have any problem about water. I was in pain from hunger… There were many days with no food at all and I was trying all the time to forget my mother’s food. since it was late Friday afternoon and the holy Sabbath was approaching. his tears of despair falling down his face together with the raindrops. as Isaiah narrates: I had not expected at all that I was going to suffer from hunger on the journey. in the rain. on many occasions they went without any food whatsoever. who survived on dried pulses for many days on the journey. He recounts how he waited his turn to use a piece of iron above a fire to cook his injera from that flour.’ The water problem was especially serious during their walk in the desert area of the Armatch’ho region. Shlomo. not to think of it. Water also was not easily available on the trek. The fire was extinguished and the flour was soaked. Baruch narrates: The man who took us knew where there was water. The wayfarers had to prepare jerry-cans full of water for the long hours of walking in the desert. If we had been by ourselves. which is close to Sudan. Then we couldn’t stop to find food and I was very hungry. as Yoav told me: ‘At times there was not enough water. The precious flour he had received had to be thrown away and he had to remain hungry. when fire was forbidden. through their lack of knowledge of the trails or the misleading guides. When we started on the way we had some food. But we were forced to do extra footwork. a torrential rain suddenly poured from the sky. Often the wayfarers had to go out of their way in order to reach a water source and for this they were dependent on guides.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 95 were hardly nutritious enough to sustain them through the demanding conditions of the journey. without that man. they were left without any water and suffered extreme thirst. instead of going straight ahead we would make all kinds of detours in order to get to a place where there was water. This came as an unpleasant surprise to some of them.

You therefore prepare a large amount of water. attached to the group. ‘It was always better to walk very close to others. Unfortunately for Ori. In addition. We almost died. you won’t find water anywhere. that would be it! The sun would come up and I would die!’ Getting lost on the way was an additional source of suffering. that area of Armatch’ho is exactly where he and his friends were caught by shifta. the robbers checked each of them from head to toe while they used up the water and food the people were carrying. got up and immediately fell down. We started in the evening… When we were half the way some robbers stopped us. so it was not unusual for an individual or a small group of friends to find themselves suddenly separated from the rest of the group.96 THE THEME OF SUFFERING Then the guides told us that we could proceed by ourselves and in four hours we would reach Sudan. boys and girls. There is no sense in looking for it there. The robber slapped you several times and then took your jerry-can.3 They were waiting for us and we . I knew that tomorrow. unable to find their way back and to be reunited with the larger group. There.’ Dejected. ‘They made it like a café. So we took the road going left. Ori was in a group of twenty youths.’ Ori recounts. The wayfarers walked in large groups. had taken the road to the right. as well as looking after your friends so you could make sure no one got lost. There is no water at all. as one of the adolescents concludes. As if we went to Eilat and they went to Tsfat. ‘They took our jerry-cans from us but not without hitting us. take it with you and go on. Ori attempted several times to get up on his feet: ‘I started to get up. I shall never forget the hunger and thirst of these days. We arrived at a place where you have to walk for almost two days without drinking water. the way suddenly divided in two directions. The robbers caught them and led them off their trail several kilometres into the desert.’ Jonathan relates how their friends disappeared and how they tried to find them: Then we found a fork. a boy of 12. and they went back. who were part of a larger group of 113 people. but it so happened that our friends. sometimes their guides left them in the middle of unfamiliar territory. The routes were unfamiliar to them and the night trekking made it even more difficult to find the right path. We poured out all our water and gave them the jerry-cans. We continued to walk all that night and the day after and also the following three days. This was really incredible. He tells of the unforgettable experience of dehydration: We were close to the Sudanese border. in the ‘burning sun’. I lost hope. arriving there earlier. Therefore.’ In the end all the wayfarers were left to dehydrate in the desert: ‘The whole desert was full of people’s cries. I couldn’t manage to walk. often on narrow paths.

adding: ‘Please join us along this way. each looked at the others and then would burst into crying. but at that time. because there was no one in this area who would have paper and would be writing. and we asked him whether he had seen them and if he had. that we would meet again. We were running almost the whole day. They were crying. . They had drawn a map. They were sitting near a river drinking water and washing to cool themselves. So what did we do? There were no children with us and we had no clothes to carry or anything else. in the far distance. We thought he was going to catch us and kill us. The day was coming to a close and we got really worried. though they did not think that they were going to see us any more. This man was merciful. I do not know who wrote it. And each of them was hugging us. He said: ‘If you go towards the Queen’s road [main road]. Immediately we took it and read it. We started running there. So someone had written on it and hung it on one of the trees there. and he would then be doing a mitzva [charitable deed] for us. It was really incredible. Now. Maybe you could go and read it and it may concern you. And so. All day we were without water or food. There we found a man who had a very scary look and who had a gun. but instead he helped us. it was for them as if we had landed from heaven. not realising that they had gone by a different path. so of course we did not take any paper with us. and there indeed was the piece of paper. We did not allow ourselves time to rest. but this was a piece of a cigarette packet.’ So then we started moving. and nor did we think. They were washing and waiting. waiting for them. where had the paper come from? We prepared for the journey in great haste.’ We understood immediately. which is wide and at a certain point comes to a fork. or beat us. For it was so hot. We told him our story. but it wasn’t a problem at that time. after some more running. he immediately said: ‘Stand still! Do not move!’ So we stopped there. like ‘Who are you? Where did you come from? What are you doing here?’ and so on. Then. like fire. Yet we still thought that while they might be our friends. running. I do not know how to read but someone wrote something on that paper. they could also be just people who lived in the area. and he asked us all kinds of questions. our stomachs ached. we found them. with all our fear and worry. so we went back. it felt like one minute. we saw them like…small dots. We arrived at the point we had passed before. because they were dressed in white we were able to spot them. and that we were looking for our friends with whom we had been travelling. with the curving road to the right of the fork. As if we were angels. we ran and ran and ran. which they had taken. They did not believe. drinking water. In spite of that we kept running towards these dots. We then sat there a bit. at that point you’ll see a piece of paper. but that we had somehow got parted. So when we suddenly arrived there.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 97 were asking ourselves: ‘How come they have not arrived by now?’ We sat there. We ran for at least an hour. would he please tell us where. and when we got closer we were able to identify them.

slowly. the huge blisters. inflammations and injuries were another major cause of sickness. probably due to a fracture related to excessive walking.98 THE THEME OF SUFFERING Descending from the high mountains. where we could rest for the first time. Yoav’s cousin broke her leg. it is difficult to describe. It was very painful. being ill and therefore unable to cope was also a blow to their self-image as strong and able people. You could imagine what happened to my feet. Rivka’s neck was badly hurt and permanently damaged on the journey. the youngest one in particular. Those who could. I was falling off my feet. I couldn’t ask for food since at that time each one struggled for himself. and the inside of the foot could be seen. prepared by taking anti-malaria pills and other preventive measures for their journey. who trekked great distances in the past. where most of them lived. I couldn’t move on. I succeeded in peeling the shoes from my legs. a person who was in the underground group. So I felt uneasy to ask for food and I just tried to keep on walking. The travellers were particularly vulnerable to diseases when they reached exhaustion point and generally through their often very weakened physical condition. After some days of walking I started feeling the effect of that diet. I just couldn’t make it. It was better to go on walking and not to feel the soreness. It was as if my flesh had got stuck to them. It was when we started to rest that it became a throbbing unbearable pain… After one or two days the pain became even worse. . They were both badly wounded. just chickpeas. In yet another incident Aryeh describes how his little brothers fell from the horse they were on. or at least that’s the way I understood it to be. here I was. Ruth’s leg became swollen. For some. Aryeh tells of a young woman who became disabled when a stray branch of a tree hit her and thus she was thrown off the back of the horse she was riding. It took us a week to get back on our feet. You see. especially malaria. and then I started getting terrible malaria attacks. Me. I tried to get my shoes off. by day as well as by night. Then the real pain began. I felt weak and it was hard for me to cope with walking on such a path. The horse dragged her on to the rocky ground. but these pills were not always available and were often lost or stolen on the way. had also meant contracting diseases which are prevalent in these lowlands. Shlomo recounts: I went on the journey by myself… I did not have enough food. Then. Swellings of the legs. for thirteen days I had walked with no opportunity of removing them. Jonathan describes the effect of the laborious journey: When we finally arrived in Sudan. who was used to walking. by hitting his face on a rock. At that time people started passing by me and I began to lag behind. nothing more. unable to cope. to the lowlands of Ethiopia in order to cross to Sudan. as I have told you. until I simply collapsed on the path. When I looked at my feet—well.

When I think of it. It was very difficult… I remember! Tena had to flee while leaving her two children behind. The second friend also got injured. Mothers of little babies found the trek even more laborious as they had to take care of their babies. when everything was over. to pacify them. while they themselves were struggling tooth and nail with the trek. I remember it as a very difficult thing. fell over me and a third friend fell over her. Being first I was hit very badly and broke both my legs. Tigest recounts: We were travelling at night so that people should not catch us. These people suggested that Katchil and her friends . We couldn’t even move from there… afterwards. and at night they would bring me back to the village. I stumbled over a big stone and fell down. when they got close to the Sudanese border.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 99 Katchil narrates how she was disabled on the journey: Suddenly there were shots. Then they put us on a horse and brought us to the nearest village. So I was carrying on like that and breastfeeding him as I could. there were people who were coming from that direction. As well as the psychological effect of this event. I couldn’t continue the journey. This was very hard. I was scared that if I sat down to breastfeed him. Then. Because … they knew that we were running away and they were part of the government. and I tied up my breast so that it would stop the milk. My friend. to breastfeed them. telling them that the border was closed and that the Sudanese would not let anyone pass. while the third escaped injury. really… I think that it was not me who did it. This was very trying. I would be left behind. on the journey. which I will return to elsewhere (see Chapter 7). it hurt me so much. who was right behind me. It took me a month there. after suffering many hardships and calamities. Then I wrote to my brother. to see that they did not make a sound when the group was hiding. who came from far away to take me to his place. the wayfarers experienced deep tiredness. We thought soldiers were coming to catch us and all of us ran in different directions. she relates the pain of having to stop breastfeeding so suddenly when she set out on the trek: My child was two years old but I still had a lot of milk. people tied my legs together and did the same with my friend. My son was still a baby and I was breastfeeding him all that way. I thought I was dying. out of fear of government patrols. During the daytime they would hide me in the forest. It took me another five months to recuperate and set out again on the path to Israel. It is not surprising that on such a difficult journey. How I suffered! I had a lot of medicines. Katchil tells how.

and I was thinking I would rather be at home with my parents. We continued to cry. Then we buried her. When Yehuda became very sick the first thing he thought of was his mother’s food and how he missed her. she kept thinking of her mother. Some were killed by the shifta or by government patrols. Her children were very small and they were crazed with grief. These were the times when they felt most vulnerable and in need of their parents. while we were walking in the sun. both because of her death and because we had to bury her just by the wayside and not in a cemetery. cited above. She was quite young. People around me noticed that I was sick… At that time I thought I would not arrive. I felt deeply sorry for that. but she was in a state of shock and kept wailing. They buried them in haste. however. Shlomo. and after five minutes she was dead. which added the dimension of grief to the suffering of those remaining. wishing she were beside her. They couldn’t take it. Isaiah recounts that when he became ill on the journey he also felt homesick: I got malaria on the way and then. as Katchil relates. As Brehano narrates: Before we were captured someone died there. All of us started crying. around 35 years old.100 THE THEME OF SUFFERING would do better if they turned round and retraced their way back home. ‘By then. during the six months she was recuperating from her bad injury and when she thought she was dying. My heart went . I saw her when it happened: she said that her heart ached. The lack of such a support system made the trek even more difficult to endure. yet she had a heart attack and died. who felt alone on the path. The pain of separation was thus felt to a higher degree at times of misery and misfortune. Still others died of sheer exhaustion. then she clutched her hands against her chest. Death also took its toll on the journey. They were left with an old grandmother who was there.’ Many of the adolescents experienced a renewed pain of separation from their loved ones at times of personal crisis. and some did come to acquire these unfortunate memories. I asked myself why I had set out at all. Yet. Katchil tells how. I started to cough. In their narratives they thus recount the death of a person on the journey but do not give descriptive details. experienced the journey as a passage where he could not ask for help and where he might easily be left behind to die. Others died of illnesses contracted along the way or of accidents during trekking. was not always possible. It was a relative of mine who lived not far from us in the Wolkite area. we were so drained that we felt that we would prefer to die there rather than going back or heading anywhere else. my hands became heavy and I couldn’t walk any further. This. soothing and comforting her. en route. As far as possible children and young adolescents were kept away from the actual scene of dying or dead bodies on the journey.

Besides their fear of being robbed. This was accompanied by a promise that they were not going to ‘run away’ again and by signing a document that said that they knew that. wounded or even killed in the attack. and the guides. near the water source where we were resting. abused.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 101 out to them. when it had become known that the Jews were leaving the country. after we had finished eating. Besides the physical hardships on their passage. when they had caught them. handed them over to the authorities. they were concerned about being beaten. and he went to the Gentile soldiers and told them that there were a group of Jews who were going in the direction of Sudan. But when we arrived there he simply arrested us. I did not think that they would have any mercy on us. or by paying a heavy fine. In many of the young people’s stories the encounter with the shifta is associated with apprehension and fear. The encounter with shifta was . They stopped the shooting. though to a somewhat lesser extent. He intended to get all the young people back to Gondar to be ‘educated’. causing much suffering on the journey. the shooting started… We all scattered in panic. people began to ‘look for Jews’ and. just when we were starting to get organised to continue on our way. their commander interrogated us. Then someone in our group shouted at them that we were merchants. All of them were weeping during the rest of our journey and for months and months in Sudan. Two other sources of distress which are mentioned in the narratives. I was so frightened that I immediately ran away looking for a place to hide. and then he took us in the direction we said we were going. drinking and resting. Sarah tells what happened when they encountered soldiers: There was somebody who saw us there. were the villagers in the areas they were crossing and the underground groups or Fronts in some districts. sometimes leading to their disappearance.4 A common problem. I got into some small shelter with a few more people. the wayfarers suffered the torments inflicted by other people. was caused by the shifta. I was sure that they were going to kill us. Some recount their dread that the shifta would kidnap them and sell them as slaves. if captured fleeing out of the country once again. As explained earlier (see Chapter 4). At other times they could save themselves by posing as other (non-Jewish) people. from being beaten up and sent back to their villages. Jews who were captured were punished in a variety of ways. the shifta (bands of outlaws). We were there for a long time. Many recount how afraid they were when they thought of the variety of dangers involved when encountering shifta. to long incarcerations. they could be executed with no further trial. I refer here to three main sources: the Ethiopian authorities represented by the soldiers. Then. Their family members who remained in the villages were also harmed.

In order to dodge them we tried to walk at night. but a very significant fear was also revealed in the narratives of the boys and young men. They had knives and rifles…they wanted to take the women. The terrifying anxiety in itself seems to have constituted. When we set out again they waited for us on the trek. of course. looking for money. The desert area of Armatch’ho was an area which was particularly prone to shifta attacks. Later. Then we were caught by the robbers…we were frightened. a traumatic experience.102 THE THEME OF SUFFERING particularly associated with the danger for the girls and young women of being kidnapped and raped. they would just kill them and that would be it. But they surrounded us and [when all were caught] they told us: ‘Anyone who has money should put it here!’… Then again we had to return to our village… The third time we paid the shifta in advance. and we didn’t have any money to buy other food to replace it. Running away in different directions we got scattered in the forest. and on the fifth day they caught us. As for the men. The women. and not being able to defend the girls and women. at times. we had walked quite a distance on the way when the shifta caught us and took our food. which could serve as a safe haven if soldiers pursued them. so that they would escort us. We were fourteen students. Someone had probably told the shifta that there was a group of Jewish people there and that these Jews had probably sold all their belongings so they would have a lot of money which could be stolen. Without food we couldn’t reach Sudan. empathy with the women’s plight as well as feelings of helplessness in such circumstances. the whole group of students. Apparently. They shot at us. Another reason was the relative easiness of catching people in a flat and bare desert area where sound travels long distances. This may have been due to the fact that the area was less tightly controlled by the Ethiopian government or to its closeness to Sudan. Rivka narrates: We were walking at night. This time we went first to my relatives who lived somewhere along the way. They were frightening. a boy from Tigray who was 11 years old while on . which was the only possible trail to take. We then walked back to our village. so we decided to go by day. we tried to set out again. Then they beat us and searched our pockets. Then one day it was difficult for us to find our way. played a role in bringing the boys and young men to narrate these instances as part of their own suffering on the journey. We sat there. were particularly frightened. These are strange people. Gideon. Rammy narrates how the shifta attacks affected their fate: The first time we set out on the journey. But they were waiting for us day and night.

there are no people around. Shots in the air. Although they do not help you [at least] they speak to you. How he did it I couldn’t . As Rivka narrates: ‘They simply lied to us that they knew the way.’ We said: ‘Look. we knew that it was better not to challenge them. There we were robbed several times. in many cases the guides did not keep their part of the contract. I have to go because I am busy with many things. abused their trust. We gave them our money… The last time [the fourth time that the shifta attacked] they took the horses as well. I have to go back to my place. They often exploited the travellers. They can kill a few and run away. The guides also took it upon themselves to defend them from the shifta. They told us in Gondar that they knew how to reach Sudan but they did not. It was customary to hire the services of local people and to agree on their payment in advance. Then everyone stopped and we realised it was shifta. There is nothing to worry about here. government posts and patrol routes. Unfortunately. promised to direct and protect the trekkers. a real desert called Armatch’ho. so we had to walk in complete darkness. Though we had some people with guns. and that’s the end of it!’ He was not at all worried about trekking by night in a forest of this kind. We missed the right trail. About three hundred of us were walking in a long line of maybe a kilometre from its beginning to its end with all the cattle and stuff. The guides. Later he abandoned them in the forest: There he left us. in return.’ Even if we do not know them it feels better to see people. There were those who evidently did not know the way they were paid to lead and just used the Jews as an easy way to make a quick profit. Jonathan recounts: We had to pay him an enormous sum of money because he threatened to turn us in to the government who would then kill us. The whole area needs me.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 103 the trek. He said: ‘There is no other option. They don’t care. The Jews needed guides to lead them towards Sudan and to help them dodge particularly dangerous villages. betrayed them and deserted them along the dangerous trek.’ Others just left the Jews in the middle of the journey in spite of the payments they had received. I was in the middle when the shooting started. Jonathan and his friends begged the guide to wait until morning arrived but he wouldn’t listen to them. But he wouldn’t listen. He then forced us to walk through a dense forest in spite of the fact that there was no moon that night. recounts how they were attacked four times in a row during their crossing of this area: Then we arrived at a place which is a desert. saying: ‘You shall pass the night here. People are waiting for me there.

using some excuse.104 THE THEME OF SUFFERING understand. they themselves were staying in the country and should therefore not put their fate at risk in order to defend the Jews. Anyway. even if we shouted for help no one could hear us from that cave. They brought them to desolate places and threatened to leave them there if they would not pay more. Then we started to look around and realised that we were on a huge mountain. said to his friend: ‘If we kill him there will be a “blood feud” and he will be avenged. because they were going to remain there [in Ethiopia]. he brought us to a cave in a big mountain where he left us in the hands of his brother and went back for some reason unknown to us. Time and again the people would be stopped and asked for money in order to continue their guided trek. We did not know what to do. or they left them alone for a few hours. it was the same. Then. He left us there and went away. The Jews could not rely on the guides’ promised protection: when trouble arose the guides either ran away or surrendered to the demands of the attackers. Yoav tells of the guides’ reaction to robbers attacking them: The guards. If you looked to the other side. In many cases it meant that the Jews were forced to pay more money to the attackers or to be taken as captives. We stayed in this forest listening to all those frightening sounds. We paid the guide a lot of money to take us to Sudan. and arranged with someone else to rob them during their absence. We soon realised why he had put us in that cave: his brother then demanded more money. even though they had agreed to do so.’ But the other guard. The guides felt that while the Jews were on their way out of Ethiopia. Nevertheless. If you looked to one side. the other one convinced him and they gave the robber our money and he went away. those who escorted us. Ruth narrates: We were a group of young students. after one day of walking. Many of the guides repeatedly demanded more money from the wayfarers along the journey.’ So the first one said to him: ‘What happened to you? Are we women. and as for us. so how come this one comes to get their belongings?!’ Nevertheless. I myself paid 220 bir. or what? We came to escort them. he wouldn’t let us . At least he should have left us in a place where we could move on. We wept. one of them wanted to fight back. We had to climb down from an incredible height. It was night and we wouldn’t be able to find our way on our own. It is better to give him the money he wants. He said to the robber: ‘We are not going to give you the money. it was like looking down from the eleventh floor. We had no choice. We would fall and crash down and die… We were so scared. But no! We couldn’t get down. the night came to an end and morning finally arrived. The guides used various measures to ‘persuade’ the Jews that they would do better to pay them.


go. He even fired shots at us, above our heads, in order to frighten us so that we would pay him. We were very scared. We felt that our lives were going to end there. We had no choice. We paid him all that we had. We had to put the money on the ground for him to collect it. He wanted to make sure that we didn’t grab his gun or something. Then he still wanted more money and kept shooting at us… Finally, he went away. We were left there. It was night and it was not possible for us to find our way from there. We just sat there, some were crying. Furthermore, in many cases the guides co-operated with the shifta on the journey, and even initiated contacts with them so they would come and rob the Jews, and the two groups would then split the loot between them. As Avner says: They—the guides and robbers—did business with each other. The robbers would say: ‘This is my land, you can’t pass. You have to pay me to cross.’ The guides would then pay them money that they would later demand from the Jews. But when the guides returned through that place, the ‘robbers’ would give them back most of the money. Noah narrates: Strange things happened there. People whom we trusted, who were supposed to guide us, after agreeing on terms said that they had to go home and would return soon. Then they went home and arranged for other people to wait for us on the way. They told them where to wait, in this or that place, and then they would wait for us at that place. They would act as if they were at odds with each other. Once we arrived at a place where there was water and our guides called on all of us to rest there and suggested we unload everything. When we did, the other group suddenly appeared and shouted at us: ‘Stop! Stop!’ At that very moment our guides sneaked away. Down to where the water was. We were shocked. These other ones said: ‘Bring us your money! Bring us your clothes!’ They took my shirt and a nice sweatshirt which I had and my father’s over-dress [shamma] and my mother’s dress and many clothes from other people. And. our money! We knew that our guides had brought them because afterwards we saw them together again. Yet we could do nothing. We were not equipped with weapons or such things. And we were with children and many people and domestic animals. These were local people and you can’t fight them. They could rob you as they liked. Suffering in Sudan The Jews of Ethiopia reached Sudan expecting to be immediately transferred to Israel. In fact, in the minds of some, reaching Sudan was equated with reaching


Israel. They certainly did not think of, nor prepare themselves for, a long stay there. These expectations were frustrated: instead of a quick move to ‘Yerussalem’ they had to stay in Sudan for an unknown period of time; instead of ‘heaven’ and a safe haven there was something like ‘hell’. They found themselves in an unknown, strange and hostile environment where they embarked upon a struggle for survival. They became refugees and had to submit to the state of refugees. The encounter with the reality of Sudan caused a major psychological shock to the Ethiopian Jews. This shock and disappointment dominated their Sudanese experience. Time and again, when facing the various ordeals in Sudan, they compared them with their expectations that the journey and their sufferings would end once they crossed the border of Ethiopia. They repeatedly experienced the shock of being there and living in such harsh conditions instead of already being safe in Israel. They were in an emotional state that could be described as a continuous shock or chronic surprise. This mental state made it more difficult for them to cope with the hardships in Sudan. They found it emotionally difficult to gather their strengths and resources for the period that lay ahead while they were still expecting the heavenly Promised Land. Baruch recounts: When we got to Sudan, I thought I would be able to go to Israel straight away. All the time on the way, I was looking forward to getting there. All the descriptions they gave of the land of Israel—every moment, every day, I thought of that, and it helped me to survive the journey. And suddenly…I didn’t expect that it would take a month, two months, a year, two years in Sudan. In another part of his narrative Baruch adds: [Arriving in Sudan] I felt that I had really arrived in Jerusalem…and right away I wrote a letter to my parents saying that I had indeed arrived ‘home’ [laughs at himself]. But in the end I stayed there a long time. Daniel tells of the significance of the gap between their expectations while walking and the reality of reaching Sudan: Then we were taken to a place in Sudan called Um-Rakuba. There they interrogated each of us, they put down our names and asked for our personal details, why we had come, all kinds of things… Then they told us: ‘You are not allowed to go out of this place. You must stay here, at UmRakuba, and we shall take care of you. We shall give you a place to live in, and so on, all kinds of things that we did not expect at all when we were going towards Sudan. We were given a tent there that we ourselves put up in a field, and we got a piece of bread and a cup of soup each day… There


was hunger5 in Sudan, there was barely enough food to stay alive… So then we realised that we had not arrived at the place that we thought of and to which we so aspired on our journey. Two other factors in addition to the state of continuous shock seem to have significantly influenced the psychological well-being of the Ethiopian Jews in Sudan: the prolonged experience of uprootedness and non-belonging; and their living in a state of constant uncertainty regarding the length of their stay in Sudan. The state of uprootedness was shared by all refugees but was much exacerbated because they were Jews and on their way to Israel. First of all, since the Jews, in contrast to many other refugees at that time, did not envisage a long stay in Sudan they did not wish to integrate in the area, even to a minor degree. They viewed their stay in Sudan as extremely short and transient, and therefore strongly objected to any action that would indicate to the contrary. Thus, at least initially, the adults did not look for work and the children did not worry about schooling or anything other than getting ‘on this very day’ to Israel. Nevertheless, when they began to realise that they were not simply on immediate transit to Israel as they had expected and that their stay in Sudan was to be prolonged, they needed and wanted to work and some of the children started thinking of possibly even studying in Sudan. This would have meant integrating to a certain extent into the social structure of the refugee camps or of the towns where they resided. However, none of these was simple or straightforward for the Jews. First of all, local Sudanese regarded them as Ethiopians, thus strangers and alien. They were looked upon as people who, though let in by the government, did not belong in Sudan. Elie narrates: There was a conflict and the Sudanese person leaned down and picked up some sand off the ground, held it in his hands, and said to me: ‘Smell this sand! Do you recognise the smell? No! This is not your land! You do not belong here!’ As has been explained elsewhere, they also faced a constant threat of being exposed as Jews in transit to Israel by Sudanese local officials. These Sudanese did not always know or approve of the deal made by their government. They would therefore persecute the Ethiopian Jews and inflict all sorts of punishments on them, from beatings and tortures to incarcerations. Having to hide their Jewish identity and being persecuted because of it meant that they had to limit their contacts with the Sudanese local population and the authorities. Looking for work, or going to school, had thus become dangerous and risky for the Ethiopian Jews. In this way, being forced to hide their identity, as well as limiting their integration into the environment to a minimum, exacerbated their sense of uprootedness. Second, functional integration with their refugee milieu was not easy. In fact, more often than not it was actually impossible, because the other refugees, mainly


the Ethiopian Christians, were extremely hostile and aggressive towards them. This animosity towards their compatriots was carried over from Ethiopia into the refugee situation. As elaborated in Chapters 2 and 4, the Ethiopian Christians regarded the Jews as outcasts and soul-eaters, and thus as the source of diseases and death in the camps. They feared the Jews’ evil eye and were ready to attack them as the lowest stratum of camp society. In addition, once it became known in the camps that the Jews had a country that would accept them and would give them financial support while in the camps, envy occurred and the risk of harassment was increased. This made it difficult for the Jews to try to find work, either in the refugee camp itself or with more established Ethiopians in the area, and thus enhanced their sense of displacement. Third, the way in which the escape process was conducted dictated a certain way of life in Sudan which prevented most of them from integrating into normal camp or town life. The system operated in such a way (before the mass operation) that whenever an airlift was possible the operators used to quickly summon people who were on the list (queue) for aliya, gathering them into groups who would secretly either walk or travel in lorries to the aeroplanes. It was essential to keep the operation secret from the Sudanese and other refugees, so the time between the announcement of aliya and actual departure was kept short. It depended, among other factors, on the possibility of a plane landing secretly somewhere in the desert, where the situation could change rapidly. This time became even shorter when the operators realised that more Jews were turning up at the agreed point of departure for the lorries than had been invited. It was thus necessary to keep it secret even from the Jews whose turn for rescue had not yet arrived. It became a matter of only a few hours between telling the people and the actual embarkation. In such conditions people could not risk being away for a whole day or more, working somewhere where they could not easily be reached. Whether this was within the camp or out of it, or even out of the house (if living in the town), they could not take a chance lest they miss their turn to get out of Sudan. Such cases indeed occurred. If someone’s turn to leave arrived but they were at work at that time, then they would be left in Sudan until the next airlift took place. Families were painfully divided because of their wish to save whoever they could when an option to leave was available for a few hours. They were never sure whether they would have another chance. If one parent was away at the time of the operation and the turn of that family came up, the other parent would at least send the children ahead while waiting him/herself for another time when he/ she would go, together with their partner. However, if the children were very young and thus could not be sent alone to Israel, and no one else could take them, then that one parent would have to go with them, leaving behind his/her spouse. All this led the Jews to limit their movements within the camp and to refrain, as much as they could, from finding a job in Sudan or integrating in any other way. The fact that they could not work or integrate socially enhanced their feeling of uprootedness.


Uncertainty concerning the end of this state of affairs and their whole Sudanese ordeal also played a role in their suffering in Sudan. They did not know if and when they were going to leave Sudan, and this was out of their control. Living with no clear concept of a future is a psychologically disturbing experience. When it persists for a long time it affects the way people perceive the present (Lewin 1948; Peri 1983; BenEzer and Peri 1990; BenEzer 1992). In other words, having no clear future makes for a chaotic experience in the present. This in turn affects the ability to cope, since coping mechanisms are strongly related to expectations.6 Against this psychological background—living in a state of chronic shock that made it all the more difficult to regain the strength needed for the struggle to survive as refugees, and feeling strongly uprooted, with no sense of a certain future and a somewhat chaotic present—Ethiopian Jews were forced to face the harsh conditions in Sudan. The physical conditions in the camps were a major source of suffering. Like other refugees, the Jews were given tents to live in, which in the Sudanese climate meant that during the day they suffered from the terrible heat and at night they were forced to sleep on the ground.7 Fourteen-year-old Yossi, originally from Addis Ababa, recounts: When I reached Sudan I had a blanket with me. Yet when I was on the truck that took us from the border area to the refugee camp it moved so fast that the wind blew away the blanket that was on my shoulders. It left me with nothing to sleep on in the refugee camp. It was very uncomfortable to sleep on the ground, and of course I had nothing with which to cover myself from the wind when it came. Overcrowding constituted another hardship. It was hard to accommodate the many refugees who kept arriving in Sudan. In the refugee camps, tents and huts were overpopulated. In towns there were not enough houses for rent. Having to stay in hiding, lest the Sudanese authorities caught them, exacerbated the situation for the Jews, especially in the town of Gedaref. They were thus huddled together in small spaces, which constituted appalling housing conditions. Yossi narrates: Then we arrived in Gedaref and for four months we did not go out of the house. We were hiding inside. People would go out to bring water for cooking, but not for anything else. We wouldn’t even sit outside or take a risk by opening the door and sitting near it… Many of us were hiding there. There would be thirty-five or forty people in one house. It was crowded and hot. It was very difficult. Shlomo narrates: The weather is very hot in Sudan and we were many families in one house because there were not enough houses. People settled for what they could

forgive me for saying so. their chances of outbursts of epidemics and of contracting diseases were very high. and we barely survived. let alone proper washing. but we were so smelly that at night one could choke from the stench. and these did indeed happen. in that house. We didn’t even have enough water for drinking. Particularly frightful conditions prevailed at a certain period in 1983–4 in the refugee camp of Um-Rakuba. in the young people’s journey stories.300 Jews died . and other dangers. Daniel refers to the lack of food: There was famine there…we were hungry. And. and at night it became so hot and dense…because of our bodies. Telaynesh. which was a major source of anguish and distress. People then died at a rate of fifteen a day. Alas. an adolescent girl from the Gondar area. We would go to get some water and wait in line for five hours until they brought the water. It was very hard since we were fifty-two people in one house. all of us. Refugees were flowing into Sudan in ever increasing numbers and there was not enough food or water for all of them. leaving us naked. There was not enough food. So we gathered. narrates: And then we all came to Um-Rakuba and we had a very hard time. undernourished and drinking dirty water. Mekonen narrates his experience: I felt as if I was in a prison. just lying there on the ground. Around 1. It was not only living in overcrowded conditions but also feeling extremely restricted in their movements that was trying.110 THE THEME OF SUFFERING find. with a high frequency of sickness and death. We were not allowed to go out of the house. Each day we got something like soup and sometimes maybe a piece of bread. There was also the pain of hunger and thirst. Even what we ate we did not taste because we spent all the time thinking about what would happen if the Sudanese caught us. Many felt this to be a trial on their patience. Being huddled together in unsuitable housing. There was no water. The long stay in Sudan is interlaced. People were thirsty. So the other young ones and I preferred to sleep outside. whether we would indeed be caught or whether we would be saved…everything was suffering in Sudan. we were then facing another problem: there were robbers in Sudan who would come and take our clothes. or the Ethiopian Christians would come to hurt us. There wasn’t enough water for showers. Then that was it for the day… I was there for four months. Sometimes there was just tea and a little roll in the morning and at times we got the same at lunchtime. It was very hard. as if to take revenge for their dead.

Telaynesh recounts the experience of death within her family: . She was very close to me. Jonathan narrates his experience of disease in Sudan and of being rescued by the Red Cross: Then. I saw a girl carry her mother to be buried. I was in a state of mental confusion so I was not aware of what they were doing… After I got a bit better. took me in an ambulance to their clinic where they gave me glucose and all these liquids… At first. And I mean really many people! The Red Cross people were rushing from one place to another. Indeed. Anyway. And it was terrifying to see their suffering. since I felt that I was about to die. Many of the adolescents confronted death for the first time and in great numbers. and it often affected their motivation and power to keep going. food and other things which were needed. after a week in Ticha. so they did it through the foot.000 people. so it was terribly frightening. and then malaria would start … So many people were dying there then. I thought about my mother. I did not wish my family to be among them. and it had an effect on our bodies… We also saw that people who were actually treated by the Red Cross were still dying of hunger and diarrhoea. around 4. and there was so much suffering. at a certain point I heard that my family had arrived in Sudan. We were also given a place. Devorah describes how [t]he rain would fall. I think. not even one of them survived. The overall number of deaths of Ethiopian Jews was much higher. And I regretted coming to Sudan. on the other hand I wished she were beside me then.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 111 there within a few months. I thought I was going to die there. it was a horrible and emotionally exacting period for many of them. I remember a family of twelve people who were all dead there. I was not at all happy to hear this news since so many people were dying there. Maybe twenty a day. Many people died there… Then I became very ill. we were taken to the Um-Rakuba camp. We lived near to each other in the village… It was hard… And then I myself got sick. I was very ill. It hurt me. The agony was immense. On the one hand I felt good that she had not come with me and that she was therefore safe. Because of the weather. On a certain day thirty were dead! There were houses where no one was left. they couldn’t locate a vein in my hand to insert these medicines. distributing medicine. But the Red Cross. and was actually in this camp. There were lots of people there. who were doing the difficult job of saving lives there. then it would stop. we had no appetite. I almost died. One day my cousin died there. but what bothered us was the weather.

in Sudan. I thought that all of us were going to die. Mekonen recounts: The situation in Sudan had deteriorated and it became increasingly hard to stay alive. It was the death of his friend from the underground which seemed meaningless for Takaleh: In my case.112 THE THEME OF SUFFERING After that there were diseases and people were very sick. not for the cause he . But here he was dying. Then she died in Um-Rakuba. I did that along the whole journey from our village of Shirala. For many of the youngsters the experience of death around them was all the more painful because it meant that their dearest ones died before they were able to fulfil their longed-for and much cherished dream and desire to arrive in Israel. and my mother was very sick too. When you fight in such an organisation you are prepared to die for the cause. at the refugee camp. together with her three children. Eleven-year-old Esther narrates how distressed she became when her dearest little cousin became ill in Sudan: He was the one I cared for on the journey. This issue of dying without achieving their goal is mentioned more than once in the narratives. My brother’s wife got sick and we waited for three months for her to get better. When he cried I would be the one to attend to him and soothe him. it was a very good friend. And here we were. We went through some difficult times together and we pulled through these. I didn’t believe that we would leave Sudan. Now we were in Sudan and he seemed to be dying. Altogether. Yerussalem!’ and dreaming about being there in Jerusalem—as I myself had been told ever since I was born—all died there. He started having diarrhoea and became extremely thin—as if he was not a human being any more. as if he was going to die within the next half an hour… I was very sad that he had to leave us and felt pity for him for not making aliya [ascending] with us to Israel. There were many people who died there of lack of food and diseases. dying in front of me… It was so sad to watch him… It wasn’t only the fact of dying. Also two of my other brother’s sons died. who were always saying ‘Yerussalem. There were too many sick people to care for and they [camp authorities and medical services] just couldn’t cope with it… It hurt me so much to know that the Jews. like my uncles and aunts and many other relatives of mine. We were together in the rebels’ group. and we had become very close friends. and he was very sick. and indeed many others from the underground. seven people died among us.

Many of them recount that the longing was especially strong when they were sick. we were sitting all together. It is interesting to note how important this aspect was for many of them. there was no family. It was particularly painful. which deals with Jewish identity on the journey. I felt good. Related to the high incidence of death in the camps was the suffering caused by the incorrect and disrespectful manner in which they had to bury the dead. The new environment. For the Ethiopian Jews. if at all. no brothers. Within that chapter we also discussed the suffering inflicted on Ethiopian Jews by the Sudanese authorities and by non-Jewish Ethiopians in the refugee camps and towns in Sudan. They realised more deeply than ever the meaning of separation from the family members who had been left behind and were not going to join them for some time. They were shouted at. It also often aroused or intensified their feelings of guilt at having left them behind. in my place. The disgusting smell and stench of the places they stayed in assaulted them.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 113 wished to achieve and was fighting for. and had to listen to the cries of dying relatives. but just like that. They then wanted the comforting touch of a mother or a father to soothe and support them. This issue and the psychological consequences which ensued were elaborated in Chapter 4. from disease in a refugee camp. This might have been because of the great significance children in general ascribe to the school system. Their stay in Sudan exacerbated the pain of separation from their families. Their muscles were stretched or contracted and their bones ached from sleeping on the ground. thinking at times that they were dying. They had to eat unpleasant.] I became very sad. The extended stay in Sudan also made them realise how complete and potentially final the separation was and the emotional price which had to be paid for it. emptiness! [Pauses. The long stay in Sudan was experienced by the adolescents as a painful waste of time that could otherwise have been used for studying. the suffering in Sudan was thus experienced as an attack on all of their senses. talking to my uncle. which indeed organises a major part of their day and gives a structure to their lives in the same way that work does for adults. non-kosher food and drink polluted water. They suffered from irritations of the skin caused by parasites and ‘by the heat of the earth’ when squatting to relieve themselves because of diarrhoea-related diseases. They encountered intolerable and unforgettable scenes of hunger and sickness as well as seeing numerous dead bodies. friends and other people and the weeping of the mourners. the hostility and—at the height of the famine and death —the horrific sights around them all made them long for their loved ones. Rammy recounts his pain of separation in Sudan: While I was in the refugee camp in Sudan I once had a dream: that I was with my family. since the . Then I woke up. perhaps.

stuck in Sudan. For an Ethiopian child. they. pass. but every day I thought that maybe that evening I would leave for Israel. let alone a Jewish Ethiopian child. or the accompanying adolescent boys. The border zone was a particularly sensitive area in that respect. sometimes arouses the feeling of a social noman’s land. I set out in the middle of the school year in Ethiopia and here I was. and suffered accordingly. as well as to better the conditions of their families. Takaleh summarises the Sudanese period plainly: ‘Time is not a clock. Because of this they were eager to arrive in Israel as quickly as possible and to continue (or begin) their studies. The Sudanese soldiers were very clear and non-secretive about their intentions concerning the girls. Nevertheless. I thought about signing up at a school there. like border zones in other parts of the world. It then instigates an atmosphere that allows or facilitates nonnormative behaviour. she would start crying. heard that in Israel they would gain an even better education. In any event. It was wasted for ever. In that respect they felt that ‘each and every moment’ of their stay in Sudan was a painful waste of time. You cannot turn its hands back. whom they felt they ‘represented’ and for whom they had become messengers. . It might have been the influence of the border zone.’8 Adolescent girls and young women were particularly vulnerable to specific aspects of the situation. I felt bad. The major danger that girls faced was that of being kidnapped for domestic slavery or for sexual abuse. and moreover that it would somehow be inculcated into them more quickly. as well as those who had not yet started their education (a significant number of them). I wasted two years there. and they mourned the loss of their chance of studying. Sometimes it was also a sign of self-worth. It did not involve the wish of the individual alone but was a decision taken by the family. The chosen children would thus expect to benefit significantly from it. for those who were lucky enough to have begun. At times they would not let them. in order to move to Israel. Alamnesh tells how. which. since he/she would be chosen from among the children of the family as the most talented and study-oriented child. or the next day. was experienced by the adolescents as a painful and not at all simple matter. I didn’t go to school so I felt I wasn’t doing anything. As Baruch narrates: When I was in Sudan I didn’t feel good at all. The child had therefore already experienced such a decision as an exceptionally important achievement. especially in relation to sexual restrictions. ethnographic section).114 THE THEME OF SUFFERING opportunity for education was not universal in Ethiopia and was thus highly regarded. Or the next… So I couldn’t do a thing. Stopping these studies. just being given the chance of studying was very much appreciated and cherished. when in Sudan thinking about how they had left school. who in most cases had to give up the work-power of that child and even find some extra money to pay the expenses related to schooling (see Chapter 2. unless they were allowed to use the women of their choice.

She had completed her studies in Ethiopia. Ruth tells how frightened she became when the Sudanese soldiers came to select the girls they wished to take. how miserable she must be. I had a friend. About half of this group were Gentiles. So then we slept there. At night. they came. My friend was kidnapped around Gedaref… We tried not to walk alone as it was dangerous. We were wearing our clothes over our heads [faces] so they [the soldiers] were parting them and looking. The danger of abduction continued beyond the border zone and constituted a serious threat inside Sudan. and rightly so. I was with my brother… Then. They came and saw me… I was shouting as well as trembling greatly. a group of seventy-two young people. With a torch. and wanting to take away the girls that they desired… I was very frightened. I started shouting at him. We were sleeping. and how . We were gathered there. and how beautiful she was. I started to tremble. and last Saturday we thought again of our friend. just a big tree. She would be 20 years old by now… Her parents heard about what happened to her. that’s it! She would be taken. maybe because of that they had taken her… ‘The best people. as we had thought. At that time I was shouting at him: ‘Why did you say that they are coming? Why did you say so?’ And then they came. Then everyone was shouting. They talked with the Gentiles who were with us…so we knew that at night they would come to get us… So during the day there were many soldiers around us… We were sitting as a group.’ we say. It was not a large place anyway. So because I was trembling so much my brother said to me: ‘I was lying to you. are you afraid?’ Because when he told me that they had come. ‘why are the best people taken?’ And we also say: ‘Why do the good people die first?’ So we were discussing all kinds of things. sat and said that all of us would sleep close together. the fact remains that adolescent girls and young women learned to fear the border zone. and people were trying to escape up the hill. Marito recounts: For example. It took them five minutes more to arrive. the Sudanese kidnapped her. They have not come. They then transported her to Saudi Arabia…they abducted many children like that. We talked. That is why they were parting the…[clothes covering our faces]. My friend walked alone only once but it was enough for the Sudanese to abduct her.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 115 whether it was this or some other reason. They wanted to take only those girls among us whom they had chosen during the day. They can do nothing about it… I have another friend here [in Israel]. She narrates: It was on the Sudanese border. Then there were the soldiers [pause] who wanted to take the girls. and… I don’t know. and we were sitting underneath it. She was a good girl. like that. and my brother suddenly said to me: ‘They are coming! They are coming!’ He whispered…and then: ‘Why. All that time they were down there.’ When he told me that. If someone was walking alone. Not as many from ours as from the Gentiles… But us too. They are still in Ethiopia.

if not—I can’t work. The need to look for work exposed the young women to various offers of jobs that were actually ways of looking for domestic and sexual slaves. of course. I refer mainly to the fact that. big and fat. nevertheless. from among twenty students. the need to inform the Jews about their departure from Sudan only at the last possible moment had brought about unexpected separations within families. me and my [woman] friend. As we have already seen. more tragedies took place. and I said that my girlfriend also had a husband. families that had already suffered death and disintegration during the journey and in Sudan disintegrated further. and they would have done [to us] whatever they wanted. If they had taken us. The cause of this was partially related to the nature of the secret operation and the way the Jews were taken out of Sudan. The dangers of the secret operation made it a necessity that after informing the people about the embarkation everything should be carried out at an extremely rapid pace. So we came back. No one will ever find her…she will be like that all her life! Many girl students went like that. Out of Sudan At last the time came to ‘ascend’ to Israel. This caused everyone to go into a kind of ‘escape frenzy’. during this last stage. She was in shock. He took us to a big house. we wouldn’t have been able to go out of the house. She narrates: We were sitting in that place [refugee camp] when an Ethiopian man came along with two other men. The Ethiopian was translating: ‘Who wants to work?’ All of us said that we wanted to work. If I find a place [to work together] with my husband. I did not even believe that he was Ethiopian. what everyone desired. before the final actualisation of the dream. and he was translating: ‘You want work to “serve” at a certain house?’ My friend did not speak at all. even at this last minute. then I could work. and since . I was really terrified.’ So then they said they did not want me. She was already 24 years old when on the journey. one Sudanese and one Arab. I spoke a bit and said: ‘I—I have a husband. He took us. So later. see the place and then get some work. he calls our names. It was good that I said I had a husband. it is hard for me to be separated from my husband. being a goodlooking woman she experienced the danger of abduction which was more typical for younger girls. they wanted only unmarried girls. so he told me that everything was all right.’ Then they asked the translator: ‘Does she have a husband?’ He said. but that the place was still new to us so we meant to go around a bit. Alas. I feared that I would not arrive in Israel. and I had a wonderful feeling…yet I was trembling. Leaving Sudan was.116 THE THEME OF SUFFERING hard it was. ‘Yes. there were many Arabs. Tena tells her story of fear and horror at the dangers of rape and potential domestic and sex slavery. and how unfortunate she was.

From the point of view of keeping the operation easier. my mother was sick. Heaven help you!’ And he pressed: ‘You don’t trust me? In no way will I come without your mother!’ Then I agreed to go. Under such conditions the young and the fit found it difficult to let the old and the children be first to climb into the lorries. He said. Our turn came. All of a sudden we arrived in Israel. Her uncle was there and also her uncle’s son. as frequently happened. Many more people appeared at the embarkation point than were summoned. Another cause of further disintegration of families and sorrowful events was the actual embarking onto the lorries. This was especially hard for the little children and the old. There was also. I was worried about who she would stay with. As one of the adolescents narrates: ‘It was hard for the old people and little children to make aliya with the young. They said to us: ‘Come!’ At first. People also ignored the fact that the number of persons .THE THEME OF SUFFERING 117 no one could be sure that tomorrow he or she would not be dead. They were terrified of being left behind. One criterion that was implemented at a certain time during the rescue operation and further influenced the completeness of the families (or lack of it) was the age factor. everyone wanted to be among the first to leave. In fact. Pressure on the Israeli agents mounted. the criteria for choosing people to make aliya often contributed to the separation of members of a family. The young then pushed their way through. My mother wanted me to go. of course. various members of the family arrived in Sudan at different times and were put in different places in the queue for aliya. were hard put to make sure that whole families made aliya together. People waited for their turn to come. He used to distribute money to enable people [to] stay alive [probably one of the ‘distributors’]. as one girl recounts: One day they decided to send the young people. My mother hasn’t come to this day…my mother never came. She couldn’t do anything. Some related to the people’s physical condition. it was best to group the young together and put the old in separate groups. without bad intentions. always trying to be among the first to embark. This made it impossible for them to monitor the process in any relaxed way or to take the time needed to sort out the situation systematically. and they. The process of getting on the lorries was experienced by many as a struggle for survival. ‘If you stay. A fierce battle for life thus ensued. as in the case of dying persons and others with specific problems of personal security which arose within Sudan. They did whatever was in their power to climb into the trucks. But there were also other considerations. the fact that. I didn’t want to go because if I went who would cook for Mother? Who would bring water from the waterhole far away? You see. From the Israeli operators’ point of view.’ Tragic separations then took place. embarking had to be quick lest the Sudanese spotted the lorries. safer and more efficient. as this could mean death instead of life. because the young pushed when they climbed on to the trucks and that was dangerous.

Yossi narrates: They [the operators] used to arrange it so that old people would go separately from the young people. when they were already on the truck. They opened them. one couldn’t see a thing or know where anyone was. No one could actually know where everyone was. Children fell out of their mothers’ arms. would they realise that the whole family was not on it. that a son was on this truck while his mother was on another. Her boy was stepped upon.’ I started crying…at the end they decided to open the trucks for young people as well. those of us who were already up there would give them a hand and pull them up. when they finally reached the trucks. let alone control it… There were many people…and the young children… well. probably [in order] to bury him on their way back. People were climbing up into the lorry forcibly in the dark. were lost and were stepped on in the darkness of the night. and the wish to be as short a time as possible on the ground. resulting in tragic deaths. This was very grievous indeed. ‘My son! My son!’ It didn’t help. Yossi tells of an unexpected hardship even at a later phase: that of getting on board the aeroplanes on the provisional desert runways. that half of them were here and half were there. We would run and the old ones. Some children were killed [remains quiet for some time]… I remember what happened in our vehicle. everyone ran quickly in the dark towards the vehicles. This created a wind that was blowing against them. but then the old could not climb aboard fast enough. against which the exhausted refugees had to struggle. Old people were injured or pushed out and so forced to stay behind. the aeroplanes did not turn off their engines while people were trying to get on. Her son! This was really awful… And he was not so big! But at that time we did not pay attention to each other. I felt ‘Not again! They are going to leave me here for the third time. ‘Mummy. to control what happened to him. There was a mother who was shouting. I don’t know.’ They took him. blinding them by getting into their eyes. They knew that no one would risk the whole operation by starting an argument in this secret and potentially explosive situation. not thinking of others…not even being able to save his or her child. They asked: ‘Whose is this child?’ And one woman said softly: ‘He is mine. Because of the secret nature of the operation. Or maybe they just had to throw him somewhere. I felt that this was horrible: for a mother not to be able to protect her child. everyone cared only for himself. Only then. Yossi narrates: . and tragic accidents happened.118 THE THEME OF SUFFERING allowed on a lorry was limited and tried to push more in. Mummy!’ but no one could actually lift him up…so when we arrived at the place where we were supposed to wait for the aeroplane we climbed down from the truck and then they found this child. The child was crying. This wind also carried the desert sand into the air and into their faces. Chaos characterised this stage. Each of us wanted to save himself.

and in the third round it landed. It was just an open area with nothing in it. The planes couldn’t have been far away since immediately after they had communicated with them two of them landed there. and it lowered its flight path and made one round. and somehow got us into the planes.’ . were told to sit down. Otherwise. I thought. Sometimes we almost succeeded but were still pushed back by the wind. Those who needed to could go aside to relieve themselves. made some signal to it. and…the Israelis talked on the wireless communication apparatus. which we understood later to be a sign for the pilot. We disembarked from the lorries there. When the plane arrived above us they [the operators] saw it. So I despaired and gave up. For Isaiah it seems to have been not only difficult to embark upon the plane but also a frightening experience: Finally we arrived at a remote and deserted place where there was really nothing. but we did not know that at the time. The plane’s engine was turned on and it was blowing a wind that we could not prevail against. we were told to wait there. since they did not turn off their engines and a lot of sand was being blown towards us and into our eyes. I said to myself: ‘I shall sleep here today and then go all the way back by foot. There were people on the ground. since I couldn’t see a thing. We disembarked. when it was landing there was a lot of wind there. Now. without any trees or anything. Then we were told: ‘Now run and get into the aeroplane. But it was hard to embark in them. so I was nervous. The only thing we saw there. I did not want to get in at all. It was bare. It was dark there. directing the plane. it was my first encounter with one. was a kind of yellow light on the ground. Then there were [Israeli] soldiers there. We could not even see where the entrance was…so the soldiers sort of pushed us. and we saw that they had something with which they were communicating with the aeroplane. were sitting there. then another. I had never been in a plane.’ It was impossible to enter. I almost ran away because at that time I was not myself at all.THE THEME OF SUFFERING 119 We arrived at a certain point in the desert after several hours of standing in the four lorries which had driven in a direction which was not clear to us. and they held our hands and helped us…it was difficult to get into the aeroplane. and we were told to sit down in that place. I think.9 And also this sand was getting into my eyes and troubling me. We were repeatedly blown backwards. I shall not reach Israel…you see. when we arrived. There was also a little car that was patrolling around our trucks to check that no enemies were in the area.

Levine discusses at some length the readiness to kill one’s enemy within the framework of the concept of gobez. masculine aggressive prowess as displayed by killing wild beasts and human enemies represents a pre-eminent value in most of the cultures of Greater Ethiopia. In Wolf Leslau’s Amharic-English dictionary. To do that we have to acquaint ourselves with the concept of gobez. the entry for gobez is defined as: ‘young man. fine young man. Rosen writes that ‘Every Ethiopian boy (and girl. subsisting on a pocketful of dried chick-peas or occasional snacks of small bread-balls. In his book Greater Ethiopia. it is someone who has trekked many days through the mountains. Amhara …warriors were motivated by fierce desires to slaughter their enemies’ (Levine 1974:154). In another context. fierceness. and they distribute rewards according to the number and fierceness of the beasts and humans he has . He states: ‘Amhara and Oromo cultures alike. in her own way) desires perhaps more than anything else to be considered gobez. brilliant. The killer typically enjoys a privileged status marked by special insignia and perquisites… Many people set up formal occasions at which the killer can boast of his achievements.6 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH . Before that it is important to understand the concept of bravery within the Ethiopian culture. quite a fellow’. laid stress on military courage. that of hunting.1 which is a core symbol2 in Ethiopian culture. then.The theme of bravery and inner strength brings together those aspects of the narratives in which the interviewees express a feeling of great achievement. It is the great Amhara virtue that. In regard to actual behaviour. this term would be used for someone who had trounced an opponent in a stick fight. embodied bravery. The two latter aspects are related in my mind to the ability to endure against all odds. manly (like a man).3 He is ‘someone able to stay awake the entire night praying. or spend the whole day fasting’ (Rosen 1985:76). brave. or relate to acts in which their powers and potentials were brought to a maximum or were stretched even beyond that. traditionally. Even more importantly. hardi-ness and general male competence’ (Rosen 1987:58). clever. Levine writes: Indeed. I shall attempt to describe the different manifestations of this theme within the three sub-phases of the journey. smart. strong. or had beaten him in some other kind of battle.

Although this dimension is not mentioned by researchers cited above. brave and manly. and in certain areas and times even acting upon this value. refers to the gobez as ‘smart. is an essential . existed among the Beta Israel of Ethiopia? Concerning the Amhara. clever’ and Rosen refers to the craftiness of Ethiopian Jews in making their tools so that they worked for them. people of lower status.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 121 slaughtered. embodies another ideal ofno less importance— that of being gobez. even more relevant to our focus of discussion. In addition to that. thus. they were more careful about it in their regular dealings with the ‘ruling majority’—the Christian Amhara in Ethiopia. injured his zamad [kin]. for example. while holding on to the value of killing your enemy. since on the one hand the prohibition regarding killing is very strong. who would be at a disadvantage if they were to take action against the majority culture. In his earlier work on the Ethiopians he writes: Attitudes concerning the use of violence represent a clear instance of conflict of norms. committed adultery with his wife. it seems. cf. The fearless killer. in my mind. another aspect feeds the reservations of Jews about the value of ‘killing your enemy’. on the other hand. within their usage of the term. the Jewish traditional restraint from unnecessary killing. are known and acknowledged in Abyssinia. I refer to the fact that Beta Israel in Ethiopia lived through the experience of Falashas. (Levine 1965:83. though not regarded as constituting the crux of Christian ethics. which is also that of the outcasts (Messing 1982. (Levine 1974:53–4) How does this value tally with the value of Christian love among the Amhara. brilliant. Levine addresses this question in a direct manner. it seems to me. They also cultivate special genres of verse which are sung to goad the killer and celebrate heroic exploits. Quirin 1992. Leslau. this tension may be somewhat weaker for Jews. The peasant who assaults his neighbour because the latter has usurped his land. or. Resourcefulness. we may assume. Chemtov and Rosen (1992) also bring the example of the gobez farmer in Ethiopia who will stop monkeys and baboons from raiding his crops ‘by building a strong fence and by being a good shot’. thus having something of Him within them. Therefore. which. Another dimension of meaning to the concept of gobez relates to the person’s resourcefulness. my emphasis) Ethiopian Jews share many values with the Amhara. The rare priest or elder who embodies the classic ideal of Christian love is appreciated as a man of the higher virtue. as human beings according to Judaism are created ‘in the image of God’. or insulted him grievously is following an ethic of cardinal importance in Amhara culture. The precepts ‘Do not kill’ and ‘Love thy neighbour’. Chapter 2). they have the same tension between those values. it is implicit. However.

This wider sense is also embedded in Rosen’s elaboration of the concept. facing a challenge or confronting an enemy. the latter was likely to feel that there was not much point in fighting. in fact. whether as part of a spontaneous poem or as a veiled insult directed towards some unsuspecting personage. This is because in Ethiopian society leadership roles are . or if there was no chance of his learning about a soldier’s bravery. In its broader sense. for adolescents and young men it seems the presence of authority figures is in itself a motive for heroism.122 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH aspect in all these achievements. notably the Amharas: The presence of the king or lord on the battlefield typically made a great difference in how bravely Amhara soldiers were inclined to fight … [conversely] if the relevant lord was killed. (Rosen 1985:58) At the heart of the concept. it seems to me. This can be inferred from Levine’s finding in relation to different groups in Ethiopia. there are two elements: the existence of a skill and potential for a successful action. and start at the forefront of his class. He writes: In another context this person would be able to memorise all of his lessons. seems to stand for any performance of excellence in an area valued by society This is. Thus. the concept of gobez. in combination with the readiness and courage to act upon this potential. the value of the gobez is enacted even more within the context of adolescence and young adulthood. and is thus embedded within the concept of the gobez. from being attacked to standing up to the attacker in accordance with the concept gobez. one might argue that for a young person to assume leadership in times of need is in itself an act that requires personal strength. These capabilities and daring aspects result in the achievement which brings about the praise for being gobez. among the four major elements of nature which stand for the various phases of the life cycle within Ethiopian culture (cf. e. Adolescence and young adulthood are symbolised by the elements of air and fire respectively. Furthermore. The former relates to competence while the latter is represented by the person committing him/herself to action. The tendency to move from the defensive to the offensive.g. The adolescent is ‘flighty. never settled’ while the young man is as ‘hot in picking quarrels as he is hot chasing after women’ (Levine 1965:79). Adolescents and young adults are thus perceived as prone to pick quarrels and fights. hinted at in a footnote Levine added to his own definition. and in his reference to Hike Haberland’s definition which questions such performance of excellence (Levine 1974). (Levine 1974:154) Considering this point from a slightly different perspective. or he might be adept at coining a beautiful phrase. is even more pronounced during adolescence and young adulthood. Chapter 2).

I shall now present the different aspects of bravery and inner strength as they are expressed in the narratives. among other things. It thus constitutes an actualisation of an important value in Ethiopian culture. First. and threatened them with the dire consequences of such leave-taking. The analysis of the narratives shows four major aspects of bravery and inner strength: (1) courage and heroism. from an Ethiopian cultural perspective. and are never just assumed or ‘taken’ by the young. Nevertheless. Finally. But we had that clear resolve… whoever dies will die. of wild beasts and human hurdles. (3) resourcefulness. thirst. that they thought about snakes. we referred specifically to the Gondar region where the settlement of Jews was encouraged by Major Malaku. (2) endurance and determination. we are going to go anyway. that there was hunger. We also mentioned that the government tried specifically to warn the Jews in the villages and schools against treason of that kind. Such positions are held by the elders. Bravery and inner strength in the phase of setting out The decision to set out on their emigration journey was experienced by many as an act of courage and determination since it meant being prepared to confront great dangers. They set out but were forced to return for some reason. and those who are left will arrive. most of them were aware of the mountainous trek and desert areas. within the different phases of the journey. Elazar recounts: We set out on the way with a clear decision that whatever happens to us. robbers and more along the journey. the ruler of that district. they decided to go in spite of the knowledge of the difficulty and dangers of the trek to Sudan. they decided to set off on the journey. Their narratives show that although they sometimes perceived the dangers in general terms. imprisoned and interrogated as to the purpose of their departure and their destination. Upon their return they were caught by the authorities. and (4) leadership. Thus. These correspond to the various aspects of gobez as described above. We knew. of course. A particularly dangerous situation faced those adolescents who tried repeatedly to escape. and noted that the underground movements as well were not always favourable to population movements and tried to prevent the Jews from leaving. lions and elephant herds as well as about the villagers and the shifta awaiting them along their way. for example. conquering the fear of authority and overcoming the obedient stance of the young in Ethiopian society. for a young person to assume leadership or initiate action requires. They mention.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 123 extremely structured. In Chapter 4 we noted that leaving Ethiopia was illegal and whoever did it took the risk of a harsh punishment. At times they were tortured as a .

preferred not to ask for permission at all. were refused. They interrogated me harshly for a long time. Many parents desired. they felt that they were standing up to the authorities in order to actualise their own aspirations. but to my brother I said: ‘What we have we have—and God will help us. and feared that they would get caught by government patrols or killed on the way. In order for us to understand the meaning of such an act undertaken by the young people and the demand it put upon their inner strength. they released me…but I had to sign that if they caught me again they could kill me.’ At other times they did seek their parents’ consent. Respect is a central value in . My father was always talking about returning to Yerussalem. And people started to go and were already passing through our village. And elsewhere he explains: We wanted to go to Israel. they had to sign a document which allowed their execution without trial if they were caught deserting again. I kept quiet. we must consider the status of the child and the young in the Ethiopian social order. I knew that if I asked my parents they would forbid me to leave. Yet if no proof of their plan to emigrate could be obtained they were released. but I didn’t ask for any. yet went off nonetheless. When I returned to my village. They were concerned for their safety. the government. However. So then we got organised…and ran away. therefore. on one hand. yet they were nonetheless fearful of letting them go by themselves on the dangerous trek. I signed but after a while I ran away together with my friends. Baruch says: I needed money for the journey. They asked me where I had been and I replied: ‘At my grandmother’s place’. ‘At my uncle’s place’. Many of the young.124 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH punishment for their act of treason and desertion of their country. that their children would actualise their own dream of ‘the return’. Against this background the Jews perceived their setting out as a courageous step. they captured me. If the government caught you it was very difficult. Finally. Very unpleasant indeed. sometimes even made to promise not to run away. which regulate relations with parents. and so on. We were left without money or food and had to walk back. We also got some letters from those who had arrived in Israel. The threats and the tortures did not deter them. Other manifestations of courage and determination by the young were connected with overcoming traditional cultural codes. They feared being explicitly forbidden to set out. As Rammy narrates: We were captured by shifta on our way and they robbed us of everything.

Yet the grown-ups were afraid. I know it sounds unbelievable that the children influenced their parents’ decision but that is how it was. or against their will. From the age of 6 or 7 the child learns special communication patterns to address adults. There is a strong norm of obedience and submission to authority figures. They feared they would get ‘stuck in the middle’ and therefore lose out in both worlds. They knew that it was a separation that might last for a longer period than ever experienced before. On the one hand they wanted to make aliya to Israel. to fulfil the ‘myth of return’.4 Some children and youths felt their power in their ability to persuade their parents to join the process of emigration sooner rather than later. BenEzer 1987). was therefore experienced as a daring step. are ultimately made by senior family members (the familial authority). For many young people. At our home. As they would later put it. But they were not sure that they would actually arrive. This is especially hard in view of the fact . Escaping without their parents’ consent. We started telling our parents that we wanted to go. Ethiopia and Israel. As Aryeh recounts: We always hoped to reach Israel. they in fact obeyed and fulfilled a calling of a higher order which was also conveyed by their own parents: the need to return to Israel. refusal to obey an authority figure is a rarity and is subject to punishment or results in guilty feelings (Levine 1965. The children’s single-mindedness served as the final incentive for their parents to set out.’ It made them decide to go at that time rather than wait some more. leave and then not reach Israel we would get nowhere and lose all. Then they started thinking: ‘If this child is so determined. It was perceived as an act of inner strength and mental vigour. we never stopped fermenting our dream. which was due to the fear of an unsuccessful journey. BenEzer 1987). These children sensed their parents’ hesitation. Overcoming the great pain of separation was experienced as another aspect of their strength. then when he grows up a bit more he will use his first chance to run away towards Israel. In this cultural context. including those about matters which concern the individual.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 125 Ethiopian culture. and manners of serving others in what is considered as a code of respect and politeness (chawa) (Rosen 1987. So they said: ‘If we sell all our belongings here. This dream has been embedded in Ethiopian Jewish culture and was transmitted along many generations. I would like to mention here that by escaping without consent. all decisions. the pull towards Jerusalem surpassed relations with parents and others and was a source of the much-needed strength in making such a decision. and the young are expected to obey and serve their parents and the old at all times (BenEzer 1987). It was the children’s role then to be clearly on one side.’ They wanted to go but it was a problem. In addition to that code. leaving their parents behind was a most difficult thing.

Finding people who knew the trails to Sudan and were trustworthy.’ If they could afford it. and horses to transport the old and the very young along the journey. They also prepared for the worst. They needed special clothing for the cold weather of the higher altitudes as well as lighter clothes for hot conditions prevailing in the desert sections. BenEzer 1992:149). that were not always available in their villages and for which they would need to travel to the town. Some members of the community felt their strength and resourcefulness lay in successfully preparing the logistics of the escape for many others of the community. chick-peas or bread-balls. a trial of their resourcefulness. This was expressed. as Elazar recalls: ‘We prepared a shovel in case someone died and we had to bury them. which would not be too heavy to carry and would be manageable on the mountainous trails and in desert areas. First. put it inside. like dried grain. Others tell about their financial preparations and various ways of hiding money in case they are caught by shifta: We then changed our money into bigger notes and used all kinds of methods for hiding it. as well as mechanisms for spreading the word that ‘the time had actually arrived’. They had to buy medicines. The journey was a complex operation that included much preparation. Some took chewing gum ‘which helps when one suffers from thirst’ and ‘so the children do not get dehydrated’. We even put it into our walking sticks. They prepared dried food that would last the long journey. such as razor blades for treating sick people with metaftef (the practice of blood-letting) which is believed to have a curing effect (Nudelman 1990. rolled the money. such as malaria pills. or into the shoes.5 Resourcefulness A different aspect of their experience of bravery and inner strength was the actualisation of resourcefulness. Another sees it from an even broader perspective. first of all. Another practical matter was locating people who could serve as guides and lead them to Sudan. I took out the inner core of my stick. and then filled in the stick with some other material. which was later to be used as a mechanism for helping the young in their escape. negotiating the prices as well as arranging meeting points and dates. were all. they felt. The adults included some grave responsibilities in their preparations. . they prepared all sorts of equipment: they got hold of jerry-cans for carrying water en route. One of these people tells how they set about building a Jewish school in Tigray.126 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH that familial relations in Ethiopia are extremely close and a person without a family feels incomplete. they prepared donkeys for carrying some of the gear. in planning and carrying out the practicalities of setting out. We sewed it into our shirt sleeves. especially if they went in a large group.

THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 127 connecting his involvement with the agricultural settlement in Abderafi. They blended in with this crowd as if they too were returning students. Secrecy was a key element in such a plan. They had found ways to make it appear more natural. in their closed homes. to the plans to emigrate later to Israel. Whether they went as individuals. just like that. Others sold their property slowly in order not to raise their neighbours’ suspicions. youth groups or as families. to be discovered long after their taking leave. Thus. students. government officials as well as their neighbours were on the lookout. On that day all the students who came from the villages are returning home [for the weekend]. and went with no gear. thirteen of us. Besides the confidential nature of their plans for leaving Ethiopia. and town dwellers in particular used certain measures to further protect themselves on the journey. Ethiopian Jews felt that they were tested for their resourcefulness and inventiveness in putting together a plan for leaving which ensured that they would not be caught. expecting to rob them of large sums of money prepared for the long journey. One of these measures . Some used the false excuse of a wedding in a faraway village to which they were invited. they had to use cunning and subtlety in order to ensure that their plan to escape from Ethiopia was kept secret and their extensive preparations were not exposed. That is how we were able to set out on the trail. We have also mentioned that secrecy was needed lest the shifta would be waiting for them. but there was some Christian festival and we said that we were going there. Others. So we went out on a Friday. Students used the fact that other students were returning from town to village at weekends. in our students’ clothes. the youths. the young people in particular. Most important of all. pretended that they were going to the local market to buy and to sell things. Hence we joined the stream [of people]. Ruth recounts: We were students in Gondar. As was noted in Chapter 4. and its role in assisting Jews en route to Sudan. trying to catch them as they escaped. They also invented a convincing story to tell if they were stopped en route and asked why they were on the move and where they were heading. In their effort to give a facade of legitimacy to their escape. We have seen how the Jews kept their plans secret from their own relatives in order to protect them from accusations of complicity by the government. that we were invited. In addition to selecting a proper excuse and inventing a convincing cover story for setting out. they also employed various measures to disguise the fact that they were leaving. various plausible excuses for going out of the village or area were endorsed. Tigest recounts yet another mechanism of escaping: It was not even night. Nobody knew that we were actually leaving. some just left all their belongings behind.

with mountainous treks. sometimes dangerous. I just took a handful of dried chick-peas and with that I went on the journey and arrived at Wolkite by myself. This aspect of his experience. and was conceived as a great achievement. i. Shlomo. The grave danger of sexual assault or kidnapping for sexual abuse had made them invest special and careful thought as to how they appeared on the trek and how they could best avoid these dangers. slopes and passes. It also lowered the chances of being targeted by shifta on the way. Girls and young women also tended to dress in their dirtiest and least appealing clothes in order to disgust potential aggressors on their passage. expressed. a central aspect of strength on the journey is that of endurance and determination. which indicates also how . strong currents and desert areas. I knew most of the way towards Sudan. Bravery and inner strength on the journey Once the Ethiopian Jews were away from their birthplace. In this respect it can be argued that the essence of the journey was this need to keep going. recounts: I went out on my own towards Israel.6 Many of the Jews lived in villages high up on the Simien mountains and they needed to climb down from as high as 13. Their capacity to deal with the journey consisted first and foremost of an ability to make progress on the trek to Sudan. for example. among other things. Advancing despite these deficiencies. as well as later on during their journey. comes up repeatedly in Shlomo’s journey story. one of the central images symbolising the gobez. However. This involved difficult. I started from Simien [mountains] in the direction of Wolkite. as we have seen. mainly food. The ability to surmount the hurdles and challenges of the trek. in their mind. For that goal I had nothing. Ethiopian Jews felt their powers in their ability to endure a shortage of basic needs. Everything else was subordinate to this. since these were keener on catching town dwellers who might have more possessions to be looted. Dressing as villagers meant less suspicion upon setting out.500 feet. Moreover. is.128 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH was changing their style of dress into the local one.e. courage and resourcefulness continued to play a significant part in their experience. and to go on walking. water and sleep. Endurance and determination The analysis of the narratives reveals two important aspects of this walking experience relating to endurance and determination: the first is the capacity to walk incessantly and the second relates to walking in spite of physical deprivation. to advance. and in particular the survival upon dried chick-peas alone. while walking ceaselessly. subsisting only on chick-peas while walking. a combination of physical resources with strong determination. This was not an easy task since they had to cope.

Day and night. could have made it in one week. but that he walked alone. I kept walking. They supported them.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 129 significant this experience was for him. We may also note his emphasis on the fact that not only did he survive the path on chick-peas. We continued walking! Yehuda summarises briefly: ‘The power we had! How forceful and determined we were. also recounts: ‘There were days in which we did not eat anything.’ Isaiah elaborates on his and his friend’s resoluteness in relation to sleepless walking: ‘We were young. we. all of us … we hardly slept.7 . share my food with them when needed. which he seems to consider as another form of bravery. and gave it to the people. We shall return to this subject later in this study. Yet we were helping the grown ups. often carrying them on their backs.’ Mekonen relates an experience of perseverance in the face of a different deficiency: We walked for six days without stopping. those with children who could not walk so quickly… We assisted them so that they would not die on the path…I helped. Yehuda detailed such events: The young have strength. Isaiah. with a journey of two weeks. or would assist in bringing water when we did not have any more… The water was often very far so only those who could make such a distance would run and do it. I would lend a hand to the little children. They could make the journey by running it. I did it. everybody got tired. in the desert. or built provisional stretchers to lift the elderly. which was no trouble for us…we did not rest at all. They have a lot of energy so that even if they were thirsty or hungry they kept on walking…thus.’ Elie augments this on the subject of going without sleep: ‘At night…sometimes we even fell asleep while walking but we kept on going. I would like to mention here that assisting others made the youths experience not only their strength but also their importance. I ran two or three times and brought water. I was very hungry but this hunger did not harm or immobilise me. the young. For five days we just ran. The realisation that they were essential for the survival of others—elders. I can’t grasp it even now!’ Many of the young people not only survived the difficulties themselves but also helped others. We were so thirsty… Nevertheless. mainly the elderly and young children. so we could run for the whole night. a young boy of the Gondar area. we did not give up. They carried children on their shoulders across rivers or sat them on a horse in front of them and held them while advancing. Not because of lack of strength but because of the lack of water. And on the last day. grown ups and little children—redefined their role within the community and the extended family during the journey.

a question arises concerning the sources of their powers: what has motivated them? What makes them keep on walking incessantly? Where do they find the strength to persevere? In fact. many of the very young and the elderly proved able to endure the Herculean trek. what shall I tell you. one would see very old people continuing on the pathway without rest. Old people. there were thorns of all sorts. were able to make it. There were slopes to climb up and to climb down. It is with a sense of amazement and profound appreciation that the youths recount these observations of the power of the children and the old. There was something ahead—Yerussalem—which pulled us forward. Such small children. of course. And I watched him. who did not have the physical strength. When I recall it. wearing no shoes—and it’s not a flat country. Some of these sources of strength are related to interactions within the group. these questions are asked and sometimes answered by the young people themselves while recounting their experiences. When people are able to endure hardships and deprivation to such an extent. and it seemed as if he was not walking but running. persevering with no food or sleep. very young. to go not by horse but on foot. three or four years of age. Also. it seems implausible. I saw them. I can’t believe now that this is how we had come. how they went! It is unbelievable. very old indeed. etc. memories of past experiences. By watching their endurance and determination the young people were invigorated and motivated to go on. going on foot. these older people.130 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH Nevertheless. Now this was sheer power!’ In another instance the power of the old is stressed: My grandmother for example. desires. crossing rivers with almost no support. holes in the ground and other obstacles. . using immense mental power.). and not for one day but several weeks. dreams. It was unbelievable. And they had no shoes…nothing. sometimes overtaking their parents. [For] someone that old. tremendous strength. In their stories they describe small children jumping lightly over rocks. Shlomo recounts: You would look at the little children. She was around 80 years of age. He comes back to it later on in his journey story when he refers to a specific child who stands out in his memories of the journey: ‘I saw a child. as if it couldn’t have happened. a problem in walking. whereas others are related to the inner world of the individual (such as ideals. she had. and these children just walked on it with their naked feet. overtaking his father. not showing their exhaustion. Because of that. We nevertheless succeeded in reaching the Sudanese border! This observation of the children’s strength had apparently been quite an experience for Shlomo. this is not easy! But there was a certain desire which gave strength.

to persistently continue moving towards it. the more powerful they felt. such as getting lost in the mountains. One such way relates to an aspect of the Ethiopian style of coping: the inclination to refrain from verbal expression concerning difficulties. For example. Nevertheless. all are examples of the ideal of manliness which they strove to achieve. it is perceived to be able to contain all of a person’s sufferings (BenEzer 1990. Thus. When they saw someone dragging behind. As Aryeh narrates: ‘There was plenty of pain in the feet. and motivating them to keep on walking.9 It assisted the individual in focusing on enduring the hurdles of the trek and in paying no attention to their difficulties. Their ability to relate to the obstacles and hardships of the journey in a humorous manner made them aware of their inner strength and invigorated them for what was still ahead. However. which brought a smile to their face. Among the sources of strength that relate to the individual’s inner world. they smiled and joked when they lost their way and found themselves returning again and again to the same point along some strenuous trail. we did not talk about it. they did relate the hardships of the journey. When they fell down they laughed and got up. i. Their perception of themselves thus changed.e. and an ache in the head was common. This bias towards strength and triumph over the elements served the aims of perseverance and successful coping. they used to make them laugh by telling a story which was related to this youngster. The young were helping each other by various kinds of verbal and non-verbal communication. a young boy recounts how when he realised that he had lost the trail and was suddenly alone in the forest he thought about the fact that he was a man (he was .THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 131 We have already seen how the group served as a source of strength specifically through inter-generational observations and relations. especially those connected with difficulties and hardships. the young people in particular tended to refrain from complaining or verbally expressing any difficulty in enduring the trek. however. When they walked the trails as a group. Endurance and determination on the journey was frequently felt to be part of that image. a fact that in itself influenced the way they coped with the next obstacle. The more they succeeded in overcoming the hardships. the fact that they were walking together was important also in other ways. among other things. and to maintain a calm and selfcontained reaction to emergencies. Sometimes.’ Therefore. Ethiopian culture dictates. Many tell how they found humour and laughter to be very valuable for ‘reviving the tired and the exhausted’ among them and for encouraging those who were on the verge of collapse. containment of feelings. the ability to adhere to one’s goal without getting stuck on the way. 1992: Chapter 12)8. tired and about to break down. the individual wayfarer was usually surrounded by others who seemed to be coping successfully with the difficult journey and heard less about the strain and toil involved in it. The tendency is to ‘keep things in the abdomen’ or stomach because. but it was by viewing them in a humorous way. as the Ethiopian proverb claims ‘The abdomen is wider than the whole world’. the image of manliness (within that of the gobez) seems to have played an important role.

past experiences of successfully rising above such challenges. Yerussalem. He felt. When unpleasant things did happen. motivating them to further endurance and perseverance. These memories many times served as a source of inner strength. This will be discussed later. Courage and heroism On their journey towards Sudan the Ethiopian Jews experienced themselves as being courageous and hardy. Another mechanism which assisted the wayfarers in enduring the trek and the continuous walking was their active concentration on the goal rather than on the dangers. among other ways. stopped to listen. stopped and listened again. The soldier ordered me: ‘Bring your rifle over here!’ I saw a big stone near me so I lifted it up and brought it down on the rifle. believing that this could actually mean a swift transfer to Israel. why not destroy it?’ . My father also shouted at me then: ‘Why did you break the rifle?’ I said: ‘They will take yours as well. in a refusal to obey the Ethiopian soldiers. how to use a gun and other weapons. at times even heroic. Enduring the challenges of the journey brought up. I broke it. however. by association. trying to locate sounds of human beings. whether these were Ethiopian soldiers or shifta. This courage was expressed. This was especially true when they stood up to attackers en route. Memories of childhood teachings were revived. Brehanu. at times even to the point of defiance.132 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 11 years old) and that he had to behave like one. and. in Chapter 7. These had taught them how to deal with similar challenges: how to behave when one is surprised by a beast in the woods or by hostile people on the way. They recount how they tried to avoid thinking about the dangers and to focus instead on arriving at some point on the way. Many centred their attention on reaching Sudan. He therefore tried to skilfully find his way back to the group. which served as a source of strength and motivation for enduring the trek. then went a few more steps. then.e. recounts his conduct when soldiers captured him and his group: They confiscated everything. who had served as models for their behaviour. Above all. He took a few steps. The soldier then slapped me on the face. that he should not panic but should try to do what was required in such cases. i. so instead of letting them have it. When he finally found his way back to the other people who were walking on the trail he perceived it as a confirmation of his manhood. for example. one of the ways they coped with them was by putting them in the perspective of their overall goal. getting to Israel. and so on. took our weapons. their fathers’ teachings in particular. it was the desire to reach Israel. of course. and so on. The young people were reminded of ‘learnings of power’ which they had acquired in their villages and of people with whom they identified.

they felt that they were not only defending their own fate but protecting the secret of the entire Jewish community. Now the Jews were well equipped too.10 Some were also ready to confront the shifta stout-heartedly and even to challenge them. Their courage and daring was then perceived as playing a role in the service of the group. and a few guides with automatic guns as well. with automatic guns. When they were captured.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 133 Others relate their steadfastness and boldness in facing up to interrogations without revealing the secret of their final destination. I walked very near to him. In keeping their goal confidential against all odds. In that respect it is similar to their experience of endurance and determination. with a daring challenge: ‘Shoot. But the people were intent not to give in. if you have the guts! Let’s see if you dare!’ The shifta then retreated. and the youngster explains: ‘They thought that since we were with women and children we wouldn’t fight. Shlomo. These shifta were very powerful. for example. In fact. Brehanu dauntlessly broke his gun. as one of the youngsters tells. This in turn strengthened their perception of the journey as a communal as well as a personal experience. they would claim unwaveringly that apparently they had lost their way. part of the experience of courage and bravery in these contexts was that of fearlessness. who had been known for his powers and abilities. I was feeling full of manliness. or towards a place which was close to the Sudanese border (such as Humara). Thus. All of them were well armed. many faced up to their interrogators and defended their secret destination without consternation.’ As can be seen in the examples above. Anyway. sometimes under the threat of the gun. the Ethiopian soldiers interrogated them harshly about their destination. the Jews presented them. They would stand firm against humiliation and torture and deny any possibility that they were Jews on their way to Israel. when one of the groups was suddenly faced with the shifta threatening to shoot if they did not submit. When they reacted to a situation with no fear or trepidation. they lived through an experience of personal powerfulness and inner strength while at the same time acting in accord with the value of gobez. for example. I know how to fight. The wayfarers insisted that they were just heading somewhere nearby. I felt that if anyone got injured I would take his gun and fight. If in fact they were already past such a place. . I kept close to those with the guns in order that if any of them got hurt I would fight. narrates his sense of manliness and identifies it with his willingness to fight those who attacked them: After another two days of walking we encountered shifta again. the wayfarers frequently identified standing up fearlessly and defiantly against their aggressors with manliness. And our leading guide was a very famous person. others boldly challenged the shifta. We had about thirty or forty people with their own rifles.

All of a sudden. His wife—of course we were afraid that the river would take her. But my cousin. In another case of heroism a young person had suddenly found himself with his old aunt alone on a mountain. Some youngsters. but when you looked down it was like a huge void and the water seemed like ropes dangling downwards. and this is called Takaze… So then. for example. But it was very frightening…we were crossing on a log over the flooding river that rose at times to the level of the log. ‘paying no attention to the bullets flying between our legs’. oh [in pain]. when crossing high rivers with strong currents. one was my brother. was something [pause] what shall I tell you?— was whirling powerfully. and. to call for help against an attack on their families. Boaz narrates: There we arranged it so that we could cross the river. when they lost their track at night and. Only the river separates [Ethiopia from Sudan] there. and. The river was flowing rapidly. she will remain in the river. and then the girls were left. where did he run? Towards where they shouted ‘Komo!’ And my brother went into the sea [river]. we passed. He…he completely drowned. again. She was supposed to go with us. On one side it was like a mountain of water. He was drowning indeed! He was drinking water. ‘What’s that?! what’s th-a-t?!’ The soldiers shouted: ‘Komo!’ It means ‘Stop!’ in Amharic. The river was rushing. They were watching the area.’ So the three of us went out and…we realised that the soldiers were on guard there [in a low voice]. It was even hard to look down. If any of us fell off the tree trunk that served as a bridge. in the morning. well [hesitates for a moment]. and. Their courage become heroic while performing daring acts where they saved the lives of others. and we left her with her parents. We were taking one step at a time. ran amidst the shifta who were shooting. Three of us …one was my cousin. no one could help them since the current was going down like a waterfall.134 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH Courage and indomitability were also part of their emotional experience when they tackled natural obstacles and hurdles. Heroic conduct is recounted by Amos: After three months we ran away… There is a place called Hamdite which is on the Sudanese side of the border. The struggle against the elements challenged their ability to rise above their fears and anxieties. We did not want to stop. only his . If we take her. but we said: ‘Only us three shall go. I saw him. what shall I tell you. found themselves on a dangerous point without being able to retrace their steps. He slowly carried her on his back down the slope. we were very anxious. Such tests occurred when they had to slide down an extremely steep mountain slope on their bottoms with small children on their shoulders. If we stopped they would kill us. Nevertheless we crossed and continued to walk. dauntlessly persisting on the trail while ignoring the possibility of being caught by the soldiers in the valley below. at that time we were only three.

I then returned to where I heaved him out from the river. the river took me up.’ he answers me and —do you know how joyful I was? All my body trembled out of joy. Really! Then we rested there a bit. I floated. So we were escaping. up the bank of the river. ran and ran. it can be one metre long. We didn’t know… If we headed towards the Sudanese border guards we would be killed. And we . because of my clothes. I shall not boast that I am a hero and that I went out by myself. up I climbed. when there are big clouds the river fills up. Landing on the Sudanese side of the river. Very far. And we— what a run! Do you know what a run! And then. At the end I climbed up like that [shows how. So. So I called him [whispers]: ‘Who is it? Is it you. His shoes were gone in the river. Because. on all fours]. I know how to swim but it took me far away. and half of it was left in our legs or part of our flesh was left there on the tree [bush]. But later. These thorns got into our legs. So at the end God helped me. What shall I tell you? I went to save him and got drowned myself. where am I going to find my brother?’ It was better that I stayed in the river [than lose my brother]. It took me some distance away. what shall I tell you. that is how I decided [felt] then. Yet I couldn’t see! Where was my brother? [I thought:] ‘Where am I going to find him? Almighty Ruler of the World. it was hills. David?’ He was called Desta in Ethiopia. Desta means joy. The Lehawi—they kill people. Up. But that was not the end of their experience. So each of us had one shoe. So if they find you. He passed and then the river took me. ‘Yes. And there were thorns there. It’s your end. they soon realised that the border guards were trying to hunt them down and they had to continue running away. Where shall I go then? My cousin went where the soldiers are and my brother is drowning! [Looking from one direction to another]…so I went into the river to save my brother. Maybe he would kill me if I got near him. do you know. Without any idea where the place was [the right direction]. there are those who are called Lehawi. It was God that helped me so that I came out of the river. And.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 135 head I saw. Hills. all was blood! If the thorn caught us we pulled it out by force. Because he was in the river all his clothes were black. If they find people. And the darkness of the night was absolute. Amos continues: They lit the Bauza ‘What’s that? What’s th-a-t?’ Do you know how we ran?! What a run by both of us! I gave him one shoe. that’s what they do to you [shows me a throat-cutting gesture]. You know. But all of it is full of thorn bushes. heaving him…and he crossed the river. pulling him. as you know. Then I saw something [whispers]…black. it lifted me upwards. You are turned into pieces. they have a knife. So all our body was [covered with our] blood. I mean to the Sudanese side of the border. I thought that it might be a soldier. Very black. We ran. And then I succeeded in grabbing my brother.

’ I shouted at him: ‘Come! Let’s go! I shall pull you. we didn’t have water so his throat got hoarse. the Ethiopian youngsters tell about their brave conduct and inner strength. when interviewed. when the sun came out they found themselves on a certain path. or even secondary to. to get away from there.’ What a run. adolescents would always downplay their achievements at school. I shall seize you by your hand and run. Finally. I didn’t care. They then saw a person walking on the same path. And I couldn’t hear him because of his throat. facing the challenges and tackling their enemies. In the same way. dragging his brother. Nothing else mattered. they wish to make it known that they are gobez. their bravery was just in the service of. What a run it was! Amos was running the whole night. Whether they saved their own lives or rescued others. Why do you think that we shall get out of here alive?’ And I said: ‘We shall live! With God’s help we shall live! I shall just grab you and run. We heard the shots. then. he fell down at the area where the Lehawi were. I shall pull you. In their stories. children would be considered well mannered when they refer to their abilities with an understatement. so his throat was completely dry and I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Certainly he was killed.136 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH got there. In accord with Amhara tradition of the warrior culture. In many of the narratives the interviewees tend to ascribe the successful outcome of their brave behaviour not to themselves but to God. We wanted to move from where we were. vanity and arrogance. I just continued running. ‘Is that so? Is it really so?’ Amos kept uttering in amazement. you know. We were running all night. We were running and running. once I made him fall. I am fine. They approached him and asked for directions to a small border town towards which they had thought they were running. The tendency to attribute the ultimate outcome of their actions to God could stem from a number of sources. I told him: ‘I am OK. which discourages expressions of self-satisfaction. It is He who was strong enough to protect them while they were enduring the distances. I made him fall as I dragged him. in an understated way. I just ran forward. you know. they probably killed him. but it is interesting to note that he ascribes his heroism to God. So we shall die too. This is not uncommon. Amos tells a story of heroism. for sure they killed him. Religious belief is the most obvious of these. however. I shall run forward. Then he said to me: ‘Our cousin. They were amazed. realising that he had saved both of them. We shall die here too.’ And I grabbed his hand and—what a run! You know. All that running—yet at the end we arrived where the Lehawi were. Yet it could also be related to the Ethiopian cultural dictum.’ Then he started telling me again: ‘Our cousin. It was night. Then I heard: ‘Oh-oh!’ So I said to my brother: ‘What’s that?’ Now. referring to it. God’s ability to make things happen. Where we shall arrive—I didn’t know. We heard it. Thus. but they refer to God as their source . He told them that they were already past it and were actually quite near to Gedaref. They just had to make the last leg of the road and enter Gedaref.

career and property following a decision to move from one town to another will find it easier to move on. Many refer to the fact that by deciding to set out in spite of the known dangers. and thus brought about a mindset in which people tend to be more prepared to risk everything for their goal. People describe themselves as feeling ‘lighter’ in these situations. where they were from. what facilitated their acts of courage on the journey. camps and areas of strong government control. as well as to me. their decision to emigrate had separated them from things cherished and loved. or walk in complete silence in other areas. be shrewd and cunning. Acting courageously and bravely on the pathway was. be it soldiers. and to be able to find original solutions to difficult situations. They then perceived themselves as hardy and fearless. whether they had permits for leaving. made them more prepared to risk their lives. the only thing they were left with. having less to lose. people going to war. as it was during the phase of setting out. they used various measures: they tried to walk mainly during the nights. as much as possible. In order to avoid such encounters. These included the ability to think. Resourcefulness Resourcefulness continued to be part of their experience of bravery and inner strength on their journey. During the journey they continued to use their cognitive faculties in the service of coping and survival. they were already putting their lives on the line. It seemed. causing them to perform heroically. in a sense. being less attached to things.12 They were aware of the fact that larger groups might raise suspicions. etc. and that therefore there would be a lot of questions concerning why they were on the trail to Sudan. hide when they had to cross populated areas. Their performance of courage and even heroism fortified them along the rest of the journey. or to take more risks in their new situation. paradoxically. be imaginative. invent. In addition. Ethiopian Jews experienced themselves as resourceful when they succeeded in avoiding hostile encounters.11 They refrained from walking on central trails. plan. which is probably why this exact image came up in the narrative of one of the youngsters when he tried to explain to himself. shifta or hostile villagers. . so that they could successfully dodge army posts. to an extent. There are other sources of courage that are mentioned in the interviews. and so on. just a continuation of that first decision. to be somewhat less central on their way than during the phase of setting out. taking instead roundabout paths and making long detours. government officials. to walk in small rather than in large groups. They also tried. Parting with things dear to them. and thenceforth their coping abilities were invigorated and they were able to perform in a brave or heroic manner again. however. This resembles the same way people who are separated from friends. It resembles.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 137 of power in accordance with another Ethiopian code that dictates refraining from boasting about personal abilities and achievements.

so we would have something left for further survival on the journey. they claimed that they were on their way to Humara. we could sleep as well as eat. At other times they used knowledge of the hostility between different factions in Ethiopia in the service of their own survival. tells how they used their knowledge of hatred between the shifta and the authorities by telling the shifta how much we suffered from the government. Many times. One girl tells what the grown ups did in order to stop the soldiers from shooting at their group. we’ll just wash a bit in that stream here. We will come there shortly. we told them: ‘Sure.’ Then we went back almost all the way. Others would use information about the conflict and hostility between the Sudanese guards and the shifta. we met two Christians who were passing us on the trail. especially in certain areas. and that. They needed a considerable amount of inventiveness and subtlety to succeed in coping with. as well as later escaping from. They did not mind that we would have been killed. and stories like that. You’d better continue in the meantime. in order to save them- . They often used different aspects of the political situation in Ethiopia in order to stop any attack upon themselves. Tamar describes one such incident: We were four days or so into the journey when. My uncle knew about such things. and then we shall follow. for example. At times they had to use cunning in order to avoid being detected as Jews by people on the way. ‘OK. They called out to the soldiers and told them that they were just simple people on the trek. So people asked them about a place where. the complicated situations caused by such a disguise.’ Yet after they had left we retraced our journey. merchants going to sell and buy things. When the commander ordered the soldiers to hold their fire and then started to interrogate them. For that reason. Ori.’ They then showed us the direction. thus testifying to their innocent intents. and took another trail towards Sudan. a common goal of many Ethiopians during that period. although they could not avoid hostile attacks they used their resourcefulness in coping successfully with the unfortunate and frequently dangerous ensuing situations. so they would sometimes beat us a bit less than the others. If we were to follow these men we would have put ourselves in danger. or search less for money on our bodies. one morning. and we said. That is why we said to them: ‘Sure. We might even pay you a visit when we arrive. Now this was a very dangerous location for Jews. in fact. they were with women and children.138 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH Sometimes they even posed as Christians and ‘affiliated’ themselves with a Christian village on their way in order to escape army units which were patrolling the area. or to subsequently prevent themselves from being arrested (while at the same time not revealing their true destination). They told us that we were close to such a place.

Some went in the front. One large group. with a gun. . they devised plans for escape. at the back. and by doing so they succeeded in saving their relatives. with the excuse of having to stretch a bit and move their ‘bones’ around the place. they would. Inventive thinking was also used to devise methods for facing up to possible attacks. If. A group of six youngsters. then marched at the front. The youngsters hastily decided to escape and run in the direction of the Sudanese border to inform the guards. however. They crouched under a table and devised a plan. They were arrested and imprisoned in Abderafi. One night we succeeded in getting organised quickly and escaped. others followed behind…the women and children as well as the old walked in the middle of the proceeding line on the narrow trail. If I heard that name shouted in the distance. In spite of that.] We had a code call to communicate in case something happened. as one of the members of this group relates. for instance. and some on hidden paths on the right and left sides. and hence wouldn’t allow people with guns in that area. At one time. The group was told that a decision had been made to return them to Gondar as soon as some means of transportation for such a large group became available. if we tackled shifta and they told those at the front to stop. The young. a group of Jews who had noticed the shifta approaching from the distance. with our sticks and guns. for example. Therefore. Since there were so many of them they were imprisoned in a special big building outside the regular prison.’ They then went down the river to a point where it was not likely that anyone would try crossing and where the guards were less vigilant. I knew that these were my people in trouble. leaving their guard shocked and helpless behind. for example. and crossed the border to the Sudanese side. Some youngsters quickly put to use their knowledge that the Sudanese regarded this zone as within their control (though on the Ethiopian side of the border). They saw this as their opportunity to run away.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 139 selves. There was. were captured on their way towards Sudan. ‘while they were making plans in one direction we were devising plans in the opposite direction. Others relate how they used cunning and inventiveness in order to escape from captivity by local people. Brehanu describes their method of defence if danger occurred on the narrow mountainous trails: When we set out we did not go all of us together. a relatively young person was put to guard them for a while. they suddenly disappeared into the forest. and then. was intercepted by the army in an area close to the Ethiopian border. they were caught. In this and similar situations the youths felt that quick thinking and acting was instrumental in saving their group. yet by the time they finished arguing and so on the others would arrive and surprise the shifta [laughs]. The group consisted of a few extended families who had set out from Wolkite. [Many times this was assisted by a pre-planned system of warning along these lines. It was a name.

a different image constituted a gobez in relation to endurance in Sudan. Bravery and inner strength in Sudan As life in Sudan was in some aspects so different from that on the trekking journey. This took the form of a significant and sometimes extreme shortage of food. bringing it safely to the family or the youth group. culminating in the period of the Ethiopian famine in 1984/5. secretly escaping from Sudan. who was kidnapped by a local person. but building up to it in the preceding years. Success in such an endeavour meant an experience of robustness and toughness.13 Unlike the Ethiopian part of the journey. Endurance and determination Inner strength was experienced in Sudan through the Jews’ ability to endure a period of severe dearth. in the long queues for water. This was the image of the person who can survive periods of dearth. as far as he knew. where even what they ate was at times unsuitable and far from nourishing.140 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH Others used Ethiopian cultural codes as well as known local norms to save relatives or friends from various attackers. i. that of the young person who can endure the mountainous Herculean trek subsisting on chick-peas alone. The Christian then asked if she was Elazar’s wife. water and medicine. Elazar used his knowledge of what was ‘acceptable behaviour with the Wolkite Christians’ in order to save his niece. and so his niece was saved from her captivity. the Christians of Wolkite did not use the practice of taking someone else’s wife for sexual purposes. they were weakened to such a degree that the carrying out of this task of water supply was considered an exacting exercise. where strength was needed to run long distances. After a period of holding on while enduring the severe shortage of food. and as they were particularly exhausted after a long period in the refugee camps in Sudan. Their endurance was tested for the final time while walking through the desert outside Gedaref. in spite of thirst and exhaustion. and leadership a significant aspect of their conduct. the latter lied unwaveringly. and then to be able to cross hostile areas in the camp where the water could be snatched from them by others. there was also a change in the expressions of bravery and inner strength which took precedence: resourcefulness became central. This was a somewhat similar experience to walking on the journey (even if for a shorter distance).e. overcoming this last phase of their passage tested their ability to endure. Elazar approached the kidnapper in a respectful manner and told him that. Whereas the journey towards Sudan had activated one of the core symbols of the gobez. . in Sudan it was required in order to stand for hours on end.

in particular those relating to their reason for coming to Sudan. Employing a Muslim identity was also used beyond the border point. The students used to talk about disruption of their studies due to ideological differences or forced conscription. used the Muslim period of fasting to avoid eating meat (or anything else) in the home of rich Ethiopian Christians in Sudan where she worked for a while. . Mainly. Others disguised themselves as Christians. they employed the complexities of the situation and its chaotic nature in an intelligent way to their own advantage. the need to keep their identity secret forced them to disguise themselves as people from different ethnic groups. They said: Many Jews came here. Some posed as very ill at this point. Many others felt aware of their intelligence in being able to tell the right cover story. their fields and property plundered or confiscated by one or the other of the warring camps. They were sitting with Tigrean Christians in one of the refugee camps. Words seemed to be more powerful in Sudan: one needed to think and answer quickly. and so forth. within the refugee camps and in Gedaref. In addition. the older villagers usually employed stories connected with the war in their area. the Jews were involved in many more verbal encounters. we do not know where or what is the country’s name. One of the young people depicts how people of different age groups invented different stories. It was there (in the more official border points) that they had to reply to inquisitive questions. She told them she was a Muslim and therefore was fasting during the day and would eat at night. Since the Sudanese experience necessitated innumerable interactions with other people. they believed. Daniel recounts an experience related to such a disguise. they had to find ways of hiding their Jewish identity as well as their final destination and of locating and connecting with the Israeli support and escape network. But one day a thousand Jews arrive. The Christians were telling them about the Jews. In that respect. the next day they are not here. Crossing the border to Sudan was. a special test for their resourcefulness. for example.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 141 Resourcefulness Ethiopian Jews needed to develop ways of surviving while living among a hostile population. hoping that the Sudanese would take pity on them. their houses being burnt. meant being better received by the Sudanese. We do not know where they escape and how they disappear. Being considered Muslims. to be able to lie with no hesitation. These are dangerous people. high survival value was attached to the way they managed them.14 Some said they were going to visit a Muslim friend and would mention the name of someone they actually knew or make up a name with a Muslim sound to it. as they perceived. They are leaving. They have a country. refraining from sending them back to Ethiopia and letting them enter Sudan. Marito. thus.

” And they thought that we were Christians like them. it was important that they reveal their real identity. casually mentioning a relative in Israel as well. 11 years old at the time. claiming they had relatives in such a destination. and they would light fires. They would let people see that they were doing things that are not allowed by Jewish law: they would buy non-kosher food. threw in hints in the form of one or two Hebrew words amidst the Amharic and English ones. Others observed that the Jews were the most wretched of the refugees and should particularly be helped. even meat which was not killed in the Jewish ritualised way. They would afterwards find ways of secretly discarding it. They felt themselves resourceful when they succeeded in these roundabout actions. sometimes people who had come with the purpose of checking on their identity. Some of the relief workers were Jewish themselves. You are right. Occasionally. These people were motivated by a variety of reasons. as well as to get information without giving away their true identity. which made them particularly understanding to the plight of the Ethiopian Jews (Gold 1992). Most difficult of all was burying their dead in a Christian way in order to disguise themselves. Many families used their knowledge that non-Jews were familiar with some Jewish customs in order to disguise themselves and pose as non-Jews. and then decide whether and in what way to act upon it. I refer to the fact that in some cases relief workers and Sudanese individuals were sympathetic to their cause and willing to help. Finally. In order to find out. A major reason was the conviction that if a refugee had a country that wished to admit him/her then everything should be done to help them reach that country. and this . in order to convince their visitors of their Christian or Muslim identity. They would accept visitors on a Saturday. the United States. such as Canada. no matter which country it was. Germany and even Saudi Arabia. Aryeh was interrogated by an official at Wad el Hileau refugee camp trying to find out whether they were Jews. A situation ensued whereby while in most instances revealing their identity meant trouble. even heat some food. How interesting. prepare coffee for the visitors. This point was further discussed in the chapter dealing with Jewish identity (Chapter 4).’ In the Sudanese context of secrecy the Jews were resolved not to admit their Jewishness to anyone. He hoped that if that person was indeed Jewish he would pick up on them. At times they would ask about family reunification schemes. Aryeh suspected that the interrogator was himself ‘a white Jew’ from Europe or North America. As it happened he was right. however. at times it meant a possibility of being rescued. This formed a communication challenge: one had to discover whether there was a hidden agenda in one’s interrogation. the boy. Some recount how they cunningly asked Sudanese officials about schemes for getting out of Sudan to destinations other than Israel. They used it in order ‘to confuse them’.142 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH Daniel continues to tell how he and the other Jews who posed as Christians listened carefully while trying to remain as inconspicuous in their reactions as they thought suitable in such conditions: ‘And we said: “Yes. Some times this actually got them on the right track to their escape. there were among the Sudanese a handful of individuals who were paid to help.

These Ethiopians would pose as Jews and try to make others believe them and admit that they were also Jewish. of course. such as a relative or a neighbour from your village in Ethiopia. or just a youngster who had joined a youth group and thus knew no one in Sudan. tells how. Locating the Israeli support and escape network was another challenge that demanded resourcefulness on the part of the Ethiopian Jews. mainly because the messengers did not want to wander around for too long and thus become too conspicuous themselves. or to get the passports they needed in order to get out of Sudan (through the Khartoum route). after a long time without success. as some report. because this person was most probably going to deny his/her identity You therefore needed to recognise someone whom you had known personally. It then became the task of the arriving Jews themselves to locate these messengers and connect up with the financial support system as well as to join the queue for aliya. Aryeh perceived this ability to infer something from something else and to plan quickly how to react as a manifestation of his resourcefulness. This procedure was. This was not an easy task. difficult to manage. if anyone came from a remote village and was known to no one. the arriving refugees did not identify themselves as Jews. they would not be put ‘in the queue’ for aliya until someone recognised them and confirmed that they were one of the Jewish community. they were already connected to the Israeli system.’ Excelling in their verbal ability was thus a part of their experience of resourcefulness. At other times they used some imaginative ways towards this goal. This. as he recounts: ‘I wasn’t scared…! I like to talk. Also. for example. you would need to be quite resourceful in order to get to the messengers. He hoped that Jews would come into these shops either to send their photos to relatives back in Ethiopia to show that they had arrived safely. For reasons stated above. This meant that there was no point in a person belonging to the community identifying himself or herself as a Jew to someone else s/he had recognised as a Jew. to speak in such a way. however. he finally thought of going around photo shops in Gedaref in the hope that some of the Jews would visit these shops.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 143 became a crucial point in the boy’s survival. but spread around in order to remain inconspicuous within the camps. Even families would sometimes split up and live in different parts of the camp. My father was amazed how I managed to do these things. . and through them he was able to get the support he needed. Fortunately. At times it was sheer luck that they succeeded in doing so. when the number of Jewish arrivals grew it became much less practical. meant that if you were the first of your village to arrive in Sudan. Moreover. In addition. This caused a problem for the Ethiopian-Israeli messengers trying to locate them among the Ethiopian Christians and Muslims in the crowded camps. Takaleh. After a few months he indeed succeeded in locating a family he had known from Ethiopia as they were coming out of such a photo shop. The Sudanese would sometimes use Ethiopian agents to expose the Jews and catch the messengers. they would not stay in large groups when they arrived. The messengers tried to walk around and see if they could locate relatives and familiar faces and then contacted them at night time.

We were looking for you. and the plan was that the Jews [operators—Israelis of Ethiopian Jewish origin] were supposed to wait for us and to take us to apartments they had pre-arranged for us. we managed to overcome all these [previous troubles] and to arrive in Khartoum. Shaul proved his resourcefulness both to himself and within his immediate social milieu. They were just disembarking from the bus when out of nowhere some people appeared. Well. Shaul tried to convince them by telling them of his previous trip to Khartoum. The next day Shaul and his brother returned to the station to try to locate the people who were supposed to meet them. When people [the Jews] arrive from Gedaref. We just sat there expecting someone to come but no one showed up. Then we shall spot them and catch up with them. having some extra money constituted a danger. and also—we were without any children or anything else. Otherwise we shall never succeed in finding them among the many Ethiopians who are around here. I…we [Shaul and his brother] approached them. said that if he had been in that place once he should go there again and that someone would wait for them there. when. Through his way of dealing with the whole situation. Shaul continues: Now. Both of us were a bit dressed up because of my work in Gedaref.’ We were sitting there the whole day… We sat there until evening. these operators.’ Unfortunately the operators did not believe them. it was difficult for them to identify us as the Jews. Nobody was there for us. still not convinced. We came down but no one was waiting for us. Fortunately. . After some time they decided there was no point in waiting any longer and somehow managed to find a cheap hotel for the families. the operators will come to receive them. luckily. Now. it became known in the camps that Jews were getting some support from outside Sudan. Our life was darkened. and even in towns where many refugees were residing and trying to survive. probably from Israel or ‘America’. you try to locate them but they are apprehensive of anyone who tries to find them. Because of the existing conditions in the camps. Suddenly I realised this and then I told my brother: ‘We should sit aside and wait.144 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH Shaul tells of how he succeeded in locating the Israeli agents in Khartoum: Somehow. We disembarked from the bus which took us for the last seven or eight hours from Gedaref. Gradually. and told them: ‘We are also Jews. in which he escorted a cousin of his and had brought her to a certain place where Jews lived in disguise. Shaul managed to locate the place. and thus saved his family—who by that time had been thrown on to the street by the owner of the hotel—from ending up in big trouble in Khartoum. It was only us two who had come to look for them. The operators. They had come to receive them. a group [of Jews] arrived from Gedaref.

Some of them tell how they were toiling hard in all kinds of work which they were not accustomed to in order to prove to their Christian neighbours that they were not getting money from any source other than their work. tell how they realised what was happening and found ways to circumvent it. as easy prey. Even those who were alone in Sudan. There were four or five hundred of them. those among them who succeeded in getting some financial support tried to hide this information. They used information which flowed along family ‘grapevines’ back to Ethiopia or was shared upon arrival at the border.’ The soldiers did not answer and continued to load the people on the lorries. Elie. and were considered by others. Therefore. What can you do? I am willing to stay here and work to earn the fare. the soldiers and officials used to charge them for transferring them to the refugee camps or trick them into changing their currency with them. The Jews were spread about in the camps. The Jews needed to be resourceful in order to enhance their chances of getting on to the queue for aliya as quickly and as easily as possible. There were challenges which did not relate directly to their Jewishness. and therefore could subsist somehow. who were actively enlisting people in the camps. Ethiopian Christians as well as Sudanese locals. claimed that he had no money. giving them a fraction of its value in Sudanese money. Some. you clever guy! Climb up with the rest of them. people were exposed to assaults that could lead to their death. They thought that it would be easier to locate the messengers in Gedaref and thus they would be put in the queue faster than from the refugee camp. For example. for example. Others used all kinds of excuses in order to avoid and escape the Ethiopian Liberation Front’s representatives. though. This was in fact true during a certain period. This information was not always accurate. or to a large group in the neighbourhood who could retaliate when harassed. Most of the people succumbed to this practice unknowingly. When the soldiers threatened that he would not be transported to the refugee camp he replied: ‘I have no money. Some declared at the border that they had their own means for travelling into Sudan. for reasons stated above. believing that this would allow them the necessary freedom to avoid being sent to a refugee camp and so allow them to get to Gedaref instead. and was sometimes based on rumours alone. went to look for work like other refugees. They were less ready to defend themselves as a group or to complain to any authority lest they were exposed as Jews. They used all kinds of measures in order to manoeuvre themselves as close as possible to what they believed was the best (geographical) location for setting out.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 145 Unless individuals belonged to a major group in the camps. The Jews had to avoid being drafted to their ranks without raising the question of .’ Elie felt that his quick grasp of the situation and his ability to think of a suitable solution prevented him from being abused and helped him secure his money for a more important need: the survival struggle in the camps. When everyone else was on the lorries the soldiers told Elie: ‘All right. with no family to support. but nevertheless it made them try to get to these places.

or just robbed them of their share on their way back to their hut or tent. courage and heroism were also affected by this situation: it involved. The young people recount how they resisted the soldiers who tried to kidnap the young women or take their money. that although they were sympathetic to the Front’s cause. Mostly. lifting up a stick [for fighting]. when they acted firmly it was enough to deter those who bullied and attacked them. The boy confronted him in front of his group declaring: ‘I recognise you. in the most part. We started to get control over the situation. it did not reach that point since. We began to act like others around us. So you do not frighten us even a bit!’ The leader was taken aback. the Jewish youngsters would sometimes get organised into defence groups. or pushed them from the water queue. Courage and heroism As the whole Sudanese experience was influenced by the fact that the Jews were living among people who were hostile to them and to their cause. The soldier was surprised and then ran away ‘which made us think that he might have actually been a robber disguised as an army man’. In many cases they were able to stall being drafted into these Fronts. I know exactly who you are. This gang stopped harassing the Jewish young people. the pressure was unbearable and they had to flee the area and look for another place to live. to be active. . as they report. He first checked whether the boy really knew him. Sometimes. There were times when they felt they came close to killing those who were between them and survival. Another form of bravery was verbally facing up to harassment. and when he realised that it was true he immediately took his group and hurried away. They did not use blunt refusal but delayed the time of their joining by explaining.146 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH identity. Boaz relates: After a short time we started to behave bravely…and people started to be afraid of us. and so on. People then became fearful of our small group. however. Others narrate how they opposed the constant harassment and intimidation by gangs of Ethiopian Christians or Muslims in the camps. which sounded a reasonable thing to do. Yossi recounts how a Jewish man near him even slapped a soldier in the face when the latter entered his house and tried to take his money. they would first like to recuperate from the long and taxing trek. a child would run to another part of the camp to call his relatives for help and they would rush to their rescue. when families were attacked. This had begun on the border and continued in the refugee camps or towns. With stones and sticks they would then try to scare off the attackers. These gangs would not let them get their rations of food. standing up to others in Sudan. In order to overcome these hostile acts. though. In one case a youngster recognised the leader of a gang who used to attack them as someone who was claiming another identity in Sudan. for example. Some describe situations where.

wearing galabas15 and other costumes. when a fire broke out in their area of the refugee camp. After a few months of this the commander had to go away for one day. and he portrays how they disguised themselves as Arabs. and then the boats sailed to the Israeli Red Sea port of Eilat. One of the youngsters reports how he was caught. Then they signalled quickly to boats in the sea. They drove at night. and led a large group of people in lorries hundreds of miles to the north. sometimes using side roads and then paths in the desert area. The boy felt he was not going to comply and stay in the dangerous area. Aryeh was one of these youngsters. and smuggling them into the towns where they stood a better chance of survival. In many other cases they would defy orders which restricted their movement or their travel from the refugee camps into the towns. they met with Israeli marine commandos who were waiting for them. The boy tells that they had no other alternative but to kill them. relatives in particular. He narrates how one of the community. together with his friends. found a spot where it was dark so that no one could see him. the youngster seized the opportunity and. providing the wayfarers with lifebelts and taking them in small groups to the larger boats that awaited them. and then climbed the fence and jumped over to the other side. ran away again. . yet swiftly and silently overcame them. Being part of this network of rescuers. sometimes tortured or humiliated. whereupon rubber dinghies approached the shore with more commandos. swift operators and commandos boosted Aryeh’s self-esteem and made this adolescent boy feel that he was a hero risking his life for what was most important of all—getting the people to Israel. These Bedouins first threatened to shoot the people and then tried to force them to pay ransom money for keeping silent about the reason the fleeing people and the commandos were there.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 147 Others refused to obey orders or instructions which they perceived as putting them in danger or preventing them from improving their chances of survival. At this point a problem arose: they were suddenly faced with two Bedouins who had spotted them by chance. the guard at the gate would not let them get out. Arriving at a pre-planned point near the beach. tricked them. but nevertheless tried to escape again. They were hidden until all came aboard. on the shores of the Red Sea. They could not endanger the lives of everyone and that route of escape by trusting that the Bedouins would not try to doublecross them and to make more money by reporting their whereabouts to the Sudanese authorities in the area. At times they would be caught. Yossi narrates how. He went further away along the fence that surrounded their area. They told the Bedouins that they were going to pay. together with some of his friends. At other times their courage and bravery was expressed through saving others. Bravery also reached the level of heroism when they participated in the rescue operation in which the community was brought out of Sudan. from the camps where conditions were very poor at times. They headed towards a certain point near the town of Port Sudan. Then he was ordered to present himself daily in the commander’s office so that he could not run away. together with one Israeli commando. and was beaten and ridiculed by the Sudanese commander of the camp.

and were taken to a refugee camp closer to the Ethiopian border with the intention of deporting them back to Ethiopia.148 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH I may add that even younger children would sometimes share these heroic sentiments. We may then be able to consider the leading roles undertaken by young people during the journey. The Jews were warned that whoever tried to escape would be severely punished. Their instructions were to try to protect their secrets for just a day or two. grandparents or women and small children—and lead them to safety. or they would initiate actions to secure other people’s survival. nevertheless. Leadership Another aspect was the ability to find within themselves enough mental powers and resourcefulness to be able to lead others. The adolescents would take responsibility for others—parents. who were acting as operators. the captured operators would try to hold their secrets as long as they could. Elie remembers one soldier even telling them that ‘We will cut off your right hands if you move from here. It so happened that on that night they were caught by the Sudanese. Leadership played a greater part in their experiences of Sudan than on the journey. Elie tells that when the death toll rose in the camp of Um-Rakuba he led his family and others to Gedaref. from their point of view (probably through identifying with their kin) they were part of the heroic operation. Nor was it possible in many cases and at certain periods for whole families to find a new home fast enough. They would direct their relatives from a refugee camp to a town or from points near the border to places further on the Sudanese route towards Israel. that it would be impossible for all the distributors and operators to disappear from the area so that the Sudanese would not catch them. Hence. I here take the point of view. Yet they knew that even two days would not be long enough. A different kind of heroism was experienced when operators or messengers were caught and tortured by the Sudanese and still did not reveal the details of the secret support and escape network. The group would thus let this individual lead it out of the condition. The camp authorities were told by their captors that these were Jews trying to escape to Israel and thus should be watched. He insisted that they . These will be seen. Elie was not deterred. sometimes even for months.’ However. to allow the network to reorganise itself and move people around. Their experience was highly valued and appreciated by others and the community indeed considered them to be heroes. that leadership is an expression of the interaction between personal skills and the situation the group is going through (as opposed to theories which view leadership only as a personality trait). following a central approach in social psychology. These were children who joined their older brothers or their parents. as the ability by different youngsters (and others) to bring in a particular skill relevant to a specific situation with which the group was faced at that time. according to such a theory. where he intended to rent a house for all of them. enduring the stupefying torture.

who congratulated him for saving their lives and enabling them to arrive in Israel. would take the risk of showing them a part of their way back. all of the youngsters were very distressed. They dreaded the possibility of their identity being exposed by the Sudanese. They were sitting and wailing. Almanesh continues in her account: ‘Somehow. how strong we are. and later to Israel. So I took care of them as much as I could. in one way or another. a delirious friend or a pregnant woman. Therefore they usually refrained altogether from approaching the clinics for help. The Jews learned that approaching the clinics also meant that they would be asked for personal details and some family history for diagnostic as well as administrative reasons. Death was ruling the camps and the conditions were extremely difficult. They saw me as a parent or an older brother to them. Following the loss of sisters and brothers. But then one of them stood up among the crying group and said: I am proud of what we have come through.’ At times when the situation became emotionally unbearable. At night Elie organised the crossing of the river in a small boat and led his relatives from the camp to Gedaref. We should all be proud of ourselves for our resilience and inner strength in going through the bad and the good. for a significant sum of money. He then found a local person who. especially in relation to his peers and the younger children. Some of the young people. His courage and bravery as a leader were felt not only by himself but by his relatives. his words carried us through the situation and we started to look at it in a new light. . to secure a safe hospitalisation for a sick person: a little girl and her mother. parents or grandparents in Sudan. however. tell how they took the initiative and managed. When other family members expressed concern over the soldiers’ warnings he argued insistently that they would not survive where they where and that they just had to go on. a fact that resulted more than once in death. In these cases these adolescents organised a round-the-clock vigil of a few assertive young Jews near the sick person so that she or he would not have to be concerned about dealing with the clinic’s staff or other camp authorities.’ Their ability to lead was also experienced when the young people succeeded in arranging medical help for the very sick among the community within the refugee camps. Ethiopian or even the European workers in the clinics. one of the youngsters would take a leading role and cheer others up. Referring to his role as a leader in this and other instances. Look how we have coped. Almanesh recounts how at one time suffering became intolerable for her and her adolescent friends. living through happiness and hardship alike. where they stood a chance of being taken to Israel. Hospitalisation in the camp’s clinic was a complicated issue for Jewish people.THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 149 should try again to reach Gedaref. When such an operation was successful. Elie explains: ‘They did not have a father and mother there. They believed that it would put them and their families in even more danger than their illness.

it enhanced their perception of themselves as being capable of leadership. upon arrival. and in bringing them safely to Europe and then on to Israel. Obviously. I refer in particular to those whose escape route was via Khartoum. The adolescents who succeeded in leading the people in Khartoum. . They would also. and felt sure of their powers and their ability to lead. As happens in situations of uncertainty. one which was essential for the group’s survival. made them feel that they were privileged members of a highly select leading group. or were pointed out by the Gedaref operators. Another aspect of leadership in Sudan was expressed in the ability of adolescent boys to protect the girls and women from the dangers that awaited them. he would put an adolescent boy in charge of the women and little children. mainly the constant threat of being kidnapped or sexually abused. On occasion. which was very important for that last part of their journey. explained to the old and the very young how to use the aeroplane toilets and other facilities. Moreover. Those who were selected to be part of the secret support system and had become distributors experienced a leading role within the community. the operators in Khartoum needed people who could lead the groups of Ethiopian Jews throughout their flights to Europe and represent them within the aeroplanes and in the various airports. At other times they were just picked in haste during the few hours of cautious waiting in an area near the airport. won the admiration of the operators as well as of the group. and so the boys had to take care of buying food and managing the other aspects of their survival. In Gedaref. These adolescents were given specific tasks: they were in charge of all the passports.150 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH especially when a very ill or even a dying person was saved.16 Some of the young people led others during the last phase of the ‘Sudanese period’. Their closeness to the Israeli source. Adolescents were selected to lead others on public transport to the capital. either because of the way they handled themselves in a situation or according to some special resource at their command. The operators were looking for young persons they thought would be up to the task. More often than not they were spotted in Khartoum. They realised that they were indeed providers of an important service. responded to questions . when someone needed to return to Ethiopia to bring out the rest of the family. most girls refrained from walking the streets in fear of being kidnapped or otherwise attacked. such as English. The adolescents were sometimes chosen on the basis of their conduct during the few days in close compounds before being transported. the members of the group they were supposed to lead felt very dependent on these young leaders and therefore directed any question or problem to them to solve. lead the group in the European airport and were responsible for showing the pre-agreed sign which identified them as a Jewish group to the operators on the European side. and the fact that they had access to some privileged information concerning the Sudanese situation in general and the progress of the rescue operation in particular. these young people had never previously experienced flying in an aeroplane.addressed to them by the crew. that of escaping from Sudan.

’ He then continued: ‘In their faces I saw full agreement to that sentence. Brehanu recalled: When we went out of Ethiopia. It is interesting to see how these themes are brought together under one image which is developed and consolidated during the journey and which turns into a core symbol of it: that of the Israelites’ Exodus out of Egypt. the haste in which the food was prepared reminded me of my father’s stories of how the Israelites prepared their matzot [unleavened bread].’ He replied: ‘This is true. recounts how they had been safe on their way because the clouds covered them: . the mythical story of the Exodus of the Israelites. A major aspect of this ceremony is the reading of the Haggada. there are three central themes within the Ethiopian Jews’ narratives of the journey: Jewish identity. a 9-year-old girl. When Shaul reached that passage he said to them: ‘I don’t have to explain to you what it means to go out of Egypt. These themes constitute the major dimensions of meaning of the journey. and bravery/inner strength. and was invited—though he was still very young—to lead the Passover ceremony for fellow Ethiopian Jews who had just arrived. There was a lot of excitement and emotion on their faces. I said to my father: ‘This is like the Exodus out of Egypt. They had really felt the Exodus out of Egypt. Shaul describes a particularly moving experience when he had already been some years in Israel. It is exactly the same.7 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY Psycho-social issues Meaning and coping As we have seen. At a certain point every person present is asked to feel as if he or she were the one going out of Egypt. suffering.’ Marito.’ Other interviewees associated various experiences on their journey with those of the Israelites in the desert. and it is good that you recalled it. The Ethiopian Jews perceived that they were reliving the myth of the original Exodus of their ancestors the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt.

handed down over the generations. Ethiopian Jews saw themselves.152 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY It was summer then. in terms of a process of selection and purification. thirst and epidemics. a stream or a river. yet all the time that we walked. sickness and death. like the Israelites. in response to the suffering and misfortunes of the journey. The Israelites wandered for forty years in the desert. where no one would then be able to distinguish between river and sea’. In essence this is a story of becoming. for all those who doubted God’s power would perish in the desert. would enter the land of Israel. They leaned on His power to make things happen. In my view the special place given to this aspect of the ancient myth derives from the central role of purity and impurity within Ethiopian Jewish culture. of their passage from slavery to freedom.1 They also saw themselves as ‘a drop. It ensured that only the righteous. black people dressed in white gowns. They believed they were led and guarded by God while going to His chosen land. According to the Bible. where only righteous people. facing obstacles. As in the ancient myth. The story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt to Israel is considered by many to be the central myth of the Jewish people. In Israel. as ‘a land of milk and honey’. on its way to the sea. Thus. Since the right to enter ‘Yerussalem’ was reserved for the righteous only. like the Israelites. God puts the cloud between the Israelites and the pursuing Egyptian army so the Egyptians cannot find them. they committed acts of bravery and showed their inner strength in making the journey. They made better sense of the obstacles on their way. and it is a process of selection of those who deserved to enter the land of God. We said: ‘God is making this happen. they would ‘feel more complete’. and the Israelites cross the Red Sea in safety. His chosen people. It was during that time that the Israelites ‘encountered’ God and became a people. Some Bible scholars also interpret it as a process of transformation from the mindset of slaves to that of free people. They had set out with the Utopian image of Israel.’ The ensuring of safety by means of clouds is a known theme in the original Exodus story: for example. enemies. as well as of the harsh conditions and loss of life in the refugee camps in Sudan. They too were on their way to becoming Israelis. Ethiopian Jews too believed that their journey served as a process of selection and purification. among fellow Jewish people. lived: a place where all troubles would come to an end. the hardships were seen as a system of selection and purification through which the worthy cleansed themselves of sins and wrong-doings and proved their righteousness. This belief seems to have developed on the way. hunger. as walking through an unknown land. while at the same time. according to some . we were covered by clouds so that the sun never touched us. during which time they encountered enemy attacks. a very intense summer. Purity/impurity rules played an important role and were. this long period of wandering and suffering was designed by God as a test of faith. those who are deserving. whenever we were out of the bush.

Furst 1967). their Jewish identity.2 Many researchers and practitioners have indicated that ideologically motivated people cope better with difficulties and stressful life-events. a political ideology. and can use this to explain to themselves their encountering of hardships. Dawes 1992. Hence the Christians called the Jews ‘the people who smell of water’ or. one of the major characteristics separating Jews from Christians in Ethiopia (Kahana 1988. 1993). Dynes 1991). Jews returning to their village after contact with Christians or other non-Jews were expected to observe the attenkun custom of purification through immersion (literally meaning ‘do not touch me’). Trauma The concept of trauma does not have a straightforward definition. Their suffering thus acquired the meaning of confirming their identity. also helped them in coping with these hardships. ‘stink of water’. pejoratively. women used a special hut during menstruation and were separated from the rest of the village. or some other goal—fared better in Nazi concentration camps than those who had no such cause.e. For example.THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 153 researchers. The symbol of the Israelite Exodus. Summerfield 1992. Reynell 1989. Psychologists. suffice to say that psychoanalysts and psychologists use the term to denote two main meanings: . This ideology. I shall not attempt to add theoretically to the concept or even to discuss in full its lack of clarity. also served to connect them to their origins during a time of great change. who cannot use this reasoning (Punamaki-Gitai 1992. These rules affected everyday familial relationships. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning (1970). which wove together the three themes of the journey. i. The meaning of the journey and their capacity to cope with it thus became interrelated. Trevisan-Semi 1985. psychoanalysts and researchers use it in a variety of meanings (Levine 1999. a vision of the world they wanted to achieve. It has also been argued that enduring pain and loss is facilitated when conceptualised as part of a group experience.3 It seems to me that their Jewish identity and the image of the Exodus served as an ideology for Ethiopian Jews. a time when they were ‘going out of their known structure’ (Turner 1969: Chapter 4). 1991. Victor Frankl describes how people with some motivation to live—whether it be a cause to fight for. according to biblical rules. in contrast to those merely trying to survive in the camps. The supportive and protective function of ideology is also illustrated by Bruno Bettelheim in TheInformed Heart (1970) and by Jerome Frank in Persuasion and Healing (1961).4 It reconfirmed what was most important to them in this situation of liminality (Van Gennep 1909) and the reason for their migration. which helped them make better sense of the harrowing hardships. Recent research and observations in refugee camps in different parts of the world have shown that adolescent refugees show less symptomatology when they belong to an ideological movement. Summerfield and Toser 1991. Sandler et al. For the purposes of this study. in contrast to an individualised perception.

even if it is an experience with which they had come to terms. These signals of traumas within the narration are listed below.6 For some adolescents. Ahearn 2000.154 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 1 an event that happened in the external world together with the way it was subjectively experienced. Lacy-Rogers et al. BenEzer 1999). traumas are related differently from the rest of the story. in Mollica’s Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) (Mollica et al. as will become apparent later in this chapter. pointing out an event as being extremely distressing or wounding. but. I hope. Either one event or a series of painful events constituted these traumatic experiences. Sandler et al. meaning. Zur 1999. 1999. no claim is made here to have a mechanism for ‘diagnosing’ trauma through narratives. The meaning employed will become clear. Leydesdorff et al. It is worth adding that in many of the cases there is a combination of two or more of these narration signals of trauma within the account. 1999. I would like to suggest that when an interviewee is recounting a traumatic experience. The concept of trauma can be conceived in the context of the present study in the first sense mentioned above. traumas were detected through their narrative signals. within each context.g. These dimensions of meaning (Sandler and Sandler 1983. e. it will still produce particular forms of expression in their narratives. In other words. How are traumatic experiences detected in this study? As it is a study of narratives. the whole journey experience was coloured by their traumatisation. which was accordingly perceived mainly as a traumatic experience. Eleven of these narrative signals of trauma were identified within the present study: • Self-report A report by the individual that a certain event was traumatic (carries a traumatic significance through its related emotions. It is merely a detection of the ways in which traumas are expressed within them. 1992) and in many others (Agger 2000. 1991) can also be found in the literature on refugee trauma as. However.5 the external and internal reality are put together through the common reference to a ‘traumatic state’ or ‘situation’ which is their nexus. 2 some pathological consequences which are interpreted—through extrapolation backwards in time—as having been initiated by the trauma. also in the formulation which relates to its pathological consequences. Ethiopian Jewish adolescents experienced traumatic events on their journey. This may also take the form of reporting an ‘image of ultimate horror’ (Lifton 1979)— an event or a ‘scene’ which serves as a symbol of a series of traumas experienced or . or consequences). telling of its special painfulness. or referring to its particularly negative (and/or long-term) unsettling effects on the individual. for example.

8 Long silence A long silence either before or after the narration of a certain event or a particular part of it. or without some ‘shaking’ of themselves (sometimes physically as well as ‘emotionally’). Repetitive reporting Retelling a distressing experience in its entirety. Also not being able to emerge without the help of the interviewer. due to its particular meaning for the individual. and there are clear signs that the person ‘is not here’. he or she is completely immersed in the traumatic event. as if suffering from what has been described in the literature as ‘psychic numbness’. guilt. as if the narrator is unable to move on. rather. Intrusive images Scenes or images of a traumatic event. —which is not a characteristic of this person’s recounting. or one event. which seems to have a particularly painful or tormenting quality for the individual. as if ‘falling’ into oneself. This is often expressed as an extraordinarily extended period of silence. as if there is a ‘forced detachment’ due to its traumatic quality. as if trying to climb out of a hole.7 A ‘hidden’ event An event which was not narrated in the main story but comes up during the probing phase. or verbally expresses uneasiness. The difference between this and the long silence described above is that this one seems to be without an end. These traumas are thereby represented by one which is related as being the most horrifying of them all. such as crying. etc. being submerged and overwhelmed by the event in the middle of recounting it. Losing oneself in the traumatic event ‘Disappearing’ from the reality of the interview amidst narration of a traumatic event. which seem to have had a horrifying quality or consequences for the individual. which come up involuntarily throughout the process of narration as a kind of quick ‘flash’.9 Emotional detachment or numbness Reporting a series of events. Loss of emotional control Sudden loss of control over emotions relating to an event which is being narrated—sobbing. while admitting the recurrence of that image. time and again. but with no emotions involved in the narration. the individual then seems to be staying rigorously within the verbal mode of reporting (frequently with constancy of tone of voice and ‘frozen’ facial expression and body gestures). clearly distracting the person’s train of thought and interrupting the intended flow of the narrative. maybe a ‘mental hole’ they fell into because of recounting the trauma. isolating it from the emotional life of the individual.THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 155 witnessed. which is in contrast to his/her style of narration in the rest of the account. accompanied by emotion/s of a distressing sort which were not previously expressed in the story. grief. ‘not with his current self. . or a particular fraction of it. or an extraordinary reiteration of its minute details. etc. not engaging their feelings at all in this act. shame. The person sometimes ‘apologises’. rage.

The person will find it difficult to construct a story for him/herself that will include the trauma in a ‘manageable’ way (so that s/he can successfully ‘sail through it’). The process underlying this inability to narrate could be understood as follows: as long as a trauma remains alive. A person may ‘turn into’ him/herself by . The tone of the voice. or until comforted and relaxed by the interviewer).e. but at any event it will be different from the person’s voice while telling the rest of the story. This may be indicated in relating to the interviewer as if he or she were a figure within the story. If repeated attempts at narrating fail.10 • Cognitive-emotional disorientation Characteristically. typically at the starting point of the narration. therefore. In such cases. the person will have difficulty in placing it as part of his/ her life history. (i. It may turn quiet.11 • Inability to narrate a story at all Wishing to narrate it but getting stuck. its pitch or its ‘colouring’ will change while narrating a traumatic event. What he means is that the boundaries between the experiencing self —that of the event—and the constructing self— that of the present (in fact a reconstructing self)—cannot be maintained. The trauma will still be too emotionally (psychically) charged for that to happen. not processed. one has to resort to a question and answer mode of interview. the life story cannot be narrated. yet continuing to recount the event or uttering unintelligible words in trying to express oneself until breaking down in tears or coming back ‘to their senses’. and will interfere with any recounting of the event to others.12 Changes in voice and body language The narration of trauma is often accompanied by changes in voice and body language. blurring the boundaries between the event being recounted and the situation of participating in the interview. In such cases this will also affect the life story as a whole. The argumentation seems to reflect a wish to prevent an independent conclusion by the interviewer about what happened. shouting at the interviewer as though in answer to an interrogative figure within the narrative. Roy Schafer (1981) argues that when we tell our life story to others we are always telling it to ourselves as well.156 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY • Forceful argumentation of conduct within an event Arguing the reasons for behaviour within a situation instead of telling the facts. An inability to tell it to ourselves therefore prevents us from narrating it to others. without the ‘as if quality that is sometimes used in recounting. as if the traumatic quality of the event is connected to the person’s conduct in that situation which s/he feels s/he should justify. they will keep dissolving. or the opposites of these. This mode of questioning will also circumvent the particular contents of the trauma (unknown to the interviewer at first). or by the narrator’s loss of sense of exactly where he/she is. Facial expressions and body posture may also change while recounting a traumatic event. within the story as well as in reality. it may become hoarse. active.

Mahler 1979. and thus of their traumatic or non-traumatic signifi-cance. exposed the adolescents and made them more prone to traumatisation. Separation affected them because it made them experience the journey without the particular and almost irreplaceable support that the proximity of parents normally gives to children (Bowlby 1980. suffering the loss of someone close. The shock of arriving in Sudan and discovering that it was not Jerusalem was a second factor affecting their vulnerability to trauma (cf. witnessing any or all of these in others. as stated above (Chapter 5). they are more emotionally refuelled15 within the intensive relations of the Ethiopian family and. Some may clutch their legs strongly together. Children therefore were not accustomed to handling their social (multigenerational) world and making decisions by themselves regarding things of major consequence. which demoralised them significantly. by their verbal and non-verbal responses parents also interpret the environment for their children. Robertson and Robertson 1971. Chapter 5). 1951. Or they may cover their trembling lips with their hands. parents supply children and adolescents with a feeling of safety which affects the way they deal with events and whether events are experienced as traumatising. subjection to hunger. where decision-making is maintained by familial authority. into the matter of dealing with postponement. but then give way to crying. experiencing a total inability to walk any further. It turned the immediate gratification of getting to Israel. jointly or repeatedly. non-verbal signals for detection of a traumatic event during the act of narration. and the second was the shock following the realisation that they had to stay in Sudan for a long period. Moreover. the individual often feels incomplete when separated from his or her parents for a long time.THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 157 adopting an ‘embryonic’ posture on the chair. as if ‘wrapping one around another’ during the whole recounting of the trauma and then release them again. therefore. Moreover. Separation. trying to control their emotional expression. All these serve as additional. thus lowering the threshold for traumatisation. and end when the narration is completed. see Morris 1977). thirst or what seemed to be fatal disease. 1960. let me underline two aspects of the journey which were both sources of trauma and raised the overall level (‘base-line’) of pain. signifying pain (a universal genetically based posture of humans when experiencing pain. suffering persecution and torture. Specific gesticulations of the hands also appear sometimes during the telling of traumatic experiences.13 Besides protecting them against real dangers. Parents supply the children with the meaning of occurrences. BenEzer 1985). The use of the above-mentioned methods to detect traumatic experiences in the Ethiopian Jews’ journey stories reveals that these were brought about by a range of situations. which they were expecting when they reached Sudan. Before discussing specific traumatic experiences in detail.14 Parents and family served as an even stronger protective and supportive layer for the individual child in the Ethiopian context. whether as a single incident. It also raised questions in relation to the wisdom of their initial . The first aspect was the separation from parents. These include: life-threatening situations.

the suspected Jews would have to light a fire on the Sabbath. knowing that in order to host them properly and respectfully. They wanted to . but also lowered the overall resistance of the adolescents to potentially traumatising events occurring on the journey and in Sudan itself. At one point ‘He sent us His cloud in order to shield us from the burning sun. which is a very serious sin for a Jew. family disintegration.’ Marito continued to observe Jewish laws throughout the journey. She was a devout Jewish believer. Tena was constantly ‘on the edge’ in Sudan as she had previously gone through a traumatic separation from her two little children. Traumatisation. and perceives her mental state as a direct result of the enforced separation from her children. Following are six examples of trauma experienced by the young persons. They came to visit them on the holy day of the Sabbath. separation. so that an additional traumatic experience had brought her beyond her breaking point and very close to death. based mainly on the tormenting separation with its taxing of emotional energy due to its unresolved nature. She refused to eat anything16 and spent six months ‘between death and life’. although she was not obliged under Jewish law to do so at her young age. The meaning given to any of a series of events is related. priorities and sensitivities. some people were trying to expose their identity as Jews. and put the sacrifices they had already made in a new light. One day. They had to be left behind in Ethiopia. and imbued with. trauma related to Jewish identity. to one’s life history and personal biases.158 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY decision to set out. The meaning of that separation for her had become unbearable in Sudan. While illustrating these major areas of traumatisation I shall try to clarify the subjective experience and meaning of the traumatic event for each individual. Marito exemplifies a traumatic experience that is connected to the spiritual aspect of life. God was a significant presence in her young life. guiding and protecting the group of walkers. even though she had had practically no choice. she broke down completely and had visions of her children falling into various places and getting killed. when they were already in Sudan. ‘I went crazy. as she explains. Marito and her family had no choice. Separation from parents and the shock suffered on arriving in Sudan were therefore not only sources of trauma in themselves for some of the group. These include experiences of death within the family. She was 9 years old when she started the journey with her family. Following an incident where she was in danger of being sexually abused (although this did not actually materialise). among other factors. She was constantly worried about what might happen to them in Ethiopia and was feeling terribly guilty about leaving them. is related to. Since the age of 7 she had fasted on Astessaryo (the Day of Atonement) and other Jewish dates in the calendar. Many of the events of this journey would have traumatised anyone who had experienced them. Along the way she continuously and strongly felt that God was watching. the meaning of the event for the individual (Garbarino 1992a. however. She did it. humiliation and violation of body boundaries. Klein 1976).’ she says. ‘so that I would deserve to arrive in Jerusalem’. although it was not at all easy. Tena’s case is thus one of cumulative trauma.

that this event was not recounted in the first phase of the interview. At times he still rubs his eyes as if trying to block another tide of tears. It is hard [silence]. this incident has become traumatic. When asked about deaths on the way he became silent and then recounted: My sister’s son. but he is still very much immersed within himself and does not hear it. loved him and. She was married but had no children of her own. When she set out on the journey her eldest sister asked her to take her 13year-old daughter (Rivka’s niece) with her to Israel. his eyes become wet. The story only came up in the probing phase of the interview.THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 159 survive. only girls. Yoav. Wolkite. It is interesting to note that this experience would also be the yardstick by which she would measure her encounter with Israel and whether it was worth this sin. I do not know the cause of his death. A child. After another long silence he seems ready to continue. Rivka agreed to do it. There was a problem. A very long silence ensues. and she also loved the girl as if she were her younger sister. but he still seems far away and answers a different question. Nevertheless. I do not know. apparently it was too painful. A different kind of traumatic experience is connected to the disintegration of the family that resulted in changes of roles and responsibilities. The sister was very attached to this daughter. you grow up with him. the boy was his sister’s only son— she had not had another child since. There is a very long silence. While telling me about the experience she conveyed a deep sense of guilt and remorse which she finds hard to overcome. I was there [in Sudan] when he died. are fond of him. and suddenly—[silence] especially to the family. a 13-year-old boy from the village of Keftah. He cannot continue his story. As it was a request from her eldest sister. I do not think…’ Yoav stops. He remembers: ‘We needed to bury him. it seems to me. Hard. For Marito. most distressingly as he perceived it. Yoav stops his story. He just raises his head asking: ‘Eh?’ [Pardon?] I repeat myself. Rivka was 24 when she started on the journey. of her devoutness and of the constant presence of God in her life. went through the traumatising experience of death within the family. she wanted her daughter to have a chance at a better life in Israel and was unsure when she herself would be able to set out because her husband’s parents were old and sick. It is not surprising. they do not have [another] son. and she found the separation very difficult. He did not recount it at first. He lost his nephew during their stay in Sudan. She knew how special this girl was for her sister. he begins to sob. Yoav grew up with the boy. who was very beautiful. this should not surprise us. whom she respected almost like a parent. I try to help him by gently asking a question. he was three years younger than I [pauses]. however. It was a grave responsibility and Rivka was determined to look . They lit the fire. one had to look for a place and so on. He empathised with her pain at the loss of her only son among six girls. After a long cry he ‘rolls’ into himself and keeps silent. When we think of the significance of Jewish belief in her young life.

he took out a pair of big scissors and told his people to shave my hair. She told her story with no emotion at all —no emotional expression on her face or in the sound of her voice. they found a chaotic situation: refugees everywhere. Because…the commander said all kinds of things to me [insults related to his Jewishness]. The girl was left behind. Her turn to go to Israel finally arrived but she wouldn’t go. Difficult. because he was so angry at her for leaving his daughter in Sudan. Nevertheless. she decided to go.160 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY after the girl during the journey and guard her from all harm. And so they started. attempting to confine herself and her sister’s daughter to the tent or its immediate surroundings. beaten and accused of being head of a shifta gang. I was frightened but even more I was angry. Then people were dying around her in great numbers and she herself became sick as well. Prostitutes were all around. and when I approached him. doggedly. One day. She tried to manage as best she could. two of his men. At night the camps turned into ‘a different place’.’ And this repeated word expressed it all. She would not let herself pause on any moment of her journey. the girl vanished. who were the least organised group there. and even during daylight the situation was dangerous. through the thousands of refugees. just the repe-tition of the verbal uttering: ‘Difficult. She had no one to turn to. the prison commander came. Unfortunately they were captured by the Sudanese and imprisoned. Restraining her emotions in relation to the trauma is her central inner task and she keeps to it like a dedicated guard to her post. He continues his account of the event: Then. Rivka asked some people around what had happened and they told her they saw the girl being led away by some fierce-looking young men. called me. Daniel was shouted at. famine and disease. the girl was discovered but could not be recovered. especially for the Jews. and she witnessed people being knifed and killed daily. fearing that she would soon die. Rivka waited in hope. The heat was unbearable and they had to go looking for water. which was always filthy and of which there was never enough. she mentions. What could Rivka do? She could not complain to the Sudanese police because she feared that it would mean exposing her Jewish identity. one started here [points to one side of his head] and the other—[silence] they took off all my . Her turn came for the third time and. It was later assumed that they were of the Tigrean community in the camp. Arriving in Sudan. this knowledge did not help to bring the girl back. These Tigreans would not let her go. Daniel experienced a trauma related to humiliation. as if in passing. At the end of her narration. Rivka exemplifies what seems to be a condition of psychic numbness following an extremely traumatic event. coming back from the water-carrier. he tried to escape with a group of friends from the Um-Rakuba refugee camp to the town of Gedaref. that her brotherin-law has never written to her since. During their stay in Sudan. She searched the camp up and down. when the taperecorder is not working any more. on the second day there. She was too beautiful and they had sexually abused her. At the end. She kept looking for the girl.

and feel his helplessness against it. I suffered very much. and migrants in their transition process. they keep being [hurtfully] spoken in your mind.’17 Humiliation was therefore at the heart of his traumatic experience. Daniel used to be an excellent pupil. it is not curses alone that we are concerned with here. The experience of intended humiliation by another human being constitutes for many individuals a ‘narcissistic hurt’ of an immense magnitude which trau-matises them. In my view this subject of humiliation as a distinct source of trauma is insufficiently dealt with in the literature on children in war. In this study it comes out as a common source of trauma. This is the worst—I suffered worst. belonging to an enemy country (Israel) and to a rival ethno-religious group. Some biographical facts which were related in the narrative interview add to this understanding. It has destabilised and scarred his self-concept. They cursed me with all kinds of curses [talks very quietly] and so on—and later [long pause] the sun was. then they could do as they wished. As he puts it: ‘My parents called me “Gobez”…that is the opposite of what I am. On that day I thought of my parents. It seems to me that the shaving of his hair was a severe narcissistic blow for Daniel.’ Of course. refugees. and also culturally different. perhaps because they were refugees—people without status and protection. the sun was strong and I was thinking of the sun [being] without hair [whispers]… I shall never forget that day [keeps quiet for some time]. . but even more so as Jews—members of a despised professional caste in Ethiopia. as well as. by giving him a name at birth that conveyed this meaning. This humiliating experience was for him a ‘disproof’ of his highly prestigious image. So. In his mind he could still hear the laughter of those perpetrating the shaving. As the (freely translated) Ethiopian proverb claims in relation to verbal abuse: ‘Curses [insults] are of such a nature that. Why had I come? How had I come to be separated from them? What did I have in Sudan? and so on. but also with other humiliating measures. one could understand the significance of the humiliation he had gone through and appreciate the blow to his self-esteem. what shall I tell you. They made me bald. they were making fun of my hair. eh—I shut down my mind. His parents expected him to behave in the manner of a gobez. they did [unclear]. which they expressed. He was nicknamed ‘the star’ by his aunt. once uttered.THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 161 hair! On that day I was…on that day…[finds it difficult to go on] I went inside myself [quiet]…[I realised that] if I said anything. So I became enraged. among other ways. I had a day…[which was] very sad [very long silence]…they were laughing at me while they were cutting my hair. if I let out one word. in Sudan. Their self-image and self-esteem are affected and the person finds this blow difficult to absorb and recover from. one which affected his self-image and therefore was experienced as traumatic. Against this background of intellectual and perhaps other excellence.

and even these were narrated in a somewhat abbreviated manner. I would argue that some combination of the above factors. that they did not want to talk in detail about it. so that the humiliating situation is experienced as an attack on the person’s identity? Or is it because it emphasises our inability (and helplessness) to protect the group’s good name. even if a trusted one. no Ethiopian girl would like to disclose a fact which could affect her marriage prospects (or. is it because in such situations we rely internally on our reference group as a hidden support group. It is worth noting that actual incidents of rape and sexual abuse were recounted by the young women almost only in relation to girls other than themselves. 1999:14). even in the safest of interview environments. the fact remains that a hurt to the image of the affiliation group. Adolescents may be particularly affected since their self-identity is still ‘in the making’. at least two girls in our study hinted that they did go through such an experience themselves. especially since it was not within a clinical setting. with special weight placed on the intensity and emotional complications of . guilty and full of self-blame—that it made the experience almost impossible to narrate (see also van der Kolk 1996. commonly the ethnic group. and hence leave the person with no support. Leydesdorff et al.162 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY When verbal abuse includes insults to one’s ethnic group it adds another dimension of suffering and traumatisation. include it within the situation. Why do people. has a powerful capacity to destabilise. which made it more difficult for them to share such an experience. and hence an inability to retell it. a kind of shield and source of comfort unknown to the perpetrator? Yet the insults expose that hidden support group. Nevertheless. thus rendering them more sensitive and vulnerable. however. They made it clear. if married already. As in many other cases of rape (Agger 1994). still.18 Their disinclination to narrate these incidents might reflect the intensity of the trauma. anger and psychologically wound the victim. adolescents in particular. It might also be that the difficulty of recounting the experience stemmed from the fact that. it left the girls feeling so contaminated and tainted—and. which one feels expected to defend? Or. The reason for its significant effect is not clear to me. The fact that young women were under constant threat of sexual abuse or rape was discussed in another part of this study and so I shall not elaborate on their fate here. care more when their reference or ethnic group (or parents for that matter) are humiliated than when one of their personal characteristics is devalued? Is it because the ethnic group is felt to be the origin of the person (self) and the foundation of identity. Whatever the reason may be. The former applies mainly to boys and men. It might also be due to the fact that the interviewer was a man. I would like to stress that the dread of such occurrence was in itself psychologically very unsettling and certainly one cause for trauma. and the latter to girls and young women. The last kind of traumatising experience which I wish to emphasise is that of violation of the boundaries of the body-self through torture or sexual abuse. risk the unpredictable response of her husband and immediate social circle). make it available for attack. paradoxically.

I also draw here upon my experience as a psychotherapist with Ethiopian Jewish victims of torture. The fate of adolescent boys and young men who were physically tortured often occurs within the stories. body schema) and self-image (representation) has been widely studied by developmental psychologists and psychoanalysts (Sandler 1962). from the ceiling of an Ethiopian or Sudanese prison. adolescents in particular. heads down.20 This seemed to be connected to the fact that the invasion of body boundaries affected the body-self. In many cases youngsters were hung from their legs. however. several times in succession. thus leading to the consequences observed above. and this in turn influenced the self-image (self-representation) and individual feeling of worth. This reaction was observed among my interviewees as well as in the clinical cases of both male and female adolescents and young adults. however. hard blows to the bare soles of their feet) were delivered until their feet were so swollen that their skin burst and their flesh was exposed. In the context of our study. in Israel. This is based on Keilson’s research (1979) of 200 child survivors of Nazi concentration camps thirty years later. The relation between body-self (body image. Traumatisation is frequently followed by pathological consequences which appear either immediately after the event or at a later stage. as well as to a large extent dependent on. A major aspect in these traumas is the violation of body boundaries. Self-image is believed to be built upon. throughout our entire lives. to a certain degree. Other adolescent boys were raped in prison. Following these tortures the adolescents suffered from physical disabilities as well as various functional and emotional disturbances. One person I worked with was partially castrated.e. one that was related to their maleness and has later complicated their development into manhood. which as well as being a violation of body boundaries added another dimension to their trauma. two . I shall. and falakas (i. Another had an elec-trical source connected to his penis many times. Another had both his legs broken in a number of places by his Sudanese captors. A full discussion of the mental state of the adolescents in Israel as a result of the journey’s traumas is beyond the scope of this study. In this respect they shared the fate of some of the Ethiopian Jewish boys and young men. the penetration of body boundaries was followed by the individual feeling a deep sense of worthlessness and a marked reduction in the wish to continue living (the ‘drive for life’). was a decisive factor in whether they were traumatised. Such phenomena were indeed observed among Ethiopian Jews.19 I would like to point out. This continues to be true. in particular the kind of reception the children encountered in England. caused personal experiences of rape to be just hinted at but not fully narrated in the journey stories. schematically portray here the major psychological problems. in which he found that the period after the event. Before doing so I would like to discuss the question of whether an event could acquire a traumatic significance depending on the sort of encounter experienced in Israel.THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 163 such a trauma. the body image (body-self or schema). that apart from the above-mentioned effects on boys and girls who suffered these traumas.

Lastly. Among the symptoms were also eating arrests. an eating arrest in Sudan that brought her to the brink of death (‘I was virtually dead. concentration difficulties. starting with having to separate herself from her two very young children and leaving them behind in Ethiopia. We shall see below (Chapter 8) how the ‘rough face’ encountered in Israel. I would like to refer to one non-pathological outcome of trauma. at the end of her narration she reports on how she has made the trauma into a vehicle for helping others: . a condition in which the person stops eating because of a ‘full abdomen’ resulting from emotional stress (BenEzer 1990). threatened to render the events of the journey traumatic.e. although a full-scale epidemiological study of this was not carried out.21 Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS or PTSD. this way of dealing with trauma is not very common. There was a significantly heightened incidence of medical complaints of a psychoso-matic nature—mostly headaches and chest pains. or whether their parents arrived soon after they did (which was rarely the case). Ager 1992. as reported in the narratives. The pathological consequences took the form of one or a number of symptomatic phenomena. There are. but were still high. and (2) the kind of reception they received from Israeli society as perceived by the individual. In the case of children it can also adversely affect their development (Sandler etal. and ending by almost being sexually abused. through what they take out of it. In such cases people grow and develop through the trauma itself. intrusive thoughts and images. ISTSS online). Unfortunately. Nevertheless. Caruth 1995. Terr 1992). thenceforth becoming a different person. as defined by the DSM-IV-TR 2000) was detected among many of the adolescents. Together with the tremendous worry and guilt about her children. These included sleep disturbances. acceptance vs rejection. i. cases in our study that can illustrate this. Many experienced a sense of lowered self-esteem or feeling of worthlessness. 1991.’ she says). Herman 1992. continued at that peak level for about a year and then started to abate. This may lead to the continuation or exacerbation of the symptoms and impacts stated above. Leydesdorff et al. Tena (previously mentioned) had suffered a sequence of traumatic events. physiological and neurological problems. I am referring to the possibility of processing a trauma in such a way that it results in personal growth. or to a fresh appearance of some other pathology at a later stage (van der Kolk 1996. This in some cases necessitated hospitalisation. nightmares and other functional.23 It is worth noting that trauma could remain ‘active’ (‘alive’) for a long time following a difficulty by a particular person in ‘processing’ or coming to terms with it. for the following five years. however.164 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY factors within this period should be mentioned: (1) whether the adolescents had met with first-degree relatives in Israel from whom they could receive social support. these triggered a psychological breakdown.22 These complaints reached their peak about eight months after the arrival of the youngsters in Israel. 1999. involving a great number of the adolescents. They can use it as an agent for change.

When they were able to do that. takes out of it. We may even apply it to our own death or to the process of dying. has dealt with her trauma in the best possible way: through the processing of the very essence of the traumatic experience itself.24 Tena.25 Personal development and growth An important aspect of the journey is the fact that for some of the adolescents it constituted an experience of personal growth. depending on the person’s ability to extract that meaning from the event. They have developed and matured. the meaning we give to it. everything will be all right. which is an ‘age of plasticity’ (Honzik 1984. We can determine the way we construct it. life experiences make a stronger impression and put a lasting mark on the individual. This resulted from successfully standing up to the journey’s harsh demands. and try to encourage them. The journey experiences thus had more of a shaping capacity for the Jewish adolescents. there is always a possibility of such a meaning for action. situations they should rise to. In this she exemplifies the positive side (pole) of the assertion that a trauma forever changes a person’s inner world as well as his/her way of life (Brull 1974:33). horizons and ways of managing the world. from a terminal disease. development that depends on the meaning each person gives to the traumatic event or. Many felt that they had left their old self behind and transformed themselves on the journey into a new person. That is what I tell them. Frankl suggests that a traumatic event may include a mission for the person to fulfil. This .THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 165 I tell my story to people. it seems. They also needed to cope actively with changing conditions and to react to extremely complicated situations. The strenuous journey had forced them to strain their powers and abilities to their maximum. As long as we are alive. It is worth noting that the readiness for change as a result of living through situations and challenges such as those of the journey has been shown to be particularly high during adolescence. At this developmental phase. an action to be taken. It is the kind of development Victor Frankl writes about. more accurately. it brought about a new perception of themselves. when they drove themselves beyond their normal limits and coped actively and resourcefully with these challenging situations. and as ‘performance tests’. and thus how we die. for example. especially about what is going to happen to their relatives who are still in Ethiopia. one with broader experience. They realised that they were going through a process of self-discovery and personal growth. [I say to them] that step by step. Some of the difficulties were perceived by the adolescents as challenges. She sums up the moral of her story for the other person: ‘Look! I am the one who was brought to Israel to be buried! And I am alive! Do not lose hope!’ In this way she uses her traumatic experience and personal story of suffering as a resource and as a comfort to others. Lieblich 1989). he claims. so that they will become less anxious.

It was the first time that they needed to decide for and take care of themselves. They stood up to enemies as well as venturing into friendships. the stronger ones. responsibility and leadership. They also had more responsibility for other people. in autonomy. Some girls. helped carry the sick on improvised stretchers or on their backs along the journey. Shaul was 15 when he suddenly had to take on an adult role. including (while walking in mixed aged groups) the old and the very young. ‘hatching’ from a child’s worldview. increased confidence in their ability to solve problems. Adolescents fulfilled the roles of adults. uncles and cousins. found work minding children in affluent Sudanese households. particularly before the mass refugee crisis. Some of the boys also had to experiment with traditionally female functions such as cooking. in the absence of their mothers or as a consequence of their sickness or death. It forced him into the role of ‘eldest son’ within the nuclear family and into a leading role within his extended family. Experimenting with new types of behaviour and fulfilling adult roles The adolescents experimented with new types of behaviour and discovered new ways of acting in familiar or unfamiliar situations. Girls also experienced their own capacities beyond their role definitions: they walked or ran for days shoulder to shoulder with the boys. building sites and restaurants as well as in the nearby agricultural areas. and some girls. girls catered for their old fathers or siblings in the chaotic situation of the refugee camps. The latter was especially common in Sudan where. and they attempted to behave in caring and helping ways. Boys faced up to people and situations which made them experience their manliness. The experience of personal growth along the journey consisted of four major dimensions: 1 2 3 4 experimenting with new types of behaviour and fulfilling adult roles. His older brothers. nine in all. had to go back to Ethiopia just after they arrived at the Sudanese border.166 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY phase of life is also a period of discovery through action and that is exactly what the journey supplied them with—ample opportunities for experimentation through action. Others (in Sudan) looked for work in gas stations. or for large groups as in the secret houses in Gedaref. And they often performed leading roles within the youth groups or in relation to others. Some were paid in food while others experienced being paid in cash for the first time in their lives. over an extended period of time. or just helped the richer women in Gedaref to carry their groceries or other heavy merchandise to their homes. for many of them. It was up to . It meant a sudden increase. and many girls had to manage households and cook for many people for the first time. lessons for life. They realised that they could do it.

one gives [to others]. Tena recounts how she became more accessible to her grandmother’s teachings as a result of her experiences on the journey. A more complex view of the world replaced the old one. This included. and I saw people who were almost without clothes. That is how a man should behave! You deserve our respect!’ ‘Hatching’ from a child’s worldview In this process their childhood system of beliefs and ways of looking at the world had become conscious and was then tested. They recognised certain truths. Yet it is not only the grim reality of the social world that the adolescents awoke to as a result of the experiences of their journey. You have yet to go through many events. he wanted him to be responsible for their education and proper upbringing in the Ethiopian style. Do not utter harsh words. made me more responsible. in many instances. betrayal and cruelty in human relations. speak to officials (authority figures).’ A special dimension to his feeling of being a grown up was added by the fact that. She tells how. who were begging for money. If one has. a sort of parent. Shaul recounts how he felt differently from the moment of the departure of his older brothers and uncles. ‘The fact that I had to do things. and out of it they developed their personal wisdom. They also became more aware of and accessible to the wisdom of their parents and elders. Now . lead his sister-in-law from Gedaref to Khartoum for her suddenly essential departure for Israel. he told Shaul. He felt that it had transformed him from a child into an adult. arrange the family’s permit of leave from Gedaref later on. if not—keep quiet. Jonathan had a leading role in the last phase of leaving Sudan. It affected him significantly. If something happened to him. met special people. and how his role within his nuclear and extended family was never again the same. And I laughed at them and said: ‘Why do they ask for food like that? And they have no clothes!’ Then. which they had been told earlier but had not listened to at the time. as he recounts: ‘All were counting on me since all the responsibility rested upon my shoulders. of course. Everyone else was relieved of it. This new dimension to social reality replaced the more naive conceptualisation of human relations as based on intimacy-seeking alone. upon leaving. It was a new experience for him. people who had nothing.’ And with some pride he reports what he was told upon arrival by the people he had led: ‘Without you we would have been lost.THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 167 him to represent the family to the Sudanese authorities. dishonesty. You are still young and many things await you. when she was young and was confronted with people in misery. one of his departing uncles had put the future of his five children in Shaul’s hands. They went through unique experiences. my grandmother told me: ‘You should not say such things.’ She told me so but I wouldn’t listen: ‘Why don’t they work and earn money?’ I would insist. an acknowledgement of the existence of power. shattered and renewed. and to take on other roles which he had not previously performed. self-interest. she used to laugh at them: Once it happened when I was with my grandmother.

about society and about life in general.’ The acquired knowledge of the journey is epitomised for Tena in her grandmother’s wisdom. with not looking back once a decision was made. He was a merchant and so travelled a lot. One day as they were walking they met their neighbour. Soon he was destined to see its worst qualities. Takaleh learned of his need to belong.168 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY [following the journey]. he had shifted to a worldview in which power and greed have a very significant place. dependence and autonomy. with relations between the individual and society. They became aware of their patterns of emotional response to extreme situations. From a perspective of relations motivated first and foremost by a degree of familiarity and intimacy. or about which they did not have sound knowledge or opinions. These concerned issues which they had not necessarily addressed before. It is interesting to note that while the journey takes Tena physically away from her grandmother (who was left in Ethiopia). etc. Human society certainly appeared fundamentally different from what he had believed when he was setting out on his journey. and gained new insights into their own nature and boundaries. lessons about fear and courage. Yoav was 13 years old when he went on the journey. as he recounts: . Even in my house I do not throw [food] away. I do not laugh at such people any more. It was as if the intensive experience of the journey. as they put it. Instead of the happy meeting that Yoav had expected. having gone through this and perhaps other experiences of that kind on the journey. brought about various conceptualisations that had wider implications than for the journey itself. I keep some [to give]. as well as of their attitudes and behaviour. included realisations which were concerned with the importance of mutual help and communal cohesion at times of extreme difficulty and distress. he ordered them to stop and at gunpoint robbed them of their money. what thirst is. Now I know everything. to be part of a place in which one would feel ‘at home’. and he recounts at the beginning of his story that he was in a state of astonishment and amazement at the wonders of the world. A more generalised wisdom emerged. it brings Tena closer to her spiritually and emotionally. I have learned what hunger is. Elsewhere in her narrative she adds: ‘Before [the journey]. in fact grew up together with us! How come he threatens us with a gun?’ And. he tells how his views concerning human relations had changed. Yoav found it difficult to grasp: ‘This is someone who. I did not know what bad things were. through her teachings which were called upon and confirmed during the journey. Lessons for life During the journey the adolescents did not only hatch from previously held perceptions but formed new judgements and gained insights about themselves. Two examples will serve to illustrate this. although Christian. These ‘lessons for life’. where life was fragile and death was abundant. about friendship.

or when they overcame difficulties. particularly in the refugee camp in Sudan. For example. They became aware of their cognitive-capacities and intellectual faculties by successfully putting them into action. If you want something good there is always something bad on the way to it. this is not Ethiopia any more. they became increasingly confident of being able to solve such problems. So it leaves you in a vacuum. in a country where you feel incomplete. Yeremyah tells of another sort of learning. where you constantly feel that something is missing. which determined the success [in completing the journey] was my will-power. In other words. It made me realise how hard it is to be away from your homeland. The constant need to cope actively with changing situations or react to extreme complications was experienced as a test. if you get into or witness a fight or dispute between an Ethiopian and a Sudanese person—and there were many fights like that— you then observe that the Sudanese takes a handful of sand off the ground and shouts at the Ethiopian: ‘Smell! Is this your place?’ It immediately makes you feel that you are in a country that does not belong to you.THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 169 I learned what it is not to belong. and when they were successful it led to an expansion of their sense of competence and was experienced as a process of development and personal growth. So you become tense… In Sudan. I learned who I am. I know! I lived through it. A painful feeling indeed. Today I know what a problem is. when they succeeded in getting out of trouble even after it had started. I . in absolute emptiness. Then I learned what it is not to belong. even when things bothered me I did not pay attention to them. That feeling accompanies you all the time and it makes you more tense and edgy… You become easily and frequently irritated. The fact that I wanted something very badly…[And he elaborates] Because I had a desire. and it is not Israel yet. Baruch recounts: I think that on the journey I learned how to deal with all kinds of problems. Increased confidence in their ability to solve problems An additional dimension to the experience of personal growth is related to the building of confidence in their ability to solve problems. I wanted something very much and to bring it about I went through all kinds of difficulties and overcame them… I learned not to be spoiled and to rise up to a challenge. to exist in a state of non-belonging. It hurts you. when dangers were circumvented. and why I do this thing. a goal. why I am. They learned about their inner strengths and ability to endure a painful trek and difficult periods. a problem to overcome. one which is related to his ability to achieve his goals in life: The thing that mattered most. There is then no—no value to life. And how to cope with all kinds of problems without despairing.

and are therefore highly susceptible to change. that of role expectations within Ethiopian culture. She should show respect for others and portray it. Rosen 1987). towards problematic incidents connected with hostile people. are in an age of ‘plasticity’. of course. however. different from those of the boy (Tarbus and Minuchin-Itzikson 1983). would be less exacting and hard to overcome than those he had successfully encountered during the journey. by a set of behaviours which can be considered as modesty (or . responsibility for others when one is put in charge of them. he thinks. on more than one aspect of the multifaceted and complex situation. Baruch’s experience on the journey had clearly influenced both his knowledge of problems and his confidence in being able to solve them. The role expectations of the adolescent girl are. Following Erik Erikson (1968). to be economical in verbal expression. experienced and were affected by particular situations during the journey. emotional containment. wild animals or natural hazards. It also includes a capacity to keep a secret to oneself. The adolescent boy is expected to be courageous and commit himself to acts of bravery. And I coped with it… I don’t think I shall ever meet with any problems like…the kind I lived through on the journey. He had also acquired a perspective on the more ordinary difficulties in life. which. Whether the experience resulted in the one or the other depended. among other ways. She is expected to be gentle and polite. Here I shall refer to one aspect of culture. Chapters 2 and 6). to suggest that one of the factors which had an influence on whether an experience turned out to be traumatic or resulted in personal growth is that of ‘culture’. as contrasted with girls. I would argue that they are also more susceptible to cultural influences. According to Ethiopian culture the role of the adolescent boy is defined in relation to a few concepts of which the main ones are goramsa (a virile youth) and the gobez (Levine 1965:100–6 and passim. I would like. He is supposed to care about affronts to familial and communal honour and to react to such insults (cf. to coin beautiful phrases or talk in parables or through proverbs. The relation of culture to trauma and personal growth In the previous two sections we have seen how the journey caused certain traumas while at the same time provided opportunities for personal growth. and taking a generally active approach. selfdiscipline. patience. responsibility for oneself. I would argue that different cultural expectations in relation to gender roles may have modified the ways in which adolescent boys. as mentioned earlier. One of the mechanisms through which culture strongly affects adolescents is that of role expectations.170 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY saw it. Adolescents and young adults. These include: an expectation of the capacity to endure physical as well as mental hardships. and more specifically to gender roles. to a great extent. when alone or with no authority figures around.

able to fight their enemies and at the same time to protect the more vulnerable—the women. never answering in the first instance when asked a question. small children and the old. and never walk outside by herself. I will then use the term ‘cultural dystonic’ to refer to situations that require a behavioural mode which is inconsistent with one’s cultural codes. her mother-inlaw’s and husband’s tastes). Thus a certain situation would be syntonic in relation to one actor. even a whisper (BenEzer 1987). Although the social demand to keep a secret applies to her. whereas for. Women are also not expected to be able to tolerate pain or endure physical and mental hardships in the way men can. These terms refer to the specific relation within the triangle of culture. Success—e. the walking in particular. they had more opportunities to experience personal growth. in this case those related to gender roles. The determining factor was their success or lack of success in fulfilling these cultural expectations. females it comprised mainly cultural dystonic situations. performing in a . I would suggest the term ‘cultural syntonic’ to describe situations in which the individual is required or given an opportunity to perform in ways that are consistent with his/her cultural codes and social norms. This relates to situations in which they had to be physically strong and courageous. as young males had more opportunities to act in accordance with their cultural code regarding gender role. work close to her mother. She is expected to be passive in relation to problemsolving and dependent on others. In such a cultural context it may be argued that the journey constituted a different experience. it is common knowledge that ‘women are not capable of doing so’ and there are folk stories which exemplify it and warn men against such expectations. however. The journey. They had to endure pain and to live without the basic necessities. actor and situation.g. but dystonic in relation to the Ethiopian female adolescent. provided many situations where boys were expected to perform according to the cultural requirements connected to their male role. If the actor came from another cultural background the relation within the same situation would have changed. and thus included a different potential for trauma or for personal growth for the Ethiopian adolescent boys as opposed to the girls. males in particular. She is not expected to have the same self-discipline or emotional control as boys have.THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 171 prescribed embarrassment). One could thus argue that the journey presented boys with many cultural syntonic situations.26 The girl is expected to stay around the house. Thus. and when she does answer doing so in a low voice. at the same time. covering the mouth area with her hand and giggling. These may include such non-verbal behaviours as lowering her gaze and looking away from anyone of authority (or a stranger) who approaches her. they were also more prone to traumatisation. that which accorded with the definition of their social role. She is supposed to know how to cook in a way that resembles her mother’s cooking and satisfies her father’s taste in food (and later. thus resulting in a different experience. Thus the journey presented boys more than girls with situations in which they were expected to react in a certain way. say an Ethiopian male adolescent.

these differences became transparent and came to the fore. Technologically. The first aspect of the preparation was the fact that during the journey they experienced cultural differences and became somewhat accustomed to the idea of cultural adaptation. They realised that such a difference existed. They could not just pass through the culture as tourists do.172 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY way which is regarded as manly—would lead to personal growth. whereas failure — e. this was a new experience which could be viewed as a step towards coping in Israel.28 The differences they encountered in Sudan related to skin colour. when they acted in ways which fell ‘beyond’ their role definition. but when she does stand up to these hardships she would gain more self-esteem as well as praise from her peers or significant others. Therefore. among other things. when a young female cannot cope with the hardships of the journey it would be ‘just as expected of her’. as preparation for what they were going to encounter in Israel. The kind of situations that materialised along the journey were not related in any way to their gender role. being helpless when they were expected to perform bravely—might exacerbate their pain within a situation to the point of traumatisation. and that there was a need to adapt to it by actively changing themselves (as well as passively getting used to it). as elaborated below. and to some extent forced them to adapt. spending and leisure opportunities. they were not expected to perform successfully in these. and if they did so at all it went against their role definition. Since they lived there for an extended period of time. clothing. they needed to deal with these differences. technology and health belief system as expressed in the medical care at the refugee camps. Girls were thus less prone to trauma from that point of view. traffic lights. In other words. as they were indeed perceived later by the travellers. i. They could. both because they were there for a longer time and because it bore upon their chances of survival. they would need to cope with a similar though much more intensive situation. language and. food.29 . a first encounter with some aspects of modernisation. experience personal growth if and when they succeeded in coping with these cultural dystonic situations. In Israel. This refers mainly to the time spent in Sudan where they encountered a different society and culture. On the other hand.e.27 The journey as a preparation for life in Israel Some experiences during the journey could be viewed. however. that it affected them. cars and a variety of options for the individual Sudanese citizen in terms of products. Sudan presented them with a more developed society than rural Ethiopia: roads. as well as experiencing that she had expanded her selfboundaries.g. the journey (again. Especially for those who came from the remote Ethiopian villages. the walking part of it in particular) presented adolescent girls mainly with cultural dystonic situations. Most of them were villagers for whom the encounter with urban centres in Sudan was.

Two specific elements are relevant here: first. This should have facilitated somewhat their adjustment to Israel since it paved the way for the emotionally exacting process of adaptation. People who move to a new society go through a separation process in relation to their previous country. A third aspect of the journey which prepared them for life in Israel relates to the fact that on the journey the wayfarers went through a process of emotional separation from Ethiopia. This strengthening of their Jewishness and their emerging Israeliness caused them to arrive in Israel in a state which more strongly resembled that of the Jewish majority in Israeli society. Nevertheless. and different members within it. would find necessary to accept in adapting to Israeli society. the fact that the girls and young women extended the boundaries of their social role. The wayfarers came across these new services but the experience was in many cases a negative one. the fact that adolescents were awarded more autonomy along the journey. A considerable period of time is needed for the process of mourning before the person is entirely free to relate and adjust to aspects of the new society. on the other hand. I suggest that this process of emotional separation from their country of origin had already started to take place on the journey. . In view of the prolonged period of time Ethiopian Jews spent on their way to Israel. They became suspicious and wary of these services. the journey fortified their Jewish identity and added a dimension of Israeliness to it. In the following chapter I shall turn to this process of integration in the light of the journey experiences. Both changes are in line with the processes which the family. And for those who did recover after being treated by these methods. it certainly formed a stage in their transition to a different belief system. They realised that these Western methods could not help them much when they were dying in great numbers in the refugee camps. Added to that was the rumour mentioned above (Chapter 4) that the Sudanese (and the Ethiopian Christian) workers in the clinics were using these methods in order to poison the Jews. a system which they would later find in Israel. they did encounter the underlying assumptions and beliefs associated with the Western system of diagnosis and cure. This concerned various aspects of life in Ethiopia. and second.30 A second aspect of the journey which prepared them for Israel was the changes in the structure of roles within the family and society. This includes a process of ‘cultural bereavement’ whereby the person mourns the cultural and spiritual aspects of the old society (Eisenbruch 1984.THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY 173 The encounter with Western medical services at the camps was.31 I may add here that. the fact that in most cases the extended families were not functioning as such along the journey was in accord with what they were later to experience in Israel. a fact which should have helped them in integrating into the society. 1991). as we have seen. although it had an adverse effect on the wayfarers on their journey and in Israel. mainly for bureaucratic reasons. Finally. more complex and did not constitute a simple straightforward preparation for Israel.






This is in spite of the fact that most Jews living in Israel (more than 80 per cent) are secular Jews (sometimes described as non-religious. they believed. In fact. and viewed themselves as a part joining its main body. Notwithstanding. and that of bravery and heroism. it was rated second only to their overall sense of ‘Israeliness’. and to participate in Israeli society. it was found that a sense of Jewish identity (‘Jewishness’) was very important among Jewish Israeli youngsters. and there are streets or whole neighbourhoods which are closed for traffic on the Sabbath. E1-A1.8 ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel with a heightened sense of Jewish identity and an already emerging Israeli identity. the myth of suffering. The national airline. God’s land. They felt that as individuals and as a community they had been tested. they would feel more complete. non-observant or non-practising Jews). nor on the Jewish holidays. selected and purified through their suffering and had therefore earned their ‘right’ to enter Israel. It seems. as a restoration from the state of exile. does not fly on that day. It seems that in the Israel of the 1970s and 1980s (and probably to the present) there still existed a heightened sense of the relevance of Jewishness and the importance of its role in the lives of many Israelis. Jewish law is integrated in part into the general . to become a ‘whole’ again. that the ethnic identity of Jewish Israelis is connected to their Jewish origins.1 They had developed and consolidated a self-concept of a brave and resourceful people who had successfully stood up to the many challenges of the journey. They saw their arrival in Israel as a return. In Israel. then. official holidays are celebrated according to the Jewish calendar and working days are arranged accordingly The Sabbath is the state’s official day of rest during the week. 1979). among their fellow Jews. even if it is felt and expressed in the form of a continuation of cultural heritage rather than religious practice. In extensive surveys by Simon Herman (1970. Bible studies are obligatory for all children up to and including matriculation examinations. In the state education system. Myths in Israeli society The above developments in self-perception corresponded to the ethos and myths central to Israeli society: the ethos of Jewishness.

it is not only a country for Jews but it is still. In short. (Segev 1992:9. in the minds of Israelis. It is connected. and served as its ‘ultimate image of horror’ for Israelis. and at least one judge within the supreme court of Israel always comes from an orthodox (though not ultra-orthodox) religious background. Petlura carried out Pogroms. in part. had been located in 1960 by Israeli intelligence agents in Argentina. from the exile period of biblical times to the present. The Jewish law. That is why I called them ‘The Seventh Million’. controls marriage and divorce for most Israeli Jews. Pharaoh in Egypt decided to torture them and throw their sons into the river. as will be explained below. Adolf Eichmann. At a certain point the Holocaust turned into one of the sources of their collective identity as it was for the six million victims. This was clearly expressed in the Eichmann trial of 1961. Hamman [during the Persian exile] ordered their extermination. that there is an important ‘ethno-religious’ dimension related to Judaism within the identity of Israeli Jews. through the institution of the Chief Rabbinate. There is no other example in the history of the world where a single person can be accused of anything like what is included in these charges. It is also related to other issues in Israeli society. a senior Nazi official responsible for carrying out the mechanism of ‘the final solution’ by which millions of Jews were murdered. But throughout this blood-trail of the people—from its becoming a nation until today—there was not a person who succeeded in perpetrating what the evil regime of Hitler did and what Adolf Eichmann carried out as the arm of the Nazi regime committed to the extermination of the Jewish people. where he was hiding under a false identity. Even the most . A trail of blood has accompanied this nation since its appearance on the historical stage. therefore.180 ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL courts. my translation)3 The Holocaust was connected.2 Suffering is another ethos in Israeli society. and brought to Jerusalem to be tried. Chmielnicki massacred many of them. The second paragraph in the opening sentences of the Israeli prosecutor’s speech4 included the following excerpt: The history of the people of Israel [meaning the Jewish people everywhere] is full of suffering and tears. which has become the heritage of all Israelis and not only of the survivors (Segev 1992:475). It is fair to say. to thousands of years of suffering during exile. to the legacy of the Holocaust. Tom Segev writes about the heritage of the Holocaust and its role in determining current Israeli identity: The more they realised that their secular Israeli existence alone cannot offer them a rooted identity—the more Israelis gave themselves to the heritage of the Holocaust as a kind of popular ritual and a sometimes bizarre kind of worship of the memory. killing and destruction. such as the ‘religion of manual work’ of the pioneers of Israel. a Jewish country. to a large extent.

As Gideon Hausner said in the opening paragraph of his speech: Where I stand today before you. in the Israeli subjectivity. the suffering of the Holocaust was a continuation of the suffering of the Jewish people during various periods of exile. (Segev 1992:328. was carried out with a didactic purpose in mind. judges of Israel. and the suffering of the Holocaust in particular. I shall.ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL 181 horrific deeds— deeds that make one’s blood freeze and hair stand on end— of people like Nero. the trial was broadcast continuously on the radio. as representatives of Jewish suffering. Israelis thus perceived themselves as the bearers of this burden of suffering. the heritage of suffering of the Jewish people. David Ben-Gurion. At the end of the trial. my translation) For Gideon Hausner. at this hour. and in the choice of testimonies out of the hundreds who could testify in the trial. both as the offspring of the ancient people in its periods of exile and. as the ‘seventh million’ of the Holocaust’s victims. as we shall see below. Their blood screams out but their voice is not heard. concerning the education of the Israeli public—especially the Israeli-born youth—in relation to the Holocaust. and their graves are scattered over the length and breadth of Europe.5 The trial became a turning point in relation to the inclusion of Jewish suffering. and were washed in the rivers of Poland. the prosecutor of the Eichmann trial. with me are standing here. which was the only one of its kind in Israel (until the Demaniuk trial in the 1990s). even more. They cannot stand on their feet and raise an accusing finger at the glass booth [where Eichmann was sitting] and say to the one who sits there: ‘I accuse thee!’ Because their ashes were piled between the hills of Auschwitz and the fields of Treblinka. six million prosecutors. to prosecute Adolf Eichmann—I do not stand alone. but at the same time represented an act of the utmost evil intent which had the most horrific results. Attila and Genghis Khan. they certainly took upon themselves. The trial. the prime minister of Israel at the time. Hausner made it clear later in his memoirs that he had these youth in particular in mind when he wrote his opening speech. therefore.6 There was for the first time a process of identification of Israelis with the suffering of the murdered victims as well . and henceforth for most Israelis (as was expressed in numerous newspaper reports and articles during the time of the trial and afterwards). Indeed. Its heritage was carried over into Israeli society. and in many schools the regular studies were cancelled in order to let the students listen to the trial (Segev 1992:330). Although they did not want to see themselves as the continuation of the people of the Exile. called that year ‘the year of Eichmann’s trial’. those horrifying characters of barbarism and bloodthirstiness who became symbols of evil for the world forever—their deeds are nothing in comparison to the horrors and revulsion of extinction which will be presented in this trial. be their mouth and speak in their name the terrible accusation. especially from the 1960s onwards.

which was actually the basis of the first two terms. veteran and newly arrived immigrants.182 ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL as that of the survivors. This could be observed in the concept of ‘battle heritage’ (Almog 1993. expedition. non-submissive. Many youngsters started. could be observed in the fact that the day of remembrance of the Holocaust was named ‘The Day of Holocaust and Heroism’. 1997) and in the inscriptions on memorials and tombstones in Israel (Almog 1991). This term is loaded with symbolic imagery. Robert Paine writes: ‘Emphasis was put on self-defence. rescue’ (Elon 1981:111–12.11 Another expression of the efforts to form an Israeli identity. translated as the ‘pioneer’. even helplessness’ (Paine 1993:225).8 The suffering of the Jewish people over the generations as epitomised in the Holocaust was at that period a peak point in the Israeli psyche. which differs from the image of the Diaspora Jew in relation to bravery. who carries cultural connotations of being close to nature. strength and courage (Elon 1981:126. This derogatory description was contrasted with the new person. and it figured in many of his speeches. These were the halutz. The myth of bravery is further expressed in aspects connected more directly to acts of heroism within the army. to take interest in the Holocaust. to the land. was a key term at the beginning of Israel. this image was epitomised in the way the European Jews went to the Nazi gas chambers ‘like sheep to be slaughtered’ (Weitz 1989:174. The emphasis falls less on ‘individuality and daring and go-gettism’ than on ‘liberation. This was also reflected in the choices of Hebrew names signifying firmness.10 The Zionist ideologists who were involved in the building of the new Israel resisted the image of the Jews of the Diaspora (exile) who were portrayed as submissive and accommodating. compromising themselves and their self-respect. in Israel or abroad.7 This process of identification found its extreme expression when Menachem Begin became prime minister in 1977 and throughout the 1980s. proud and brave person (plural tzabarim and also sabras). The latter is related according to Almog’s semiological analysis to a development of a ‘civil religion’12 in Israel in which the myth of bravery is an important aspect. who loves life but will go towards death with no fear if it is ‘for a cause’. This was also the time of the arrival of the Ethiopian Jews. steadfast. being a free. the tzabar and the new person. Whether he was speaking with Israeli youth. indeed. or the presidents and prime ministers of other countries. The halutz. Yablonka 1998). cited in Paine 1993:231). exaltation.9 The myth of bravery in Israeli society was created. Almog shows how the memorials for those who ‘fell’ on duty are not just a vehicle for local remembrance but important pedagogic mechanisms within the . at least in its main part. around a few symbolic images. the Israeli halutz and his offspring—the tzabar. relating to those who had left their comfortable homes in the Diaspora and came to Israel to build a new country. he would make the Holocaust a hallmark of his standpoint. For the founders of the new Israel. a partially untamed (and untameable) individual. The tzabar is the native-born Israeli. cited in Paine 1993:224). reversing the Diaspora condition of dependence. toughness. or of ‘defenders of the land’. He made the Holocaust central to his policy.

which is different from the ‘triumphant bravery’ presented on war memorials in most countries (Almog 1991:199). Shapira 1992) in Israel at its pioneering stage. Like some other Zionist myths. continued to exert significant influence well into the 1980s. and tough-ening —the native-born Israeli—the tzabar—within the Zionist religion. I refer to the ‘religion of manual work’ and to the experience of massaot—trekking—in Israeli society. DonYehiya and Liebman 1983) developed by the ‘Zionist church’ (Almog 1993:45. These experiences were very central at the beginning of the Zionist endeavour and after the establishment of the state. ‘suffering’. to an extent.ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL 183 ideological system created by Israeli society. however. strengthen and put to the test…as a ritual surrounding the crushing physical effort’ (Almog 1995: Chapter 3. 1997. The massa was a test of mental resilience which in Hebrew was called seviluut. At the same time it created the ‘new person’ that the Zionists were dreaming of. which was aimed to ‘torment. In its essence it propagated the ideology of labour: the halutzim’s (pioneers) ‘key to a true perception of self was physical labour… In conquering work they were conquering themselves’ (Elon 1981:13). the myth of bravery. to a certain extent) was that of massaot—trekking within Israel.15 The second experience which contributed to the myth of suffering (as well as to that of bravery. The ‘religion of manual work’ (Almog 1993. one who was disconnected from the occupations of the exile generations and growing out of and in harmony with the land. certainly much more important and common during those days (and. 1991:180. The suffering that was demanded of the halutz and tzabar was bound to bear fruit—the building of a flourishing and thriving country. that of ‘defence bravery’: that is. It is interesting to note two Israeli experiences which fed into the myth of suffering and also.D. who embodied the notion of pioneering and arrived with a sense of urgency for ‘new solutions to broader social and national problems’ and ‘saw their own practical activities as symbolic expressions of such solutions’ (Eisenstadt 1967:9–19). The massa (singular) was used in educating—building. an interesting distinction was developed between two kinds of journeys: one was the tiyul designed for leisure.13 Some are placed at major road junctions which are then called after the memorial. my transla tion).Gordon.e. the person who is forced to fight against his wishes. to some extent. Suffering was thus ‘purifying’ and a major aspect in this transformation process. and 1995.14 Lastly. from the root sevel. It refers mainly to the Second and Third aliyot (immigration waves of 1904–23). Elon 1981: 113. Paine 1993:225. socialising. Eisenstadt 1967) was part of the civil religion (Bellah 1964. until this day among Israelis) was the massa (plural massa’ot). Voluntary suffering was added to the harsh conditions of these journeys—the young Israelis (the tzabarim) took upon themselves not to . Near 1971. i. it explained mundane action (manual work) in metaphysical deterministic terms. Their derivatives. This ‘religion’ is associated with the mythical ideologist and manual worker A. while the other. it is shown how a special form of bravery appears in the Israeli context. In the years leading to the formation of the state.

It would make Israelis ‘embrace’ the Ethiopian Jews as part of themselves.17 Thus Ethiopian Jews were put into special absorption centres for their first twelve to eighteen months.18 as the period spent in the absorption centre would give sufficient time for learning the new language. and. Unlike many migrants from the Third World to the West. notably through a number of educational-vocational projects in various parts of the country designed specifically for the Ethiopian immigrants. what was planned as a transient centre in many places turned into a permanent home. most Ethiopian Jews remained in absorption centres longer than intended. The objective was a gradual integration of Ethiopian Jews into Israeli society. it might be summed up precisely as a failure to feel the sense of completeness and belonging they had expected. 1968). they experienced a continuing struggle to realise their identity and self-concept. The Israeli authorities had prepared absorption plans in various areas. and that of bravery and heroism—corresponded to the three important dimensions of the identity of Ethiopian Jews as crystallised on the journey. However. In that sense. the reality of the encounter of the Ethiopian Jews with Israeli society was not as expected. It could have been expected that this would facilitate the immigrants’ entrance into Israeli society and identity. as people sharing the same kind of consciousness and self-conception. most of all. instead. by taking care of all the immigrants’ needs made them fear the ‘outside world’. finding a permanent place to live and a proper job. the myth of suffering. Another problem in leaving ensued from the fact that the absorption centre in itself. The encounter with Israeli society These three central aspects of Israeli identity—the ethos of Jewish identity. Passing out from exhaustion was very common and was viewed as an ultimate expression of persistence in the face of suffering. From the point of view of the Ethiopian Jews.184 ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL drink water while walking in the desert. having settled in the absorption centre many Ethiopian immigrants did not wish to move yet again. Unfortunately. as a ‘total institution’ (Goffman 1957. Ethiopian Jews came with official state support. where they had to fend for . due to housing shortages (partly created by unsuccessful governmental strategies) and certain bureaucratic conflicts. After being uprooted for so long.16 Torments and physical wounds were considered to be an insufficient reason for stopping the massa. as they called it. these constructions of selfhood would serve as ‘bridges’ into Israeli identity. Thus. These were usually headed by a social worker. or to drink only very sparingly. When they could finally leave these centres many of them felt reluctant to do so. There were certainly some successes. finding their way in Israeli culture and society. It was even thought of as a desirable thing. however. which sought to avoid what are known in Israel as ‘the mistakes of the 1950s’ (Halper 1987)—that is. the rapid and massive secularisation of traditional societies in accordance with a melting-pot ideology.

as well as a crucial ingredient in family cohesion. It is equally important as a constituent of self-respect and the feeling of worth. hence they found themselves very quickly with unskilled work. low status and underpaid jobs. They had to be treated in hospitals. Some even committed suicide. few had a profession which they could immediately exercise. stating a direct connection between their despair and their condition of familial separation.ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL 185 themselves. some 1. and hence a chance for social mobility. young adults could not concentrate on their studies. In addition.000 Jews were left in Ethiopia or were stuck somewhere along the way. Many of them explicitly expressed their anxiety about leaving the allembracing services of the absorption centres. had to become substitute parents to their brothers and sisters. but also. Adolescents could not feel at rest knowing that their departure had left their parents more vulnerable and prone to harassment in Ethiopia. Many others were missing their relatives. since it determines whether a family can muster the resources needed to move to a neighbourhood where children can have better opportunities for education. Being black in Israel aroused prejudices and various stereotypes. Since most of them (95 per cent) came from agricultural backgrounds.19 In Israel. The Ethiopian Jews were seen as competitors for limited resources. decisions in Israel. on the psychological level. In addition. in practical terms. The situation of the children influenced the entire Ethiopian community. Young people. they lacked completeness as families and a sense of completeness as individuals (BenEzer 1990). finding employment was a major problem for Ethiopian Jews. themselves longing for their parents and struggling with their new conditions.500 Ethiopian children were unaccompanied by parents. There were some who developed the Ethiopian pathogenic condition of the full abdomen. primitive fears of the strange and alien. Employment is a crucial factor in integration. As mentioned in Chapter 2. such as choices of profession or marriage. Many found themselves living in areas where unemployment was already very high and it was difficult to find a job at all (Donyo 1982:20. which made for a difficult start in social relations. left in Ethiopia. as well as. which led them to stop eating. being mainly populated by Israelis of lower socio-economic status suffering from social marginality and the characteristic disadvantaged social services. It is not only that. Most of the absorption centres were cheap apartment buildings in the most problematic areas of Israeli cities. An estimated 35. on 5 January 1985 a leak to the press caused Operation Moses to come to a halt.20 Another major problem for integration was skin colour.21 Shaul narrates: ‘And this word cushi . whose ‘stomach got filled up with troubles’. were held back through waiting for the families to arrive. cut off from their kin. The presence of the Ethiopian Jews for long periods of up to seven or eight years inevitably created social problems. Ben-Zvi 1989). An equally fundamental problem affecting most of the newcomers was the separation from their families. which is so significant in times of migration. typically. which were stranded in Ethiopia. These areas already had their own difficulties.

it constituted a problem from the point of view of those educationalists and parents (Ethiopian immigrants and veterans) who believed immigrant children should have models of the absorbing society studying with them in order to facilitate integration into society. the children would adapt more easily to the religious school framework. Am I someone’s slave? I was hurt.24 Their encounter with the Israeli education system was also problematic. therefore not every community had adequate religious school facilities to allow the absorption of immigrant pupils. even if the forms of Jewish observance practised by Ethiopian Jews were not identical to ‘mainstream’ religious practice in Israel. given their background.26 which are part of the state religious system. Furthermore.’23 Another aspect of being black in Israel relates to the fact that in a highly security-conscious society such as the Israeli one. Only then did this particular suspicion and fear begin to gradually diminish. this view advocates that they should learn with Israeli children if they want to become Israelis.25 This decision applied to their first year in the country (but was carried out throughout the period of education) and was based on the assumption that. Ethiopian Jews broke stereotypes and social categories in Israel in the 1980s. Such categorisation makes it easier to identify who belongs to ‘Us’ and who is part of ‘Them’. The attain-ment of such a goal is put in question if more students in the class are immigrants than not. Prior to their arrival a decision was made that Ethiopian children and adolescents would be directed to the religious state education system (Weil 1988:125–6). refused to recognise the Ethiopian children as Jews. The problem was that referring the children to the state religious school system created certain difficulties that had to do with the school system itself.27 Furthermore. which meant that even fewer appropriate educational institutions were available. and it was not until the beginning of the 1990s that Israelis developed a clear social category of ‘Ethiopian-black-Jewish-immigrant’. In other words. there is some suspicion and fear of anyone in the street who cannot be easily and straight-forwardly identified and ‘categorised’ into one of the Israeli sub-groups or ethnic minorities. the latter being Arabs who could be potential terrorists. I couldn’t believe it. at times they even made up the majority in a particular school—a situation that produced unforeseen difficulties. and even some of the teachers and heads of schools resented such a situation. educational institutions belonging to the Habad religious movement. fewer than 20 per cent of Israelis are religious. and when I realised what it means. Many of the state religious schools are small. First. The presence of immigrant pupils was therefore felt immediately. They feared that the Ethiopian children would need special resources. They would not accept Ethiopian immigrant children in their schools. but also ‘a slave’]22—when I first heard it I did not understand.186 ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL [‘black’. For example. to whom a majority of newcomers posed a social threat. It also brought about hostility among veteran Israeli parents. and that they would become a . this situation created resentment among the veteran children themselves.

the academic level of the state religious schools was in many areas lower than that of the secular schools (Schwartzwald 1990:68–82). Teachers tended to have shorter training courses and were. A number of reasons led to that situation. whereby all expenses. Post-primary education. could have added to that tendency. especially to the pressures of adolescent boys. Social tensions rose high in places and hostile reactions towards the Ethiopian children and community were not uncommon. among Ethiopian adolescents and parents alike. etc. clothing. travel. aimed at pupils aged 14 to 18. A third reason was the belief. The fact that many Ethiopian families (38 per cent) were headed by women (Weil 1991) who were. This belief was probably connected to the Kfar Batya project of 1955/6.. and the Ethiopian children felt socially rejected and were obviously hurt and disappointed. following Ethiopian cultural codes. in many cases. were paid by the system (which is funded by the Jewish Agency and the government). that post-primary (and for some even primary) education in Israel was actually taking place only or principally in Youth Aliya frameworks. There was also an uncertainty related to whether these children would actually stay in these schools. thus creating a situation which was certainly less favourable academically and socially for Ethiopian Jewish children. In contrast. . who increasingly tended to choose the elitist religious boarding schools outside the community. in view of the fact that the families were not living in permanent residences but in absorption centres which were planned to be transitory arrangements. Chapter 2). offered Ethiopian youngsters two main types of frameworks: religious day schools and boarding schools run by the Youth Aliya organisation. less equipped to deal with complex teaching situations (such as the multicultural context). on the whole. This affected the initial phase of integration. A second reason was the lack of religious post-primary schools in the towns. including food. First. the absorption centres were not designed for hosting unaccompanied adolescents who arrived in increasingly large numbers. whose graduates later became teachers in Ethiopia (cf. or their lowered quality due to a gradual but significant process of depletion of their best students. less able to stand up to the pressures of their adolescent children. The local religious secondary school system attracted only a small number of Ethiopian pupils. low achievers. And a final reason was the very significant economic help constituted by this type of education. Youth Aliya schools attracted 90–95 per cent of Ethiopian adolescents. The location of the absorption centres amid deprived neighbourhoods had meant that the Israeli students in these schools were. In addition to that.ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL 187 burden on the schools and lower the achievements of other students (they were to realise later that Ethiopian children in fact improved the academic achievements of many of these schools). Thus the officials within the municipality (as well as teachers and veteran parents) would have to consider whether they wanted to invest in the Ethiopian children as if they were ‘their own children’. It might also be that the adolescents and the parents lacked awareness of the special characteristics of the children educated in these frameworks.

These institutions did not change to accommodate Ethiopian students. the Ethiopian adolescents in these schools faced problems of the same nature as those in the primary schools. in two years of study.29 The main problem with the programme was that the vocational training they received was not planned according to their apti-tudes or even according to their chances of employment later on. leaving their siblings in need of help from outside the home environment. which are in fact culturally biased and advantageous for students who had previous Western (some would say middle-class Western) education. and there was often an increase in tension. mainly the second and third generation of Middle-Eastern immigrant origin. The fact that a whole layer of the community—the adolescents between 12 and 18 years old28—was in boarding schools created a further complication for the community. some were trained as car mechanics. Arieli 1986) at the boarding schools. So it was a purely administrative decision. if not actual disagreements. and those from ‘broken homes’. since 1971. which was not always available. the gap between the immigrant youth and their parents. It was aimed at supplying them. from educating mainly immigrant youth who arrived unaccompanied from Nazi Germany. The first was ‘the youth project’. Many of the Ethiopian adolescents experienced a loss of parental guidance. 1986. because of the ‘powerful’ Israeli environment (Kashti and Arieli 1976. either in their admission criteria or in their academic support system for those . Ethiopian immigrant youth have again found themselves in a less academic environment with low achievers as their peer group (Peri 1985). and later from other areas of trouble. This enhanced the adolescents’ sense of an ever widening gap between themselves and their parents. The younger children lacked immediate role models for studying (which encouraged even more children to join Youth Aliya boarding schools as soon as they could). as well as with the equivalent of eight years of Israeli education. which targeted those who had between one and nine years of Ethiopian education. But the academic institutions are particularly universalistic in their admission criteria. Thus. operating between 1985 and 1987. which is typical of groups of immigrants. but as a function of what the system could offer at the time. both academically and socially. with their parents. For those who had arrived in Israel aged between 18 and 30 years old. with vocational training. particularly North African. Some teachers at their religious schools thought that they could change the parents’ religious behaviour through the children. which was an over-supplied job in Israel. It turned out later that most of the students could not find work in the area in which they were trained—for example. The Youth Aliya educational institutions and villages have shifted. The adolescents were changing even more rapidly than if they were living at home. widened as a result of that situation. The adolescents who could have helped their younger brothers and sisters in their studies were continually disappearing from the community to the boarding schools. to caring for ‘disadvantaged’ adolescents.188 ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL However. there were two main options in terms of education. The second option for the over-18 age group was to register for studies in Israeli universities. In addition.

the heritage of their journey has not been confirmed and even acknowledged.000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted from Sudan in Operation Moses in 1984/5. but also that their fellow Jews seem not to accept them. the decision remained unchanged and Ethiopian Jews had to go through what was in their eyes a humiliating ceremony of symbolic conversion. This was the time when famine was at its height in Ethiopia. Basically. and its line of reasoning.30 Most students. where people were dying of hunger and disease in vast numbers.ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL 189 who did get in. was unintelligible to the Ethiopian Jews. reflecting a painful recognition by the Ethiopian immigrant community that not only had they not achieved the expected sense of completeness by the act of joining their fellow Jews in Israel.31 Finally. A respected elder of the community once shared his frustration with me at having to go through this symbolic ceremony. The doubt regarding the authenticity of their own Jewish identity was carried over from their time in Ethiopia into the Israeli context. the aspect of the encounter with Israeli society that Ethiopian Jews have found most wounding of all was the fact that their identity and self-concept was disputed: the authenticity of their own Jewish identity had been put into question. that there was no doubt that they were Jews. Religious authorities have declared. and their suffering was not acknowledged and appreciated. support which proved to be crucial for their success. Yet on the other hand the Chief Rabbinate demanded a process of ‘symbolic conversion’ to Judaism by Ethiopian Jews upon their arrival. their self-concept as resourceful and brave—even heroic—people found no resonance in Israeli society. and the rabbinate came under unprecedented attack. ‘Historical background’). either did not get in or dropped out shortly after beginning their studies. Television pictures of the starving Ethiopians in the camps were broadcast to . Thus. they were (and still are) viewed by Israelis as helpless/dependent/resourceless people who were saved from starvation by the Israelis. He said: ‘We suffered so much on our way here and they question our Jewish identity!’ One cannot fail to notice the ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’ distinction raised in his words. Many of them refused. as to many Israelis. they were. including some very talented ones who could have certainly graduated if given a fair chance. Instead of acquiring an image as being brave and resourceful people. A major conflict ensued. Approximately 8. it was a struggle about the future of Israeli identity. a declaration which was instrumental in bringing them to Israel under the Law of Return (see Chapter 2. Nevertheless. in which the whole issue of ‘Who is a Jew?’ and who is to decide on it in Israel was rekindled. deeply disappointed. Second. of course. The famine and political strife had driven hundreds of thousands of people out of Ethiopia towards the refugee camps in Sudan. The ‘dormant’ issue of state and religion in Israel came into the public eye again. The doubt then remained. This decision of the Chief Rabbinate. both in Israel and from Jewish leaders in the Diaspora. Having been left with no qualifications to carry them through the Israeli vocational and employment system. on the one hand.

At least some of it was still a living memory when the Ethiopian newcomers arrived in Israel. sending out many Israeli experts in the 1960s and early 1970s.33 The words of the Ethiopian elder quoted above also convey. the more powerful images. of the veteran Israelis as ‘givers’ and of Ethiopian newcomers as ‘receivers’ of help. took place in Britain. it seems to me. including in Israel. it seems that their Sudanese existence prevailed in the minds of Israelis and overshadowed their earlier journey. Thus the Israeli myth of bravery. Conversely. it was. with hundreds of thousands contributing to ‘the hungry people of Ethiopia’ (Pankhurst 1992. who saw themselves as those who saved the Jews of Ethiopia from hunger and a disastrous future.34 . Despite the fact that Ethiopian Jews were regarded on their arrival as ‘the last Zionists’ (as some newspaper headlines ran at the time) and in opposition to the fact that before Operation Moses had taken place there were already 8. Smith 1994. the Jews of Ethiopia were expected to be satisfied with and grateful for everything they received from the Israelis. Oxford 1994). persisted from that point onwards in the minds of veteran Israelis. These were powerful messages which brought about the greatest ever response by the West in the form of relief operations.190 ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL millions of homes around the world. This was in contrast to the Ethiopian Jews’ own feeling that they have earned their ‘entrance ticket’ (visa) to Israeli society as Jews whose suffering was caused by their Jewish identity and their particular wish to reach Israel. the selfperception of Israelis as brave rescuers of troubled Jews around the world (Troen and Pinkus 1992) which contributed to the negation of Ethiopians as brave people. were those of the television pictures of starving people in the refugee camps. In that sense. Bob Geldof’s ‘concert for the poor’. ‘to educate them’. They were seen as coming from a primitive backward country and as being helpless and ignorant rather than resourceful people. I believe. the ones which became ingrained in the Israeli psyche. Thus Ethiopian Jews were viewed as refugees escaping starvation rather than ideological migrants who had chosen to come because they were Jewish. instead of extending its boundaries to include the Ethiopian Jews within it.000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel who had arrived during the previous seven years. This extensive and extremely powerful media coverage inscribed the famine and its ensuing misery in the minds of many Israelis. was simply consolidated among the veteran Israelis. before the famine had even started. so that once again people perceived it as the duty of Israeli society ‘to teach them everything’. the feeling of Ethiopian Jews that their suffering on the journey was not acknowledged by Israeli society. ‘to raise them up’ (BenEzer 1992: Chapter 2).32 It must be borne in mind that the state of Israel had given years of agricultural instruction and industrial support to Ethiopia. This view of Ethiopian Jews was reinforced by stereotypes related to their black skin colour and to their African origin. This definition of relations. with the participation of scores of celebrated artists. In addition to the powerful television images.

if the culture they wish to join rejects their self-image and conveys an image which is derogatory in its essence. The result could be an impaired functioning of the individual in various areas of his or her life. destabilising their Jewish identity and self-concept deprives them of the element which. stripped of their previous significance. people need a degree of confirming (positive) feedback from the social environment. 1974) the events of the exodus and to strip them of their meaning as part of a collective selection and purification process. this wide discrepancy. in general. the fact that Israeli society did not fully recognise their Jewish identity had a tremendous psychological effect upon the immigrants. Adaptation is in itself a stressful process. Conversely. Their sense of this ‘unjust’ contrast. A vicious circle may establish itself. which can bring about a reduction in the level of achievement motivation. there is a danger that this image will eventually be internalised and will replace the person’s self-image or alter it to a significant degree. which can be psychologically dangerous for them. which serves as an affirmation of their self-perception and construction of identity. created a tension that often became emotionally unbearable and functionally disruptive. Furthermore. according to Erik Erikson (1968). whereby fewer efforts are made to function in a way which corresponds to an image of an able intelligent person. Thus. This sort of feedback also constitutes ‘narcissistic supplies’ (Sandler 1960. This seems to be especially true in the case of Ethiopian immigrants. a process which requires coping abilities and emotional resources. Children in particular exhibit a heightened tendency to be alike and to conform to the group. When the social environment reflects back to an individual or a group an image of themselves which is distorted and ‘untrue’. Losses through death of a parent or a child can suddenly become meaningless. is most needed as an integrating principle during the stressful time of resettlement. This can result in self-doubt and self-depreciation. It threatened to re-frame (Watzlawick et al. since they have arrived with a concept of the Jews of Israel being ‘righteous people’.ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL 191 Certainly. We may assume that Ethiopian Jews are helped in their present struggle for integration by feeling that they are joining their fellow Jews in Israel. the image held by Israeli society of the Ethiopian Jews as helpless/ dependent/hungry people conflicted with the immigrants’ self-image as being strong and able. it could affect the psychological wellbeing of individuals in the present and also become a cross-generational message. Newcomers who are trying to join a society are particularly prone to such a vicious circle. the kind of people who should serve as their models. This is because. The initial encounter with Israel as experienced by Ethiopian Jews could thus be summed up in the words of one of my interviewees: ‘We arrived—yet did not . 1982) which are constantly required for the regulation of our emotional life. Since in most of the cases they constitute some sort of minority— usually in terms of their culture but at times also of skin colour and other aspects —they perceive others as a homogenous majority which possesses a certain similarity and knowledge which they lack. and this in turn brings about a reduced level of performance.

how many family members we have lost. and now you encounter some-thing…for a moment it is hard to accept it.’ Then we arrived at the absorption centre. your dreams were different. This enrages me! It makes my blood boil! After everything we have suffered on the journey because of our Jewishness! The journey: a myth in the making? The story of their journey seems to play an important role in the process of adaptation and integration of the Ethiopian Jews into Israeli society. They felt that they had actualised the dream of many generations by returning to their country. and then. and had thus re-established the fundamental bonds between people.35 In this sense they had a feeling of deep satisfaction and self-fulfilment. but instead they say this word!’…And the problem with the [Chief] Rabbinate!… And people think that we had come because of hunger. and they brought us the fruits of the country.192 ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL arrive!’ Other Ethiopian Jews repeated this message in more or less the same words. you start observing something strange…as if you were once in a place [where] you had a certain dream. the joy of it is beyond description. in terms of joining Israeli society they feel that they have not yet arrived. It actually starts. Then they took us into the night. Not only me but many of us felt: ‘Did we come for this? Is this the reception we deserve? What we went through. As we were told. Shlomo expressed vividly the frustration and disappointment at the ‘rough face’ shown to him at his journey’s end: When the aeroplane landed in Israel. and for a moment. The journey to Israel in this sense is still continuing. Because…your expectations were different. for a moment you put it aside. and there were cars driving on a Shabbat… And the bureaucracy…and when they used the word cushi [black]…this was such an insult…and when people used it in a certain tone it would infuriate me. and country. slowly. ‘Where have I actually arrived?’ Because it is not the place… There were in fact people who asked if they had reached the right place…and ‘Is it the place I dreamt of all my life?’ Suddenly Shabbat arrived. Asking yourself. and relatives started visiting us. no one asks us. and we said to each other: ‘Look. Suddenly you forget all the hardships you suffered. all the hardships you went through in order to realise it. However. and the joy was incredible… And then. and we were so tired. It is recounted among the Ethiopian Jewish community and is being used as a vehicle in the social dialogue which has evolved with Israeli society. to God’s land. what we suffered. the land of milk and honey! We are seeing it. we saw the orange groves on our way. you turn to being disappointed. and…as if I was floating in the air out of happiness. God. Here it is! The oranges. when you see that things are different from what you expected. no one asks us. It was raining. It seems to have .

and sit together and drink coffee (buna) in the three-rounds time-consuming ceremony when people talk and share. Several functions of the telling of this story among themselves were identified: 1 Re-affirmation of their identity: important elements within their identity are restated. on holiday from their boarding schools. for example. This is important since they are encountering a new society. and on days of remembrance for their loved ones. The story of the journey incorporates and introduces the history of the community. to their recent past. The story of the journey is told within the community. The telling of the experience reminds them of their mutual fate. a separate existence as an ethno-religious entity and a sense of non-belonging in spiritual terms. 2 Cohesiveness: it connects the members of the community to each other and makes them feel one entity. or are already undergoing. they recall their journey and share experiences. a kibbutz near Jerusalem.ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL 193 become their way of continuing the necessary journey within Israel. 3 A source of strength: it is a spring from which they draw the energy needed for coping with the unexpected difficulties during their resettlement. since the most central elements of their identity and self-concept have been put under question within Israeli society. a reconstruction of identity. striving to ‘arrive’ in the social sense. It includes. The sharing of the past brings about a sense of direction in the present and ‘realigns’ them for their stride into the future. as well as to their further (Ethiopian) and mythical (Hebrew) past.) —as well as traditions of how they arrived in Ethiopia and prophecies of their return. The events of the journey are recounted on the special Memorial Day when they gather at this place. to be accepted and integrated. It is recounted at gatherings on holidays or vacations. between generations and within the same age group. etc. besides the journey itself. Through . Yet it is told not only on holy days and formal occasions. the state of exile. Through the story they try to reach the much-longed-for sense of completeness ensuing from the merging of ‘river’ and ‘sea’. It also includes the history of the Jews before their departure. therefore. what they consider its essential features (as. Others are variations on the themes or are more personal. A forest of remembrance has been created in the vicinity of Ramat-Rachel. Often when adolescent friends meet after a long time. which brings up questions of identity typical of such a phase. Some elements of the story seem to stand out and repeat themselves. a condensed history of the community in Ethiopia—at least. that of the journey. The elderly too share their stories when they meet after a long time. During this period they feel that they have to go through. their sharing of adversity and their success in overcoming challenges. This aspect is of special importance for the Ethiopian Jews. The story of the journey connects them. following burial and during mourning rituals. as well as the need for change. within families and among friends. where relatives have planted a tree for each of those who died on the journey.

which was expressed in interviews made in relation to these actions. which continues to play a role in people’s lives and is ‘a living force in the present’ (Samuel and Thompson 1990:20). What could better convey Jewish identity than stories of kidush hashem (Jewish martyrology) which are included within the narrative of the journey? Or what could better contradict Israeli perceptions of them as miserable people than the stories of heroism and ingenuity on their way? What could replace the information included in the narratives in explaining the reason for their journey ‘home’. It releases hope and stirs the force of life in them. The concept of myth is applied in this context as it is used by Raphael Samuel and Paul Thompson (1990). or aspects within it. who relate to it not as ‘mere archaic relics but a potent force in everyday life. Yet even these political measures were. that they were persecuted and discriminated against as Jews in Ethiopia and felt that they did not belong there. Ethiopian Jews seize the opportunity to promote their own view of themselves. These authors claim that ‘old myths are constantly reworked and new myths continually created as people make sense of untidy and traumatic memories and give meaning to their lives’ (1990:20). Following these and other scholars (cited below). in many instances.194 ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL recalling the continued existence of their people in spite of hardships over many centuries. and their self-image as brave and resourceful people. which conveys a message that stands in contrast to the image of ‘people who came because of hunger’? Or what could be more powerful than the experience of reliving the ‘Exodus of the Israelites’ to convey the idea that they share the same ancestors as the present-day Israelis?36 It is important to note. The psychologist Rollo May (1991) writes in his study of myths in the United States: . the story seems to be turning into a myth. the story assists them. ‘couched’ within the frame of reference of the journey. I think of myth not as an untrue story but as a living memory. They involved the prime minister in this struggle. Along this process of retelling time and again the story of the journey. however. that the social struggle of the Ethiopian Jews was not limited to their efforts to convey important messages to Israeli society through emphasising the journey experience. and used their right to appeal to the Supreme Court and won their case. lifts them above the current difficult situation. For a period they insisted on continuing to have their own priests to perform marriage ceremonies. of either recent or long past events. The struggle also included a use of various political measures. During 1985 they staged a prolonged strike against the Chief Rabbinate. The story of the journey plays a central role in the social dialogue that has evolved between Ethiopian Jews and Israeli society. Through the journey story they try to convey to Israeli society those aspects of their self-perception which are most important for them: those of their Jewish identity. the fact that they earned their right to Israel through the suffering of the journey. When interviewed in the media on other subjects. part of our collective unconscious’.

it is beginning to change from a personal story into a collective memory. due to their special dependence on oral sources (Thompson 2000:167).ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL 195 myth refers to the quintessence of human experience. the meaning and significance of human life… The myth is a drama which begins as a historical event and takes on its special character as a way of orienting people to reality.37 People who have gone through it are still telling the story of the journey. The myth. This can sometimes be quite rapid: the lives of African prophets. (May 1991:26) Myths. The story of the journey of the Ethiopian Jews seems to have acquired these characteristics of a myth.). can be transformed into myths within a space of two or three years (ibid. I believe. what is then needed—and indeed is synthesised by the societies he researched—is ‘a simplified. using fieldwork in Angola. Lucien Aschieri has shown how ‘for a threatened community. Nevertheless. Some of my interviewees were already orienting themselves according to these collective aspects of the story as if these were coordinates to which their personal account should refer. or story. It is a story that makes sense of untidy and traumatic memories. memory must above all serve to emphasise a sense of common identity’ (Thompson 2000:166). tells .and secondhand memory transmitted within and outside the group. as a ‘system of communication’. Myth can also serve. has shown how when the memory of the Angolan War of 1861 passes beyond personal oral histories which are eyewitness accounts. Some elements of the group’s story are already being emphasised. according to Roland Barthes (1957). is a myth ‘in the making’. are particularly potent when a collective identity (and sometimes even when an individual identity) is at risk. Tamar. and beyond informal memory which includes second-hand accounts. for example. Africanist Joseph Miller. for example. emphasis mine). given a place of importance. and it has become a system of communication. Some Africanists have tried to disentangle the process by which immediate memory is transformed into formal tradition. I believe. The story. Rosanna Basso (1990:68) pointed out in her study of a children’s strike that events or actions could be a prey of myth ‘if there is a collective action that puts them at the centre of a system of communication’. It is a means of finding and keeping identity. a vehicle for conveying desired messages to themselves as well as to Israeli society. The study of the differing processes of transmission has been carried furthest among the anthropologists and historians of Africa. but it has already acquired those aspects which play a part in condensing the factual details and reworking them into a collective story whereby the meaning of it is its central essence. carries the values of the society: by the myth the individual finds his sense of identity. It is still a first. stylised account which concentrates on the meaning of the story’ (Thompson 2000:167. In his study of a small commune outside Marseilles.

It can be assumed that. The social struggle of Ethiopian Jews. which includes the idealised picture of their previous existence. which is turned into a myth. as in the myth of ‘the drying of the swamps’ of the first Jewish settlers of the 1880s.196 ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL me at the beginning of her account: ‘I did not suffer as much as most of the others in the community did… My journey was not as difficult as it had been for others. notably in Morocco. for example. For example. who came mainly from eastern and central Europe in the last century and built the first little villages and towns. those who do not have a myth surrounding their aliya seem to be missing as a distinctive group in the Israeli consciousness. with its various aspects and the story of the journey at its centre. talking about the communal experience. Thus. the Ethiopian Jews were (and still are) compelled to address the question of what aspects of their original culture they wished to preserve. and the . and what they were willing to give up. the first settlers. These centre around who they have been (their past identity). the Ukraine and the Baltic republics.38 The story of the journey. The North African Jews in particular created the myth of the disadvantaged. created the ‘new person’ and the ‘religion of (manual) work’. the struggle against the religious authorities. Myths created by particular groups are not a new phenomenon in Israeli society. The second and third aliya. as waves of immigrants are called in Israel) have created different myths.’ She perceives. Almog (1993) writes about the ‘Zionist myths of the 1948 generation’ and Yablonka (1998) and Segev (1992) relate various myths which play a role within Israeli society through their discussion of the ways Holocaust survivors were received in Israel. and in fact is complementing her own story by ‘filling in’ this aspect. By struggling to assert their identity. who came in the 1920s and later. The case of ‘the myth of the disadvantaged’ of the North African group (aliya) also served as a way of penetrating into the political arena. These myths often serve as a means to legitimise claims for certain political or social rights. She thus relates to the aspect of suffering as an essential part of a journey story. those who did not develop such a myth are ‘missing’ as a group in Israeli consciousness. presented society at large with the myth of ‘the drying of the swamps’. are the Egyptian Jews in Israel. seems to be of importance if we look at it from yet another point of view. since every group of immigrants that arrived in Israel created their own myth. as. that she ‘has nothing to tell about’ (although she is willing to share her account and does so with a formidable strength). or on what they have built up in their new place. or of promoting status. Various groups of immigrants (or aliyot. mainly from Russia. the way they were received in Israel. is therefore extremely important since it serves as a means of opening up a space for the Ethiopian Jews as a group in the Israeli psyche. On the other hand. which somehow continue to serve their offspring (as a pioneering aristocracy) to this day. paradoxically. the myth of the halutz (pioneering Israeli) or tzabar created by Ashkenazi Jews was maintained in order to preserve the power of a social elite and as a means to motivate others towards a certain model of conduct. In that sense. therefore.

Migrants. and sometimes refugees if they stay long enough. and whether the kind of hyphenated identity that Ethiopian Jews will form will include seeds of future conflict and renewed marginalisation.’ By these words. they become hyphenated persons. A veteran Ethiopian. Italian-Americans. Rather. sometimes called an assimilated person. who came as an adolescent and had been in Israel for thirty years. once said to an interviewer who had asked him whether he was an Israeli in every sense: ‘Of course. moulded anew in the model of the new (or host) society. often referred to as MexicanAmericans. Yet some basic things never change. do not go (as some would argue) through a total transformation into a newly created person. he meant that he is an Israeli of Ethiopian origin: an Ethiopian-Israeli. launched them on an important process—a process which I would suggest could be called ‘becoming hyphenated’. I belong to the processes of the last thirty years. I believe. or the power of hope and integration which initially inaugurated their journey. Chinese-English or Bulgarian-Israelis. We still do not know how this process will continue to unfold.ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL 197 heated dialogue with some sections of the Israeli public. people with a dual or even multiple sense of social identity. .

People construct migration or flight journeys as happening within relatively clear boundaries. Victor Turner. Each phase of the journey influences the next one. it continues through the period of the actual movement and often concludes some time after the arrival of the person in the new country. I believe. and specific experiences within it affect the way the person encounters the experiences that follow. are highly intensive events which are registered as a distinct period and experience within the life history of the individual. From this perspective. A second point which comes out of this study is related to the issue of journeys and identity (in the latter various senses). Migration journeys. even when it does not include an intensive experience of exacting movement. These boundaries. who researched pilgrimage phenomena (1974) and the condition of ‘limen’ (Turner . should be viewed as a dynamic process rather than a static condition. It would also be worthwhile to look at migration in general. Nevertheless. Journeys. an event which has acquired particular significance within their life stories. The first point I want to make relates to the way journeys are experienced by those who have made them. We have seen how for Ethiopian Jews the journey was a distinctive event in their lives. The journey will most probably be conceived as starting from the moment of decision to migrate (whether chosen or forced). however. i. may extend somewhat beyond the limits of the physical movement. I believe. from the point of view of a journey. when processes of separation from and mourning of the old society and self are starting to take place. the essence of the journey is in the powerful processes which the person (and the community) undergoes in the course of the physical movement and during the period in between countries. it would be interesting to study the journeys of other groups of migrants and refugees and to understand the experience and its significance in the lives of those who made them.e. This might also be true for other migrants and refugees. looking at the in-between phase—the period that starts with the decision to migrate and ends upon arrival in the new country— examining the dynamics of change which occur during this period as well as how these influence subsequent processes.CONCLUDING REMARKS By way of conclusion I wish to highlight a few points arising from this study which seem to have a more general relevance to migration journeys.

and can bring about significant changes in the individual. of realising the person’s limitations and boundaries of self. of being ‘between and betwixt’. friends and others. the very cause for a migration journey. It is nonetheless meaningful. They occupy the world of associations of the individual in such a way that they are reminded of these events on a daily basis. it releases further change in the direction of the ideal the individual is striving to attain. wrote about the fact that being out of structure—in other words. but to look at the whole ‘associative world’ of the person. it can serve as a source of strength and an ideological motivation to rise above hardship and torment. in psychoanalytic terms. the hardships of the journey were understood as a process of selection and purification. Experiencing the actual death of relatives. It seems to me that there is a need to widen the perspective. Carl Rogers (1967) argued that the mere experience of learning who one is. to consider aspects which do not necessarily affect the function in its narrow sense. changes their self-concept (self-representation. Reflection does not have to be long.g. . as in the case of Ethiopian Jews or of political activists who have to flee for their lives. At the same time. The third point I would like to make relates to the consequences of extreme experiences such as journeys. Moreover. The very fact of leaving their country of origin. going through what could be called a ‘journey mode of existence’. in itself. and for a while the individual can reflect on it. particularly with the reality of death which many such journeys include. it influences the way people will cope with negative experiences. psychologists and other researchers tend to examine these only from the point of view of how the individual functions following the experience. creates a different perspective on events as well as on the individual’s past and future. the experience of the journey shapes the individual’s and the group’s identity and self-concept. is. alters people’s perspective on life. following Van Gennep’s original concept of 1909). Identity (in its various dimensions) affects many aspects of the journey: it may constitute. It is a pause in the usual way that their life is run. and of self. We have seen how. Sandler 1962). Another aspect of the experience of a journey which affects identity is the encounter with situations involving life and death. or one’s own imagined death. and the way they view the world. the homeland. I believe that such negative experiences form a condition of ‘over-relevancy’ (BarOn 1991) in their inner world. Considering the impact of such experiences on individuals (and sometimes on groups). out of norm—allows more extensive experimentations which result in potent transformations in the self. and as a re-experiencing of the Exodus of their ancestors from Egypt to Israel.CONCLUDING REMARKS 199 1967. e. a change. Identity is thus affected to a greater extent by this situation of ‘limen’. These processes happen even during harsh conditions and traumatic experiences. and of not having yet reached any other well-defined and cohesive social order. with norms and sanctions. thus fortifying their Jewish identity. in the case of the Ethiopian Jews. Thus there seems to be a circular relation between the process of the journey and the journeyer’s identity. Many report that they felt like different people following such an experience.

Researchers would then have to find the appropriate tools. and that they could then use this knowledge for their own benefit as well as in the service of others. circumvent them. such as the choice of a profession or of a partner. at school or in their social activities.200 CONCLUDING REMARKS while performing mundane activities. functioning at work through economic success or the stability of employment. One has first of all to construct a suitable theoretical framework which takes into account such influences on the inner world of the person and the effects in areas which do not impair functioning. It would be interesting and important. Sandler and Sandler 1983) in such a way that their life—even though not the commonly measured functioning—is changed. escape them and ‘cross danger areas’: that is. in the family. These kinds of consequences could not be traced in the common way in which we tend to measure (and think of) effects following difficult and/or traumatic events: that is. On the other hand. measuring functioning at school as in the level of grades. the journey was conceptualised as an experience of personal development and growth. People need to invest mental/emotional energy in order to avoid these associations. even if a reasonable process of ‘working through’ (Sandler et al. but not necessarily the functioning which is connected with these decisions. or administering questionnaires which investigate these and other areas of functioning. 1973) has taken place. They felt that they had learnt new things about themselves and the world around them. The journey has then affected their ‘internal furniture’ (Sandler 1962. Somewhere along this continuum people are affected by negative experiences in a way which does not impair their functioning but influences their inner world in other ways. and other extreme situations. While these people may function normally and without problem at work. on the quality of life of people. their quality of life may have changed as a consequence of the journey. They could lead to the quite opposite process of personal development through extension of the boundaries of the self. New research instruments may have to be created. it is important to remember that extreme situations such as a migration journey do not necessarily lead to a narrowing of personal boundaries (ego boundaries or self-representation) through traumatisation of the individual. to research the impact of journey experiences. We have seen how. I would add here that these negative experiences may influence important decisions within the lives of these persons. A life-story interview in the tradition of the narrative interview is just one such tool. different ways of investigating the lives of those who have undergone such experiences. We have seen how Ethiopian Jews expected to be . and in particular on those who have experienced them during their childhood and adolescence. I therefore suggest that the effect of extreme situations such as the migration journey should be seen (in part) along a continuum relating to their subsequent ‘quality of life’: a continuum that lies between the poles of trauma and personal growth. I believe. for some Ethiopian adolescents. A fourth aspect to be found in this research relates to the suffering as an ‘entrance ticket’ into society.

conceive their experiences of suffering as entitling them to certain rights. I expect it has been made clear why journeys should be considered as a distinct phenomenon which is worth researching among other migrants and refugees. I hope by now the reader understands. These questions. We still do not have a deep understanding of the various ways in which these ‘entrance tickets’ or ‘social visas’ are constructed. how I suffered. following the experiences of suffering. as I think I do. Nor do we fully grasp the ways in which this perception by the immigrant. it was 15–20 million about ten years ago. a ‘lesson’ which was acquired through all that suffering. why the journey served as the screen through which they experienced the reality of integration in Israel. Even before that. remain to be researched. and whether in the final analysis suffering invokes social conflict. Let me conclude by returning to the beginning: the elderly Ethiopian man who revolted against the stand taken by the Rabbinate regarding his Jewishness. It seems to me that the processes that arise out of this situation have not been sufficiently researched at the individual and social level. They expect understanding. I believe. they expect to be listened to. that they had endured more than their share of suffering. Black 1993). Many of these refugees underwent arduous journeys as well as other horrific experiences.CONCLUDING REMARKS 201 accepted as fellow countrymen (and women) by veteran Israelis and counted on the Israelis to understand how they felt. My hope is that I have contributed somewhat towards this aim and. Nor do we know how it affects inter-group (which is often inter-ethnic) relations. The number of refugees in the world is increasing and is estimated today at about 50 million (Zetter 2000. we do not know how their expectations. towards a better understanding of human suffering and triumph. the family members I have lost on the way’. Furthermore. Furthermore. Some even feel that they have a moral message to convey to society. refugee. the youngster at the boarding school who thought that he would have been treated differently ‘if they only knew of the journey I went through. I suggest (following this study as well as some evidence from other studies). in the case of entire groups who arrive simultaneously in a country as immigrants (or as a large number of individuals seeking asylum). in the final step. . see Marrus 1988. There is some evidence that this experience is shared by other refugees. influence the way they interpret the reaction/s towards them within their new society. Upon arrival in their safe haven many of them. exile or asylum seeker influences their functioning within their new society or the way in which they experience their entrance process. following this understanding and considering the points raised in this book. for their voice to be heard.

APPENDIX Biographical Data of Interviewees .

203 .

204 Source This table is an abridged and slightly adapted version of a table contained in Messing (1957) .

‘immigrants’ and ‘emigrants’ are often used interchangeably in the literature. The distinction is not always a straightforward one since it is often not simply a matter of ‘geography’ or ‘intent’. They decide on religious matters involving both observant and non-observant Israeli Jews. or rather specific immigrants. headed by an Ashkenazi and a Sephardi Chief Rabbi and by a Chief Rabbinate Council. is viewed in light of two factors: 1 the low fertility rate in Western European countries (as well as Japan. to connote the experience of forced migration and of flight. intending to leave. 2 The terms ‘migrants’. or by the African Unity Organisation (OAU). The term ‘refugee’ is employed in the present study. The conflict of this institution (and these rabbis) with Ethiopian Jews will be explained in detail below (Chapters 2 and 8). or Protocol of 1967. ‘Bogus’ asylum seekers. which is one of the important factors to be considered by the state’s law when having to decide on such a matter. as in other studies in the field. and ‘immigrants’ (which connotes mainly a perception of these people from the point of view of the receiving society) for when they arrived in their new country. and in its somewhat narrower usage as a legal term defined by the UN Convention of 1951. who are considered as ‘economic migrants’. incidentally) which predicts that the population of united .NOTES 1 INTRODUCTION 1 If Israel can be considered part of ‘the West’. however. have aroused public resentment and have also served as an ‘easy prey’ for populist (and other) politicians. towards opening up the borders for immigration. They are also involved in ruling on who is a Jew from a religious (hallachic) point of view. I shall use ‘emigrants’ to describe the people while they were still in their country of origin. 4 The tightening of the European borders due to the policy of ‘restrictionism’ and the difference between European nation-states in their regulations concerning immigrants as well as asylum seekers are widely and fiercely discussed in this context (Bauman 1998. 3 A formal institution called the Chief Rabbinate exists in Israel. Zetter 1999b). notably those relating to the performance and registration of marriage and divorce. However. I shall mainly use the term ‘migrants’ (which is the more inclusive). The more recent shift.

50–5). and on Robert Louis Stevenson (1895:39–42. As I am trying to do in the present work.000 in Bosnia). The Ethiopian community in the US in 1989 was estimated at between 50. caused attention once again to be shifted to Europe and European refugee flows. the book focuses on the experience of Ethiopian and Eritrean women refugees in Canada. on Andreas Geyer. Jr. agencies are starting to look for and invite skilled workers from other countries: for example. When she deals with their history. in comparison. resulting from the ‘new openness’ towards immigration (see editorials from The Times and the Daily Telegraph from 12 September 2000. 44–8. 7 The quite recent Yugoslav conflicts in Bosnia. (The last is to such an extent that Nelson Mandela has asked the British government to stop this process before South Africa is left without good doctors. computer programmers from Pakistan and medical doctors from South Africa. among other sources. excluding asylum seekers. tries to . ‘Letter to the German Society of Philadelphia’ (1805).000 people.000 and 75. they are still quali-fied by restricting them to skilled workers. 8 The numbers are estimations based on refugee applications and various other sources (see ECDC Report 1989:21–9). echoing some similar issues concerning Haitian and other migrants/refugees). Britain and other countries to carry the economic burden of the retired-over-65-year-old persons. Moussa looks at the ‘flight journey’ (Chapter 7) and the camp period (Chapter 8). she relates to the journey as important. Herzegovina and other parts of the former state. quoted in Friedrich Kapp (1870:183–5). 6 Elizabeth Colson’s first words in her book about the resettlement of the Tonga should be remembered in this context: ‘Massive technological development hurts’ (Colson 1971. on reports of sixty years later (quoted in Kapp 1870:189–92). as well as in Albania. will shrink by 17 million people by the year 2040.206 NOTES Germany. for example. thus there will not be enough people in Germany. to only a few hundred in Rwanda (Zetter 2000). see also the New York Times issue of ‘Immigrants’. teachers from Australia. for example. cited in Davis 1992:149). 2 the realisation that immigrants could actually contribute and boost the economy rather than be a burden on the society. For the Canadian case. for example. In Britain. This book could be viewed as the one which resembles most the study presented here. Croatia.) While these ideas for change of policy towards immigration are thrown to the public to be tested. This has resulted in an incredible number of NGO workers in this area (estimated 50. Inspired by a femi-nist theory. in October 2000. of women in particular. and Johnston in the DailyTelegraph from the same day. see Helene Moussa’s book Storm and Sanctuary (1993). and the Pakistani ambassador viewed this process as a new type of colonialism. 5 Handlin relies here.

Schoenberger (1975). 1993). However.Appleyard 1992). (1994 the life cycle). These were probably intended to disguise their Jewish identity within their Christian environment and while travelling. biblical paradigms of speech and style can be detected in the journey stories. For instance. The commandment to perform circumcision on the eighth day is scrupulously observed. hold on to the hope of going back to their village or town. 1982). 11 General aspects of storytelling in Ethiopia could then be taken up in the analysis. Shlush 1988:51 for reference to the basis of this custom. Weil (1988:40) reports that the circumcision was usually performed by a woman at the entrance to the ‘blood’ (isolation) hut. Abbink (1984). 2 THE CONTEXT OF THE JOURNEY 1 The ethnographic sketch is based mainly on the writings by Messing (1957. These were found in other groups within Ethiopian society (D. from the point of view of the refugees. for a long time. no matter what the circumstances: an uncircumcised male— a very rare occurrence—would be treated as a non-Jew. however. coffee may be used as one way to appease the zar spirit. 7 Cf. Budovsky et al.g. Leslau (1951). which appear on many women’s foreheads or on the backs of their hands. although ceremonies due to take place on the Sabbath are deferred until Sunday. One of the reasons given for zar attacks is the drinking of too much coffee. and examines the form of their interviews. the blood of which is then scattered on the site of the circumcision. which as mentioned above is the experience of women in Canada—not the journey and its meaning. Circumcision therefore takes place even on holidays. is her focus.L. and prayers and another blessing are recited. Most refugees may. Itzhak (1988 education). 3 Much as the Sabbath hallah (or choleh) is eaten in other communities. Faitlovitch (1959). or at least of repatriation to their country of origin. called nidah. At the same time. in the Bible as well as to the rabbinic hallachic law which developed in orthodox Judaism as a result of the biblical precept. in the West or elsewhere. 5 This does not apply to signs of the cross. Schwartz-Beeri (1988 material culture). when the hope of such a prospect seems unreal. Solomon (1987). Tarbus and Minutchin-Itzikson (1983 gender roles in particular). 4 Coffee is also associated with various beliefs regarding health e. 1988 material culture in particular). 10 Refugee camps are. Kahana (1977. The difference from our study. 9 The distance from Ban Vinai to Bangkok by bus is 413 miles (Everingham 1980: 646). 2 On non-religious journeys see Solomon 1987. 1989) and Friedman and Sabar-Friedman (1987 recent changes in the community). just a station on their journey. Shelemay (1988.NOTES 207 give the women a ‘voice’. the zar. This is so even if they stay for years—are ‘warehoused’ —in the camps. Trevisan-Semi (1985 purity/impurity rituals. these could be studied in full. Consequently. 8 During the ceremony the priest slaughters a chicken. many attempt to find new life in a third country. with the phenomenon of spirit possession. 6 See The Invention of Tradition by Hobsbaum and Ranger 1983. Bogale (1985 education). while the kess .

to a degree of freedom in the choice of a marriage partner or at least in refusing one. Chapter 12: ‘Proverbs as a mirror of culture’.L. it is not always clear whether this took place because of their religion or. The application of his formulations to rituals surrounding death in the Ethiopian Jewish community are discussed in Itzikson and Hanegbi 1985. D. moved with his students to Gondar. Arnold Van Gennep (1909) addressed this issue in his analysis of the ‘rites of passage’. which deals in particular with proverbs related to trouble and misfortune in Ethiopian culture and with coping with these. where a chapter is devoted to the topic of proverbs (1970: 389–425). is a modern phenomenon even in mainstream Judaism. Singular kess. As in any living community. They were often the most highly regarded teachers of religious and cultural traditions. variations of ritual. it is shared by other peoples of Ethiopia. however. Formal education entitled the girl. There is. of course. see Ruth Finnegan’s particularly useful introduction to oral literature in Africa. there are no bar mitzva or bat mitzva ceremonies. existed within Ethiopian Jewish localities. plural kessoch.Appleyard 1992). This I hope to address in a future article. as a result of their profession (or both reasons). i. The use of the term ‘anti-semitism’ in the Ethiopian context should be regarded with care. This is because the phenomenon of monks among the Beta Israel was regarded as less desirable by reformers such as Faitlovitch. This applies both from a general Ethiopian perspective (Levine 1965) and from the Ethiopian Jewish point of view. One can still. Bogale 1985:90). Faitlovitch himself had to flee from Ethiopia to Israel. We may assume emotional and psychological implications of this transition. and were those who actually trained the kessoch as well.e. This chapter also discusses the possible use of proverbs in working with Ethiopian immigrant youth. including in daily interactions . Taamrat Emmanuel (who also was close to the emperor). see Weil 1988:41). Shlush 1988) report slightly different rituals. who tried to build a bridge between them and ‘mainstream’ rabbinic Judaism. for example. BenEzer 1992. Others (Ben Dor 1988. though. Some of Faitlovitch’s students were killed by the Fascist regime during that time (TrevisanSemi 1986. however. while his most distinguished student. Some Jews became known as part of the resistance movement in Ethiopia. The extensive usage of proverbs is an aspect of Ethiopian culture. For proverbs in Africa. find people among Ethiopian Jews today who were trained by monks or whose parents were educated by monks. some evidence which suggests that the notion of antiChrist was indeed applied in the Ethiopian context. thus serving as an agent of social change. for example. which mark the entering of puberty of Jewish boys and girls at the ages of 13 and 12 respectively (the latter. For example. The practice of sending the bright children to study with the monks was somewhat undermined during the twentieth century. notably the Amhara (Levine 1965. Monks are a unique phenomenon in Judaism and are only known to have existed among Ethiopian Jews. in practice though not necessarily in principle.208 NOTES 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 (priest) would bless the bread and share it among the children of the community on the day after circumcision. These great teachers were the monks. See. Even if the Jews were persecuted.

Later on they served as the basis for opinions in the debate about their identity. when they acquired the additional meaning of ‘people with no land rights’. Radbaz met several Ethiopian Jews since he had to pass a (hallachic) ruling on matters which concerned such Jews (see Waldman 1989:66. permits a possibility that there was some mixture with the local Agaw population. as in the generally accepted change from ‘Galla’ to ‘Oromo’ for another Ethiopian people. ‘Falasha’ was the term then used by Ethiopian Christians (especially as a derogatory term) and by foreign observers (Quirin 1992). for example. Shlush 1988: 85–92). where they were tortured in an attempt to break their spirit. for example. use the terms ‘Beta Israel’ and ‘Ethiopian Jews’. however. Quirin 1992. Rabbi Eliahu of Ferrara (fifteenth century). one of the most important Jewish scholars of his time. Scholars point to the traditional etymology of the term coming from the Ge’ez language (falasa. falasi) and meaning an ‘émigré’ or ‘exile’. the Middle East and India. which can also account for the similarities with those people. At any rate. Such was. Rosen 1985). All subjects at primary school were studied in Amharic. by which the community refer to themselves. researchers who hold that such a kingdom existed agree that it was before the fourteenth century. The Radbaz ruling of the sixteenth century. whereas junior high school was taught in English (beginning with Grade Six). and are thus believed to have existed even before the crushing of the kingdom. The last term connotes more specifically the fact that the Jews outside Israel are in fact exiles. were accused of ‘Zionist views’ and thus put in prison. 1987). in the present study. The exact time of the formation of the Jewish kingdom is not known. both in Israel and in other places. also the letters of Kiruan People to Rabbi Tsemah Gaon (end of the ninth century) concerning the stories of Eldad Ha’Dani (‘the Danite’. These encounters were not without consequences for Ethiopian Jews. as well as many other reports and correspondence between rabbis. They were finally released after almost two years. Tunisia.NOTES 209 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 between Christians and Jews (for a critical discussion of this topic see Kaplan 1984. Aescoly 1943. There were also the stories of various Jewish travellers between the ninth and nineteenth centuries who visited such places as Persia. This view. Jewish communities and travellers in Europe. ‘an uprooted person’. I shall. the encounter of Rabbi David ben Zimra (Radbaz). referring to the Jewish communities which are scattered around the world. The teachers who had been trained in Kfar Batyah. in Egypt in the sixteenth century. for example. It is not clear whether these were complementary occupations to their tenant agricultural subsistence or whether this was their only or main occupation (Quirin 1992:89). Solomon 1987. Other terms used are ‘world Jewry’ and ‘the Jewish Diaspora’. Israel. was to . Corinaldi 1988. Binyamin of Tudela (1159–67). Kaplan 1987. see also Epstein 1891). Leslau 1976. The term ‘Jewish world’ is widely used among Jews. since the word ‘Galla’ similarly originated as an external label and had pejorative connotations (Quirin 1992:12). and also a ‘foreigner’ (falasyan) (see. in relation to Ethiopian Jews. Egypt and Babylon and seemed to have heard of the existence of Jews in Ethiopia (see Waldman 1989:17–152. These terms were considered by researchers as implying a possible separation from ancient Israel and migration to Ethiopia.

(cited in Waldman 1992:181. were still out of the country. (Yeshayahu 1958. The latter was formed in the 1920s as a sort of government for ‘the state to be’. see Corinaldi 1988:31 and passim) any Jewish person who wishes to emigrate to Israel is entitled to automatic citizenship on his/her day of arrival in the country. one hand rejects or is repelled by the possibility that they would be regarded as Jews while the other hand invites them to get closer. a department within the Jewish Agency. Kaplan 1992:143–55. or whether the ‘ingathering’ is still going on. Israel Yeshayahu. they would learn more quickly and better. A great number of these exist in Israel. An ‘ingathering of the exiles’ was expected. thus entitling them to enter Israel under the Law of Return (see Chapter 8). be granted citizenship as well. in Waldman 1992:177–8. Others were established as a response to the growing power of Nazism in Germany and the necessity to cater for the needs of many unaccompanied minors who arrived in Israel before and after the Second World War. At any rate. 34 An Israeli version of a boarding school. Some were created about a hundred years ago. The definition of who is considered a Jew under this law is somewhat different from the strict orthodox religious definition. my translation) 32 As Israel Yeshayahu writes in his report: I arrived at the conclusion that we.210 NOTES 28 29 30 31 become a cornerstone in the ruling that they were Jews. getting a bit closer and backing away again. First-degree relatives up to three generations could. from which they and the state would benefit much more. ended his interesting report. Pankhurst 1985. at the time deputy leader of the Knesset (Israeli parliament). while working and putting down roots. He bequeathed his house in Tel Aviv for future activities on behalf of Ethiopian Jews. A debate is currently taking place in Israel as to whether this process has ended. the law was formulated as a consequence of the fact that most of the Jewish people. which has been a source of contention and debate since the inception of the state. for whom the state was designed. which reflects the views of his time. do not have a clear idea at all about how to relate to the community of Falashas. Faitlovitch died in Israel in 1955. We are feeling our way. without doubt. as Jews and as a state. with the following recommendation: What is the point in establishing and maintaining Hebrew schools for the Falashas as long as we are not prepared to regard them as Jews in every respect? And when we do so. it was not . Most of these youth villages and boarding institutions are under the auspices of Youth Aliya. when accompanying that person. According to the Israeli Law of Return (1950. thus necessitating an amendment to the law of citizenship. it would be better to bring them to Israel where. my translation) 33 See Bogale 1985.

Interesting processes of ‘self’ and ‘other’ redefinition must be taking place among all groups involved. as a measure of survival or of belief. oleh/olah (singular masculine/ feminine) or olimhadashim (new immigrants). is the major killer in the camps. section on maranos). basically as non-Jews (although not as fully Christian: see Messing 1982:93. in Waldman 1992:243–9). conceived as being achieved by arriving in Israel. . The ‘Fallas Mura’ (a term which probably denotes ‘converted Falasha’. Alex de Waal (1989) shows how disease. and were ‘coming up’ back to Israel. not the scarcity of food in itself. Those of them who have relatives of first degree among Ethiopian Jews who are already in Israel (probably a few thousand altogether) are gradually being allowed to come in under the humanitarian-based family reunification scheme. The migrant is usually considered to be ‘making aliya’. Parfitt 1985. where people who were already known as outsiders to the group in Ethiopia are related to as part of Ethiopian Jewish society by the rest of the Israelis. ‘going up’ and connotes such upward movement in the spiritual sense. It is nowadays the customary term used by Jews both inside and outside the country for migration to Israel. 3 INTERVIEWING AND INTERPRETING IN CROSS-CULTURAL RESEARCH 1 Ethnographic tradition in particular has a long and distinguished history in the human sciences which extends from the Greeks to the Chicago School in the 1920s and 1930s.NOTES 211 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 abolished when the state came into being. Cited in Corinaldi 1988:182. or it may have originated from earlier times as Jacob and his family are said to have ‘gone down’ from ancient Israel (Canaan) to Egypt. The term aliya means ‘ascent’. Although not accepted by the Ethiopian Christians as part of themselves. Tudor Parfitt (1985:62) writes that the first flight took place only in July 1983 and two Hercules aeroplanes were operated. These are Jews who had converted to (Orthodox or Protestant) Christianity during the last 150 years or so. The concentration of a great number of people in a camp and the specific conditions in the camps are particularly discussed as factors leading to the many deaths. This might have originated from biblical times when Jews went up to the mountainous area of Jerusalem to celebrate at the Temple at least three times a year. as well as in Israel. they were nevertheless then rejected by the ‘mainstream’ Ethiopian Jews—the oritawis—as people who had left the ethno-religious group. During some of that period the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) rescued some 200 people in operations destined mainly to put pressure on Israel by showing that things could be done which the Israeli government was not doing. but continued to operate in communities around the world. on which very little research has yet been done (see report of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Committee on the Fallas Mura. ‘away from Falasha’) continued to marry mainly among themselves. 19 August 1991. and once in Israel these immigrants are considered olim (plural). Their immigration causes an interesting situation now in Israel. Rapoport 1986.

as Lissak argues in his monograph on the mass immigration to Israel during ‘the Fifties’ (Lissak 1999 and personal communication 1993). that we as researchers could sometimes make educated guesses of what some of these facts are.g. 14 In a fairly recent publication of the Ministry of Education (Hakak 1995). S/he does not know the exact content of what the person did not tell.212 NOTES 2 In psychology. 1986) are those often referred to in relation to the study of narrative. which is the subtitle of his book The Legacy of Silence (1989). 1981). first.’ It is . for example. the works of Bruner (e. homogenous].e. some say even in the late 1950s. Also. 8 A great deal of the research in cross-cultural studies. see Bar-On (1999). 1986) and Sarbin (e. but the reality is that there is cultural pluralism in Israel. While realising the sense of such a shift in terms. This has led to a situation whereby an increasing number of researchers prefer the term ‘inter-cultural’ in describing and discussing relations or communication between people of different cultural backgrounds. cross-cultural psychology in particular.Chapter 1 (1999). has dealt with comparing aspects of different cultures (e. spatial perception). 10 Because keeping a secret is so important in Ethiopian culture. John Berry 1993. While dealing with the subject of different edot (Jewish ethnic groups) in Israel they state: ‘All of us desire one Israel [i. Bar-On 1994). 7 For an interesting (rather philosophical) discussion of facts in ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ contexts and the severe constraints on ‘genuine’ discourse. 5 Bar-On discusses silenced facts in the stories resulting from ‘Encounters with the children of the Third Reich’. and second. they are influenced by unconscious processes. which is aimed at teachers who are supposed to teach the Seged celebration of Ethiopian Jews (Abbink 1983. and they might therefore prefer this to remain anonymous and ‘sealed’. I think. since they knew I was a psychologist they might decide to share more of their emotional life during the course of the interview. though. and in the life stories of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and of members of their families (thus ‘second’ and ‘third generation’. and since I knew that they were many times hurt by breach of trust by Israelis. 4 We may note that the choices (and what is remembered) are not always conscious. The contribution of the clinical field is presented mainly in the works of Schafer (1976. the authors list ‘the amalgamation of the exiles’ (mizug galuyot) as one of the important goals which that publication is aiming to assist. 13 This process may have started to take place in the 1960s. 11 For further discussion of this topic see Chapter 8.g. Ben-Dor 1987) to Israeli-born children. 6 I hasten to say that I do not argue for the omniscience of the researcher. rather. 3 This resembles Dwork’s example of the way amenorrhoea was perceived in the Nazi camps.g. 9 I have come across this definition many times during my fieldwork. 12 For a clarification of these and related terms see. I decided to offer absolute anonymity to the adolescents. or how the interviewee felt in a certain situation without their relating it in the interview. that we should be aware that such silenced facts exist and sometimes shape the content and structure of narrated biographical experiences. a more philosophical discussion of these in everyday discourse is presented in his The Indescribable and theUndiscussable. or how the untold story shaped the content that we observe. Spence (1982) and Polkinghorne (1988). in the present work I use the more familiar term ‘cross-cultural’ when I refer to such interactive contexts.

It seems that most people also believe that all other members of society have the same views in relation to these notions. to stay who one is. requires time and is employed for sharing of familial and other news. The buna ceremony in Ethiopia. to resist any change. then trust with other group members is also established at that phase. a concerted effort has been made since the early 1980s to turn Ethiopian cultural heritage into part of the experience of all students within the village (including veteran Israelis). they suggest that the teacher should try to arrive with the children at the answer that ‘although the pluralism is a given [i. In one such case. where people drink three rounds of coffee. I am acutely aware of the fact that members of Israeli society (as well as other societies) employ such notions and act accordingly. On the other hand. there is an urge to ‘be oneself’.] we are not homogenous’. ‘What can we learn from the fact that many edot exist. On the use of this signalling technique within the cross-cultural therapeutic situation see BenEzer 1992. to keep one’s identity intact. Yemin Orde Youth Village. Glaser and Strauss write in their study that The criterion for judging when to stop sampling the different groups pertinent to a category is the category’s theoretical saturation. This kind of conflict is part of the psychological processes accompanying any human being throughout his/her life. troubles and stories (see Chapter 2.e. pressures towards change are conveyed in a myriad number of ways and could not be completely avoided. At any particular time about half of the 550 adolescents in this village are of Ethiopian origin. and similarity and homogeneity is still the desired goal here. There is the odd case of youth villages where the situation could be viewed as an exception to the rule of social pressure.NOTES 213 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 suggested that after presenting the pupils with a series of photos of Jews of different origin and discussing the subject with them. that while as a researcher I do not wish to enter such an exercise. Here ‘pluralism’ is used in the sense of an initial condition of difference rather than as a political philosophy. As he sees similar instances over and over again the researcher becomes empirically confident that a category is saturated. This concept was developed by these methods following Goffman’s work on characteristics of total institutions (1957) for use in the particular case of boarding educational settings. however. Saturation means that no additional data are being found whereby the sociologist can develop properties of the category. An inner conflict then arises between resemblance and distinctiveness as two opposing poles of desire. ‘Ethnography’). the desire is ‘for the amalgamation of the exiles and the creation of “one [homogenous] Israel”’ (Hakak 1995:14). yet it makes itself omnipresent during the process of integration of migrants (and refugees) into their new society. the teacher should ask. Still. in relation to our Israeli identity?’ In response to that question. (Glaser and Strauss 1967:61) . If in a group. The fact is. The notion of one ‘Israeliness’ and of who constitute the ‘mainstream’ of society are issues which I claim no ability to define or describe in a satisfactory way. Chapters 13 and 14.

which are two essential aspects of making grounded theory. Whether he was just being humorous or critical about it. while almost none in the Ethiopian village. (BenEzer 1992:194) 5 This word was used by some in its Amharic/Tigrinya pronunciation. the early Jewish commentary to the Bible. tells how shocked and moved they were when on the afternoon of the Day of Atonement the Ethiopian immigrant children stood up and started dancing in the synagogue…we were surprised and moved to observe with our own eyes an old Jewish custom that was preserved among Ethiopian Jews from the time of the Temple of Jerusalem until our time. as stated by Pidgeon (1996: 82–3) and Pidgeon and Henwood (1996:87). as part of parent—child relations. This custom disappeared during the later development of Judaism. 4 It is written in the Mishnah. where superpowers (could be ‘brothers’. It seems that in his mind the context of a prophecy invited the biblical language. 6 Gog u’Magog is an expression in the Bible (Ezekiel 38 and 39) which refers to a very formidable war. previous social boundaries and traditional sanctions notwithstanding. where ‘father against son’ is the ultimate symbol of civil war. One was the fifteenth day of the month of Av and the other was the afternoon of the Day of Atonement. Rabbi Itzhak. 2 Here he seemed to move to an implicit comparison of the economic situation in the villages with that of westernised Israel. ‘Seyon’. the fact that they visualised walking to Jerusalem. which involves all sections of society. 8 This is again the language of the Bible. thus civil war) clash in a battle in which they ‘eat’ each other. 3 The traditional saying for Jews in the Diaspora has been ‘Next year in Jerusalem’. Here he uses the phrase in its ‘to Jerusalem’ version. 4 THE THEME OF JEWISH IDENTITY 1 He seems to have been referring to the Western and the Israeli custom of rewarding children with sweets. that there were two times in the year that Jews celebrated by dancing at the Temple. which I believe connotes the intention of a journey. a kind of a total war to their end (for a full discussion of this notion in the Hebrew and Christian Bible see Encyclopedia Judaica under this term). ‘Tseyon’. trying to convey a war which is total. . i. many sweets to give in the West. a religious scholar who is also a teacher at the Hofim youth village. many.214 NOTES This could also be seen as part of trying to maintain a balance between the full use of the researcher’s own subjective understanding and the requirement of ‘fit’. I couldn’t tell.e. and by other interviewees in its Hebrew one. 7 He employs the term ‘fraternal war’ (‘war of brothers’) which is the term used in the Bible for civil war.

the Marxist Dergue which overthrew Haile Selassie. In the issue at hand. ‘soured’. It is interesting that these times of Jewish autonomy in the Gondar-Semien region are still very much ‘alive’ in the memory of this woman. 19 UNICEF 1990. As Aescoly (1943) noted. Schwab 1985. . 16 For similar treatment of migrant workers in Germany see Wong 1991. kayla. e. 1990 and 1991. i. were sometimes used to refer to members of the Ethiopian Jewish community in a non-derogatory sense. and serve here as a point of reference to present and future relations with her Christian environment. See Note 22. which now looks down on her. 18 Consider.e. 17 Taddesse Tamrat. to which Marito refers in the above excerpt. 14 In this she refers to times. It takes eight days. is used during these days. or whether he refers to one of the other underground groups such as the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) or the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). 12 It is not clear here whether he is explaining what she meant or whether he is still quoting her. in BenEzer and Peri 1990:36. 10 There were other derogatory terms which conveyed approximately the same meaning. During these eight days one is not supposed to eat leavened food. ‘leavened’. 21 My interviewees used the word Shabbat. this concerns their reasons for migration. and formed a Marxist regime with village associations and local committees including the functions of civil arbitration. a perception of the situation from within the group. See also Rosen 1985. otherwise called the Festival of Unleavened Bread. e. sometimes more extreme than the Dergue’s. i. when pottery and other occupations which involved fire—despised within Ethiopian (Amhara) culture (Levine 1965) —were not a specialised occupation of the Jews. the starting and concluding days are more festive. 20 This is what anthropologists may call an ‘emic’ point of view. 11 Bir is the Ethiopian currency. the relatively recent and repeated proclamations by the Libyan leader Mu’ammar Gaddafi concerning Ethiopia during 1988. 15 He arrived during the migration wave from the Tigray area which took place before the drought and famine of 1984/5 in Ethiopia.e. This is a reminder of how the Israelites went in haste out of Egypt. There are also other religious laws. the Jewish day of rest. for example. as opposed to an ‘etic’ point of view. for example using special crockery for Passover only. agovai and kayla.g. a term which was insulting in one place was elsewhere accepted by the community itself as harm-less. While buda conveys a derogatory meaning in all cases. some terms. thus not having the time to bake bread. by the actors and about themselves. and maybe others of the community. 23 Hometz (Hebrew). the Ethiopian emperor for many years. hence employing the techniques described by the interviewee in the organisation of the areas under their control.g. which is the outsider’s conception. 22 The Jewish Passover (Hebrew). called kita in Amharic and matza in Hebrew.NOTES 215 9 Here it is not clear whether he refers to the ‘old’ underground. 300 years ago and more. which also adopted some form of Marxist revolutionary ideology. Hence unleavened bread. It is the Hebrew word for Saturday. 13 He refers to the curse of buda and related terms.

3 Names of two towns in Israel. 9 Many were actually frightened by the sight of the landing of the aeroplanes and ran away. 26 Did not ‘work’. BenEzer and Peri 1990. It seems that supplying refugees with a safe haven turns their identification with the new country into something stronger and more meaningful than that which is developed within the more ‘neutral’ immigration process. 6 See. 2 This is another example of Ethiopian cultural codes according to which a person continues to be responsible and obligated towards their parents and other blood relatives more than towards their spouse. see Alex de Waal’s interesting discussion in his book Famine that Kills (1989). the children responded not by talking about traumatic amputation of legs or hands and other traumas but. ‘Meaning and coping’). I refer to the development of rituals surrounding George Washington and a strong American identity among a group of Lowland Lao refugees in the United States (Takahashi 1994). much to the researchers’ surprise. the words ‘famine’ and ‘hunger’ are actually one word: ra’av. Rapoport 1986). and other cultures in which these two terms are actually used as one word. Ayalon and Lahad 1990. Tsfat is known in English as Safed. On the topic of famine. 25 In Orthodox rabbinic Judaism. the other in the far north. this identification and self-perception may start to develop even when the refugee is still awaiting entrance to the country of their choice. Janis and Mann 1980. 27 At a certain point. kessoch plural. however. As in the case of Ethiopian Jews. kess is singular. Lazarus 1966. hence observed the holy rest. Marxist re-education. and maybe in other cases. one in the far south. They had to be gathered by the Israeli soldiers who were guarding the area and then brought to the aeroplanes (see Parfitt 1985. other refugees developed strong identification with the country which granted them safety. This is otherwise defined as ‘the clause of loss of life’. Here. 4 Punishment as well as. names in Hebrew rhyme. for example. a specific area in one camp was known to some as the place where the Jews of this camp had their dead buried. On villagers’ concept of famine see also Alula Pankhurst. 8 Similar findings were reported in research among refugee children in Nicaragua. 5 THE THEME OF SUFFERING 1 See BenEzer 1990. When asked about what was most painful for them. at times. will be further discussed elsewhere in this work (Chapter 7. including the Sudanese period. similar to a rabbi. . by relating their pain at the prolonged interruption of their studies (Summerfield 1992). 29 The role of their Jewishness as a belief and ideology in sustaining them throughout the journey.216 NOTES 24 A Jewish priest. 7 But this made no improvement to the weather and sleeping conditions. it seems to have existed in practice. This clause did not exist within the religious ruling of the Ethiopian Jews. 5 In Hebrew. 1992:27 ff. 28 In a very different context. it is permitted to transgress a religious law when it is a matter of life and death.

and Chapter 7. which at many times could be quite steep. Chapter 4 on Jewish identity. Ethiopian trails present a formidable challenge to those who wish to cross the country. He details different theories and . ‘Personal development and growth’. Levi 1989). 6 For more details on the physical conditions of the journey to the border see Chapter 5. 4 Cf. 7 See Chapter 7. Soldiers during war and people who tried to survive concentration camps are just two examples of such situations. Crossing a very high mountainous plateau which rises between 2. 5 See BenEzer 1987. and similarly for Ethiopians. pp. Both research and autobiographical accounts show that there are certain conditions in which verbal expression of feelings concerning a situation is indeed unhelpful. This probably applies also to severe refugee situations and to such journey experiences as those of the Ethiopian Jews. Ethiopian highlands are usually described as ‘impenetrable’. in terms of coping. and so to suffer less from dehydration. Moving between places necessitates not only the capacity to walk long distances. Research in this approach focuses on the intimate connection between language and culture. ‘inaccessible’ and so on. to avoid the heat of the sun.000 to 13. 244–60. 500 feet). 10 It may be added that these interrogations were also perceived as a continuation of the Jewish fate—the experience of a minority trying to brave their way in a hostile sea of Gentiles. 13 Alex de Waal (1989) writes about the distinction between a period of dearth and the concept of ‘famine that kills’ for inhabitants of Dharfur in Sudan during the period following the drought. especially those of students running away from the Gondar area. and the ways in which symbols are internalised and can be seen to have direct effects on individual and group behaviour.000 to 4. 12 This refers mainly to the youth groups. Central to this approach is an attempt to explicate those ‘core symbols’ through which the individual members of a society organise their experiences. of course. where refraining from talking about the hardships actually helped in the ability to cope (Noy 1977. 8 This chapter deals with ‘Proverbs as a mirror to culture: coping with trouble and misfortunes in Ethiopian culture’. 1990. Their sense of a Jewish community was thus further enhanced. This was an experience known to them only too well. 3 In view of Ethiopian topography it is not surprising that the very fact of being able to walk without stopping was perceived as a matter of sheer power. ‘Meaning and coping’.500 metres (6. but also to climb up the trails over the high mountains and down the slopes. 11 Walking at night also enabled them.NOTES 217 6 THE THEME OF BRAVERY AND INNER STRENGTH 1 Pronounced ‘gobez’ or ‘govez’. in which people go through a prolonged period of threat to their lives. sometimes even harmful. 9 Verbal expression of feelings is not always recommended by psychologists. 2 This method of approaching the theme of bravery and inner strength on the journey is in accord with the ‘symbols and meanings’ approach in anthropology (Geertz 1973).

as the original Israelites who were walking to the Promised Land called Canaan then. hence there is a question about its exclusiveness to Ethiopian Jews. This interview took place in the car of the interviewee.e. the interviewee told his story of horror. 9 I would not like to imply inadequacy within this mode of expression. These are images that ‘can neither be enacted nor cast aside’ (p. 6 On ‘cumulative trauma’ see Khan 1963.218 NOTES modes of coping which were employed by the population in these two conditions (see also Pankhurst 1992). 16 This had probably also helped them to survive. inhabitants of the land of Israel (ZionYerussalem). 2 Purity/impurity rules exist in some other groups in Ethiopia. 15 Traditional dress. In particular he focuses on the ‘image of ultimate horror’ which ‘condenses the totality of the destruction and trauma and evokes particularly intense feelings of pity and self condemnation in the survivor’ (ibid. 10 See also Gabriele Rosenthal (1989. This was the only place where he would agree to meet the interviewer. as Turner calls it in his analysis following Van Gennep’s concepts. Kahana. which included at its centre a partial castration by the Nazis: one of his testicles had been removed in the immoral experiments on human beings in the . and to some unique practices. Although Lifton’s work did not centre upon the exact forms this takes in narrative interviews. 5 This is really a paradox since the two are fundamentally different. 4 Being ‘out of structure’. long gown. 172). for our purposes it is enough to know that such an element existed among them. Sitting in the car with its windows shut. 11 A particularly dramatic example is reported by Abramovitch (1986) who interviewed a Greek Holocaust survivor in Israel. 1991) on ‘argumentation’ as distinct from what she calls ‘narration’ within the narratives of different generations of German people in relation to their Second World War experiences. 14 These stories obviously were true. I thus hasten to say that this is a normal and adequate behaviour that nevertheless signals a trauma. due to a long ‘forced silence’ when he had not spoken of his traumatic experience to his family or work colleagues (or anyone else). 7 THE IMPACT OF THE JOURNEY: PSYCHO-SOCIAL ISSUES 1 ‘Israelis’. on ‘sequential trauma’ see Keilson 1979. he did give examples of it.). Trevisan-Semi) bring up the fact that they were the ones who were referred to as the people who smell of water. while parked outside his workplace. yet people used them in that context even if it did not happen to them personally. In any case. 7 Lifton (1979) has suggested that people’s vulnerability to intrusive images is a defining feature of the ‘traumatic syndrome’. 8 For an example of such a case see Yoav’s account below. Still these researchers (i. 3 The effect of ‘de-individualisation’ on coping is discussed by Buus and Agger (1988) and in Blackwell (1990). here in the sense of natives.

Agger 1994. I gently gave her an option of elaborating on it if and when she felt like it. She has not made a story out of it. he suddenly burst out: ‘You mean Mengele? What do you mean?’ The interviewee was. I did not press in any way. could not narrate her journey experience. and Spitz 1950.’ She wept. and ‘I do not wish to tell what he did to us girls’. and placing it within its cultural and reactive-context. The condition is described in detail in BenEzer 1990. A few of the girls ended up being locked in his house. See also Anna Freud 1965. On eating arrests see below. van der Kolk et al. Youths who suffered from the syndrome were mainly those whose parents were left in Ethiopia.NOTES 219 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 concentration camp. It turned out that her traumatic separation from her parents. Somewhat similar findings were reported in research and clinical work with victims of torture in other parts of the world (e. the ‘image of ultimate horror’ was also the ‘melting point’ of the two ‘selves’. and since it was supposed to be the beginning of her story. it seems to me. as well as BenEzer 1990. it seems that the traumatic experience was the explanation of what he had meant by it. it was implied that she and the other girls were raped by this man and his friends.g. Burlingham and Freud 1943. in which she detailed other experiences in this village. and developed hypotheses in relation to the nature of such mediation and the degree to which it is needed by the child during different phases of development. where a differential diagnosis separating it from Western anorexia nervosa. Then. Margaret Mahler (Mahler et al. 1975. not even for herself. Mahler 1979) used this concept in relation to the infant or toddler in relation to its mother or ‘mothering’ figure. as the interviewer emphatically describes. is discussed. came between her and the act of narration. Montgomery 1991. for example. . From the following part of her story. The latter served the boarding schools network where more than 90 per cent of the adolescents were living. One of them told of a villager with whom they found shelter on the journey to Sudan. Herman 1992. A girl in our study. After a few unsuccessful attempts to continue. reaching a point where he spoke about the infamous ‘selections’ in the camp. that is where she got stuck. Melzak 1993. with no way of communicating whether they were alive and what had happened to them. For this person. This (at first puzzling) statement was how he had begun his narrative. Being aware of what such telling could entail. Pine and Furer 1963. so that she did not feel any pressure to do so or a failure if she did not narrate the incident in full. It was unnarratable. while telling his story. For a moment he did not know whether he was the person suffering in the camp or the one talking about it. Reported by the overwhelmed medical services of Youth Aliya. the firmness of her statement and the limitations of the interview context. she paused at length and then said: ‘I cannot do it. This separation was not yet ‘processed’ in a way that would allow her to tell her story. who were left in Ethiopia. obviously disoriented. Reuven Feurstein (Feurstein et al. She got stuck immediately after starting her account. Leydesdorff et al. Abramovitch continues to say that it seems as if the boundaries between the person’s ‘telling self’ and his ‘Holocaust self’ had abruptly dissolved. 1996. Ainsworth 1969. Feurstein also developed a revolutionary diagnostic approach based on mediated learning. 1979) wrote of this process as ‘mediation’. These included impotence for young men. 1999).

and also—be completely ruined as a result of it. pointed out (1962) the possible attitudes of people towards illness which could. (cited in Brull 1974:163) Thus the Ethiopian adolescents could completely submit to their trauma. which is constantly in a process of absorbing culturally different people. which in turn also affects their psychology and biology. 26 Some of these communication patterns in relation to authority figures are shared with boys but are more marked in girls (BenEzer 1983. Western medicine provides legitimacy for unrequested intervention in many parts of the world. however. 28 Israel is. feel self-pity or react in any other way. however. were presented with even more situations than before where they were expected to do something but were rendered helpless. 1988). 25 Merleau-Ponty. This. 24 The person’s search for meaning is. the French scholar. 29 Israel is one of the most urban societies in the world. again. the person is responsible for [in charge of] his illness as he is responsible for [in charge of] himself. I would add here that the Ethiopian Jews also encountered the Sudanese traditional healers who operated mainly outside the camps. live in peace with it. Nevertheless. Arieli and Aycheh 1993:417. an immigrant society. 30 There is a common claim that Western medicine is part of ‘modern societies’ and represents progress. The boys. on the other hand.e. These were. 27 It might have been that in Sudan the girls had some new opportunities to perform functions within their gender roles. A further discussion of Ethiopian health beliefs (among . They (as all of us when such things happen to us) could not be freed of what had already happened. At any rate. Because of its ‘apparent advantage’. It is. in my view. the centre of Frankl’s therapeutic technique called logotherapy (Frankl 1970. or they could fight it. Among the reasons for not using this system extensively were those already mentioned. It also results in social implications which are not free of cultural values. In part of his being. I would argue that it is just a different system of beliefs concerning health and cure practices. approached to a lesser extent. suffer from it.220 NOTES 23 Reported in personal communication and unpublished reports by Chieger. 1987. perhaps. might have changed the degree to which the members of the different sexes developed or were traumatised. as in part of his life. therefore. for instance in relation to childbirth and care for infants. i. to a certain extent they are free in their response to the trauma. the interaction with these healers could be viewed as part of their general encounter with a different culture. of the traumatic event and of some of its biological and psychological consequences. such as the fear of being exposed by the Sudanese as Jews and their limited possibilities of movement. apply to trauma as well: The person can deny it. an ethnocentric (West-centric) attitude prevails in the West in relation to medical care. BenEzer 1980). see also BenEzer 1992. it is not as a whole necessarily better than some other health systems. refuse to accept it. make it the centre of his life. Even if it does indeed carry many effective practices. Unfortunately. one of the residuals of the colonial way of thinking.

something which replaced the Bible and the religious texts and was compatible with the type of subjectivity of non-observant Jews. 2293. Grisaru et al. 9 It should be stressed. 7 On the role of Eichmann’s trial for Israeli society and for others outside Israel see Hannah Arendt’s controversial book Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963). 8 A public debate then began concerning Begin’s ‘hegemonic reading’ of the Holocaust which became very popular among Israelis. and the kind of use—some say misuse— of it through the ‘lessons’ he drew from it for political purposes. sometimes for whole nights. Hodes and Teferedgene 1996. Actually. it was like a ‘rite of passage’ for the whole community. This found its expression during the Gulf War when people sat in sealed rooms with gas masks on their faces for hours on end. for the present generation. 5 The Attorney General against Adolf Eichmann (1962). 1985. p. vol.NOTES 221 Ethiopian Jews) can be found in Nudelman 1990. a ‘product’ of the 1968 ‘revolution’. The presence of the suffering of the Holocaust in the Israeli psyche was made clear then and was revealed as part of the Israeli mode of existence—in other words. p. 31. 1956. though. while keeping a tension between certain poles of Jewish identity. as Schechner puts it in his discussion of what he calls ‘restored behavior’ (Schechner 1981:3. cited in Paine 1989:6). of Israeliness. The author. not just—or even in particular—of people on the political right. On this issue see Ezra Mendelson (1994) and Yablonka (1996). see also Gideon Hausner (1980) The Jerusalem Trial. 1997. 1995. becoming what they should be in order to join in with the ‘legitimate’ social order. as will be explained below. 31 On aspects of modernity and modernisation in Israeli society and the related pressures on immigrants see Eisenstadt 1954. Itzikson and Mendelson 1987. 34. parts of the country. and when thousands of inhabitants of Tel Aviv and its area left their homes and fled as refugees to other. in fear of Iraqi missiles which would bring German (or German-assisted) gas into their homes. An interesting book which deals with this subject from a personal—philosophical point of view is Alain Finkielkraut’s The Imaginary Jew. 4 April 1961. a French-Jewish intellectual. that the Holocaust became part of everyone’s consciousness in Israel. safer. it was more of a ‘re-becoming what they never were’. 2 This is in spite of the Zionist revolution. which tried to present a model of a ‘new person’ as an antithesis of their parents’ exile generation. Chemtov and Rosen 1992. p. He suggests as a replacement a continual struggle to achieve authenticity of the self. BenEzer 1992. Knesset minutes. opening speech. struggles with the temptation to appropriate the heritage of the death camps in an ‘automatic’ manner as an easy way into an identity. both cited in Segev 1992:327–8. 7. 12 June 1962. 6 David Ben-Gurion. As Segev ends his book with this experience of helplessness he contends: . cited in Segev 1992:339. with the social implications that may follow. 8 ETHIOPIAN JEWS ENCOUNTER ISRAEL 1 In this sense. 3 Emil Fackenheim (1978) argues that the Holocaust has become the sacred text of Jews around the world.

to a group and a particular war—then starts the process of connecting him/her to a myth. Eytan. Sadeh. ‘husbandman’. Oz.222 NOTES Since the days of Nizanim [a place in the south of Israel that had to be abandoned during the 1948 war of independence. (Segev 1992:476. the Israeli myth had not been given such a blow. They add: ‘One could argue that the halutzi (pioneering) idea could be understood as… trying to re-define in Jewish consciousness. as Almog convincingly shows. 11 For example. 13 It tries to persuade the observer to adopt the message of commitment to the society and country for which life was sacrificed. Among other aspects in their interesting analysis. 456–8. Yogev. solid’. 12 The concept was first used by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his book Contract social (Almog 1991). Never did so many Israelis go through an experience which was so Jewish. And: ‘Arriving in the land of Israel thus received the meaning of halutziut (pioneering) —since it was perceived as an act of breaking away. Tamir. one on top of the other. 22). ‘On the place (Israeli anthropology)’. is a recalling of an event of much significance. see Gurewitz and Aran (1991). but Hebrew names common in the Diaspora—such as Avraham. grain’ (ibid. Karmi. ‘corn. what it means “to be in place”’ (p. 21). e. ‘blaze’ (Elon 1981:126). ‘field’. my translation) . 22). and helpless. Those who remained in their houses—men. following their inscription on the memorial stone. Robert Bellah later developed this concept into a sociological theory of the development of nationalistic rituals (Bellah 1964). see also pp. from the diasporic state. The dead are taken out of the individualpersonal context of their name. the Nizanim affair) 10 On the notion of the halutz and tzabar and its relation to the past and present politics of ‘place’ in Israel. Sarah and Rachel—were avoided. The sociologists DonYehiya and Liebman (1983) applied this theory to Israeli nationalism. Yariv. a special act of heroism. as a state of consciousness. ‘antagonist’. and in their place came names which Diaspora Jews never or rarely used. Lahat. waiting for the worst. Almog adds: When the dead soldier is connected to a specific event. and the ceremonial recall of the names of those who died. women and children—huddled together.g. becomes a place of pilgrimage for schoolchildren and others. the authors write that ‘The halutz saw himself as rebelling against the Diaspora which stood.). ‘firm. Dagan. thus becoming free of it (nehlatzim)’ (p. history and the way they died and are left with the halation which was created around their sacrifice (martyrdom). the retreat and surrender to the Egyptians were conceived as a ‘humiliating’ blow to the Israeli psyche and were criticized as ‘treason’ by the Israeli prime minister of the time]. for the first time. ‘my vine-yard’. such as Amos and Amnon (Rubinstein 1984:145). Isaac. ‘strength’. Another conscious tendency was to choose surnames signalling Zionist rejection of city life. ‘towering’. between him and the environment and therefore between him and his self’ (p. usually of a heroic kind. a certain place. transforming even those who remained lawyers and clerks into farmers. (Almog 1991:207. The memorial place.

the acceptance to a degree at least of the mizug galuyot concept. Chapter 6). bitterness and lack of integration of the immigrants of the 1950s. The publication of its main speakers in a recent issue of International Migration Review reflects the interest in the issue that still exist (Alba 2000. it seems to me. which principally was having as little to drink as one could. and the authoritarian control exerted over the immigrants by absorption bureaucracy. One observer wrote. . 1985) and also to the works of Smooha (1978). 16 They developed the concept of mishmaat mayim. that most researchers—sociologists. Donyo 1982.e. 20 The various physical. Peres (1977. Deshen and Shokeid (1974). as a good starting point. i. Fortes 2000. It is worth noting.) Lissak (1973) and Marks (1976). after visiting the country in 1913: ‘Work has turned into a sort of sacred activity for them and they involve themselves in it truly and holy as the Jew would do in previous times in worshipping the Law [Torah. Arieli and Aycheh 1993. the channelling of immigrants to the margins of society. others’ work (Almog 1995: Chapter 3). and cf. tsomet golani (name of army unit) in the north of Israel. This reflects. turning immigrants into ‘words of the state’. among others—tend to relate to Jewish subgroups within Israeli society as edot rather than as ‘ethnic groups’ in the sense commonly used in the literature elsewhere. These are: the pressures of the melting pot (through the uncompromising concept of mizug galuyot). the idea of a ‘melting-pot policy’ in the United States was revisited and reappraised in a symposium that took place in 1998. anthropologists. among others. the book] and the prayers’ (Klosner 1913:209. social and psychological effects of separation on adaptation in Israel are mainly discussed in BenEzer 1992 passim. and in Hanegbi 1988. The issue of ethnicity in Israel is beyond the scope of this study. Foner 2000. Glazer 2000). was supposed to grow only on another’s main body. 19 The numbers estimated at the time were much smaller since the exact size of the community was not known. 17 Halper identified four major ‘mistakes’ which account for the ‘social gap’.e. 1985). Recently. Edah (singular) conveys a social entity somewhat less solidified and ‘separated’ than an ‘ethnic group’. as if conveying a cultural variance within an ethnic group. as he calls it. BenEzer 1987. like parasitic plants. 18 For a description of these absorption centres for Ethiopian Jews and staff-‘inmate’ relations see Hertzog 1993. Kasinitz 2000. Goldberg (1972. Anderson 2000. Eisenstadt (1954). Swirski (1981). the elimina-tion of culture as an adaptation vehicle and the replacement of the culture concept by ‘primitiveness’. 1999. 1990 (mental health). cited in Almog 1995: Chapter 3). Ashkenazi and Weingrod 1984. to Weingrod (1965. 15 It was in part a reaction to the anti-semitic notion of the Jew as a ‘parasitic creature’ who. risking passing out. i. a water discipline. Those interested in ethnicity and ethnic tensions within Israeli society should refer. social geographers. in relation to mizug galüyot. It declared that the water which each person was carrying was not his or hers but a property of the group. thus anyone who dared to drink of it was actually considered as one who ‘betrayed the group’ and ‘stole from the others’. or tsomet ha’tank (the tank’s junction) in the centre of the country.NOTES 223 14 For example.

My friend did not pay any attention to him. the meaning of ‘a slave’ and is used in modern Hebrew to describe a person who does all the hard and less prestigious work for others. he said about those who carried it out: ‘These are the cushim [plural] of the group. of course. I was struck. Not more than a few moments later. could illustrate the aspect of skin colour difference and how Ethiopian Jews could have felt in Israel at the beginning of the 1980s. For example. from which point we could see people passing by and they. Here. My friend then told me not to pay attention to them. 22 The connotation ‘black’ comes from biblical Hebrew and it has become common in modem Hebrew as well. I could move to another area and no one would take notice of me. The term also connotes. could notice us. in Israel. everyone would recognise me. calling him names. by the extreme ‘visibility’ of Ethiopian Jews in Israeli society of the time. I think. I returned a stern look and the boy. In Ethiopia. I was sitting at a restaurant in a central bus station of a seaside town. the determined behaviour of Israelis in response to that visibility. In one case. 24 For further discussion see BenEzer 1992: Chapter 2 (see Note 21 above). as he got to the last and least prestigious role of all. who seemed to be about 13 years old. I would continue to be considered an oleh haddash [immigrant who has newly arrived] even ten years following my arrival in Israel. an intent observation was taking place. On the topic of the stranger within society.224 NOTES 21 See BenEzer 1992: Chapter 2. Again. We were sitting at one of the tables adjacent to that glass window. The restaurant had a large glass window beyond which there was a pavement where some bus stops were located. ‘religious state schools’ (mamlachti daati) .’ 23 I remember vividly an incident during my fieldwork which. Apparently he had experienced this many times before and had decided not to take any notice. ‘The psychological processes of the Israeli absorber encountering Ethiopian Jewish immigrants’. and the heightened sense of difference it must have invoked in the Ethiopian immigrants wherever they went. an Ethiopian immigrant was so distressed by children running after him. suddenly a boy who was walking on the outside pavement came very near to the glass window. In yet another example a youngster was lamenting. or if I wished for any other reason. and ate only boiled potatoes. those who do the hard and dirty work for others. went away. This time. put his face close to it and thoroughly inspected my Ethiopian friend. When this happened the fourth time I became irritated. and would be regarded by others in the street as ‘an Israeli’. 25 There are three major education systems in Israel: ‘state schools’ (beit sefer mamlachti) which are basically for secular students. another boy came round to the glass. see for example Schuetz 1960 [1944] and Simmel 1971. though. though. I observed the description of roles within the army by a high-ranking officer to a group of students about to be drafted. and across the table from me was sat my friend. however. And while the oleh [immigrant] of Gruzia [Georgia] would not be noticed after one year in Israel. wherever I go. I became distracted and looked briefly at the boy. an Ethiopian immigrant. While we were talking. At last the boy went away. if I got into trouble in one place. that in order to avoid it he bought a bag of potatoes and for a month never went out of his apartment to the grocery store.

where it also runs a network of religious schools. and the opportunities related to that period of military service. All Ethiopian students who entered the programme (twenty-three in total) graduated after two and a half years (BenEzer 1992). Stanislavski 1985). I would like to note one extreme example in which a professor of a certain university. There are some other private schools. The special opportunities and problems. Hertzog 1993. they often feel extremely isolated since no other . notably at the high-school level. 1988) and Shabtai (1993. On the effect of Ethiopian Jews’ skin colour and cultural differences on Israelis. For more elaborate discussion of the attitudes of Israeli absorption workers towards the Ethiopian Jews. Most Ethiopian youngsters would not be drafted until they had been in Israel for at least three years (BenEzer 1983). see Sorenson (1993) ImaginingEthiopia. see Newman 1987. which belong to various associations and are mostly under the state supervision and approval system. on the other hand. The Gift (1990 [1950 in French]). At a certain period the Youth Aliya residential schools admitted even younger children and were willing to let students stay until their course of education was completed. not fully supervised by the state. see the now classic work by Mauss. compulsory in Israel between the ages of 18 and 21. after the name of their leading dynasty (Lobavitch). in the most prestigious academic institution for training engineers in Israel. BenEzer 1987:70–2. 1999). claimed. where the percentage of dropouts among veteran Israelis is around 40 per cent. nevertheless. the Ethiopian children would actually do better when they are a majority among the school children (see. It was carried out in what was considered the toughest and most demanding nursing school in the country. see the chapter on ‘The psychological processes of the absorber encountering Ethiopian Jews’ in BenEzer (1992). We should note that a sense of unacknowledged suffering is not uncommon among survivors of traumatic experiences. A special programme was implemented but with no relaxation of the final government examinations. and in Israel. I do not relate here the army service of those years. for example. Other educationalists and researchers would argue. The Jewish Hassidic sect which is mainly based in Brooklyn.NOTES 225 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 which cater for religious and ‘traditional’ (massorti) pupils. On the images of Ethiopia (and of Africa) in the West. coming from marginalised segments of society. Those who could go beyond it were offered the chance to do so. and the ‘ultra orthodox schools’ (haredi) which used to be basically private but were recently included within the state support system following their more active political participation in the government. For a general discussion of this kind of relation. This sect is also referred to as ‘the Lubavitchers’. This certainly showed what could be done when a special programme is implemented. This constituted a record success in that school. that ‘this Ethiopian youngster would succeed in doing a degree in engineering only when hair starts growing on the inside of my palm’. Concerning admission criteria. New York. Such support was implemented in the first course designated for Ethiopian immigrant nurses in Israel. The latter are. that since the models of Israeliness in these neighbourhoods are anyway problematic. Four years later the same student completed his degree in another town. are discussed in BenEzer (1983. even if this meant staying in the system until they were 20 years old. after ‘looking into the matter’. in charge of its admission criteria. 1999.

rather ‘profession-alised’ and individualised conceptualisation of the integration process. . Claude Levi-Strauss (1966. an assimilatory attitude on the part of the group. Vladimir Propp (1968). though not necessarily to that of current myths. On the relation of the Jewish people to the land as an actual place see Gurewitz and Aran 1991. In the case of the Ethiopian Jews. for example. this discrepancy stems more strongly from their feeling that Israeli society has failed to recognise the real reason for their suffering. or a non-ethnic. On this triangular relationship see Martin Buber’s book Between a People and its Country (1984). however.g. it occupied more than a third of the lecture. Shorter theoretical discussions of myths can also be found in the writings of Clifford Geertz (e.226 NOTES 35 36 37 38 person can really understand what they have gone through (Herman 1992. Agger 1994). Mercia Eliade (1989). The journey featured as a central part of their talk in most cases (95 per cent). 1973) and many other anthropologists. In general. these could include. Ethiopian immigrants were requested to talk about what they thought Israelis should know about their group. In twenty-two presentations to groups of Israelis which I observed between 1986 and 1990. Other factors were involved in the process by which Egyptian Jews have no special ‘place’ in the Israeli social consciousness. 1968) and Kolakovski (1971). Central to the study of myths. are the writings of Joseph Campbell (1972). and in more cases than not (82 per cent) it featured as the opening theme of their presentation.

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AAEJ54 Abba Mahari63, 64 absorption centres: in Israel185–6, 188 acculturation6 Addis Ababa: opening of Israeli embassy33 adolescents22, 23t, 56, 58; assisting others on journey129; and concept of gobez122; confronting of death for first time110– 11; experience in Sudanese refugee camps112–13; and Israeli educational system189; and leadership148–51; personal growth and development166– 71; psychological problems of trauma164– 5; and readiness for change166–7; and separation87–9, 91–2, 99; suffering inflicted on by Sudanese80–1; and trauma155; see also children Africa196 agriculture17–18 Alamnesh80–l, 113, 149, 203 aliya107, 116, 143, 197 Alliance Israelite Universelle30 Allport, G.W.40 Almog, O.184, 197 Amhara64, 68, 120–1, 122, 136 Amos79, 134–6, 203 Angola196–7 Armatch’ho region94–5, 101–2

Aryeh97, 125, 131, 142–3, 147–8, 203 Aschieri, Lucien196 ashangolit21 Ashkenazi Jews197 Asmara training college31, 32 assimilation6 Avner104, 203 Avraham, Kess64 Baker, Ron12 Barthes, Roland196 Baruch65, 69, 83, 84, 91, 93, 94, 105, 113, 124, 170–1, 203 basket-weaving20 Basso, Rosanna196 beer-making19 Begin, Menachem183 Belgian Trans European Airlines36 Ben-Gurion, David182–3 Berkulin203 Bertaux, Daniel14 Beta Israel3, 121; ethnography16–32; life cycle of21–4 Bettelheim, Bruno: The Informed Heart154 Between Two Cultures9 Bilu, Yoram41–2 black skin colour1, 187, 191 blacksmiths18, 28 Boaz75, 77–8, 94, 134, 146, 203 body language, when narrating a traumatic event157–8 Bossana203 boys:


role expectations171 bravery and inner strength3, 70, 120–51; and concept of gobez120–3, 128, 133, 140, 171; courage and heroism124, 132–7, 146– 8; during escape from Sudan147–8; endurance and determination128–32, 140; on journey128–40; leadership148–51; myth of in Israel183–5, 191; resourcefulness121–2, 126–8, 137–40, 141–6; in setting out phase123–8; in Sudan140–51 Brehanu132, 139, 152, 99–100, 203 Bruner, Jerome40 buda2865, 67, 71, 80, 107 ‘burial survivor’s guilt’85 burials/burial rites24, 83, 142; attempt to observe in Sudan84–5, 112; on journey99–100 ‘chain-migration’5 chakla22, 23t change: readiness for166–7 Chemtov, D. and Rosen, C.121 Chicago School40 Chief Rabbinate: conflict with2, 190; strike by Ethiopian Jews against (1985) 195 childhood22, 23t children148; and education113; endurance and determination of129– 30; learning work skills18; negation of aspects of Ethiopian culture by immigrant47; and personal development167–8; status of in Ethiopian social order124– 5; unaccompanied88–91, 158; see also adolescents Christian Amhara see Amhara

Christian Church29 Christians154; animosity towards Ethiopian Jews in Sudanese refugee camps80, 107, 141–2, 146; regarding of Ethiopian Jews as buda28, 65, 67, 80, 107; relations with Ethiopian Jews65–6, 67– 8, 71; relations with Jews on trek77–8; response to Jews leaving Ethiopia67, 68, 71–2 circumcision22 civil war29 climate108, 109 clothing: and Ethiopian Jews19–20 coffee ceremony (buna)19, 38 cognitive-emotional disorientation157 conscription29 content in narrative: chosen44; non-verbal45; organisation of44; silenced44 context interviews53–4 coping3, 85, 108, 152–4; and ideology154; and symbol of Israelite Exodus154 courage123; on journey132–7; and setting out phase124; in Sudan146–8 cross-cultural interviewing45–8 ‘cultural bereavement’174 culture, Ethiopian: and emotional restraint45; refraining from including expressions of by immigrants46–7; respect as central value of124–5 customs, Jewish see Jewish laws and customs dam construction11 Daniel61, 66, 72, 89, 105–6, 141–2, 161–2, 203 death24, 200;


on journey99–100; in Sudanese refugee camps35, 110–12, 149; as traumatic event160; see also burials/burial rites decision: and Jewish identity60–6 ‘defreezing’49–50 demography: of migration6 Dergue government29, 67 Desta203 determination123; on journey128–32; in Sudan140 Devorah88, 110–11, 203 Diaspora Jews183 diseases: during journey97; in Sudanese refugee camps109–10, 111 dream: of returning to Jerusalem1, 60–4, 66, 70, 125 drought34 Dwork, Debora14, 43 eating arrests165 economy: effect of refugees on host country10; and Ethiopian Jewish village17–18 education: belief in enlightenment through in Israel63; in Ethiopia24–6; and interviewees58; in Israel113, 180–1, 187–90; and Jewish Agency31–2 Egypt: Israelites’ Exodus out of152–3, 154, 195, 200 Eichmann, Adolf181–3 Eisenbruch, Maurice9 E1-A1 airline180 Elazar63, 65–6, 71–2, 74–5, 76, 84, 123, 126, 203 elderly130;

difficulty in embarkation onto lorries117 Elie106, 129, 145, 148–9, 203 Emmanuel, Taamrat26, 30 emotional context: of interviews48 emotional control: loss of156 emotional detachment/numbness156, 161 emotional restraint45–6, 48, 131, 161 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences9 endurance123; on journey128–32; in Sudan140 Erikson, Erik40, 171, 193 Eritrea67 escape process (from Sudan to Israel)35–6, 107, 143; and boarding lorries116–18; and boarding aeroplanes118–19; and bravery147–8; contact with messengers34, 86, 143–4; and leadership150–1; and Operation Moses32, 35–6, 54, 186, 190; resourcefulness144–5; routes35; separations116; suffering115–19 Esther61–2, 83, 111, 203 Ethiopia: economy67; famine and media coverage34, 140, 190–1; illegality of immigration33, 68, 123; Marxist regime29, 67–8; relations with Israel33, 67, 191; rise of anti-semitism26 Ethiopian Christians see Christians Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU)29 Ethiopian Jews: ancient dream of exile returning to Jerusalem60–4, 66, 70, 125; basket-weaving20; beer-making19; clothing19–20; coffee ceremony19, 38;


deterioration of status after Marxist revolution29; dwindling numbers30; economic structure of village17–18; education and school system24–6; estrangement within Ethiopian society64–6; Faitlovitch and cause of30–1; female appearance and adornment20; gender roles171–3; historical background27–9; in Israel see Israel; learning work skills18; life cycle of Beta Israel and customs21– 4; marginalisation of28; origin theories27; pottery production21; recognised as Jews by Chief Rabbi of Israel (1973)32; relations with Christians see Christians; relations with other Jews29–32; role of women in home18–19; seen as the ‘evil eye’ (buda)28, 65, 67, 71, 80, 107; structure of village16–17; view of by Israeli society191–2 Ethiopian Liberation Front145–6 Ethiopian Tourist Board21 ethnic consciousness7 Ethnic Los Angeles (Waldinger and Bozorgmehr)6 ‘evil eye’ see buda Exodus, Israelite152–3, 154, 195, 200 Eyov203 Faitlovitch Jacques25, 30–1 Falasha28, 67, 121 Fallas Mura people33 familial authority125, 158 families: disintegration of87–8, 160–1; importance of87 famine: (1888–92)30; (1984/5)34, 140, 190–1 fearlessness133

festivals, Jewish see Jewish laws and customs Filstead, W.J.39, 40 Finnegan, Ruth14 food: shortage on journey93–4; see also hunger food restrictions (kashrut)76, 83, 86 Frank, Gelia41 Frank, Jerome: Persuasion and Healing154 Frankl, Victor166; Man’s Search for Meaning154 Furnham, Adrian9 Gedaref air route35 Geldof, Bob191 gender roles171–3 Geneva Convention (1951)10 Gergen, Kenneth and Mary40 Gideon102, 204 Giorgi, A.P.54 girls: role expectations171–2 Glaser, B.G. and Strauss, A.L.55 Glick-Schiller, Nina7 ‘global soul’8 Global Trends in Migration9 globalisation7 gobez120–3, 128, 133, 140, 171 God: attribution of ultimate outcome of actions to136; belief in guidance and protection of during journey73–5, 153 Goffman, E.39 Gondar region56, 123 Gondari Jews56 goramsa171 Gordon, A.D.184 guides126; exploitation of travellers by100, 102–3 guilt112, 160; burial survivor’s84–5 Ha’aretz (newspaper)53 Habad religious movement187 Haberland, Hike122 Ha’Dani, Eldad27


Hadashot (newspaper)53 Haggada152 Halevy, Joseph30 halutz183, 184, 197 Hana92, 204 Handlin, Oscar: Immigration as a Factor inAmerican History8 Hausner, Gideon182 Herman, Simon180 heroism123, 132–7, 146–8 ‘hidden’ event156 Hile’-Mariam, Mengistu67 historical truth43 Hmong people12 Holocaust181–3, 197 homesickness99 humiliation: trauma related to161–3 humour131 hunger: on journey93–4; in Sudanese refugee camps106, 109, 140 Huntington, Samuel7 identity199–200; and condition of ‘limen’200; with Israel by Ethiopian Jews82, 86, 180; reaffirmation of through telling of story of journey194; see also Jewish identity ideology154 immigration/immigrants: debate on7; effect on their new country6; as minority group6–7; illegal in Ethiopia33, 68, 123; see also migration impurity21, 75, 153–4; see also purity injera bread19, 38 inner strength3, 70; escaping without parents’ consent seen as act of125; seealso bravery and inner strength

internal migration5, 6 International Bibliography of Social and CulturalAnthropology9 international migration5 International Refugee Crisis (Robinson)13 interrogation79, 132–3 interviews41–52; cross-cultural context45–8; ‘defreezing’ and forming rapport49–51; and emotional context48; employment of complementary tools52–4; interpretation54–5; and life story method42; narrative14, 41–2, 58, 201; pilot study57–8; structure of51–2; therapeutic effect of48; truth within narratives42–5 interviewees: biographical data203–5; description and background58–9; location56–7; selecting55–6 intrusive images156 Isaiah87, 94, 99, 118–19, 129, 204 Is’hak, Emperor28 isolation huts16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 153–4 Israel180–98; absorption centres185–6, 188; conflict with Arabs and Palestinians82; contact with Ethiopian Jews in Sudan86; education system113, 180–1, 187–90; Eichmann trial181–3; encounter with society by Ethiopian Jews3, 185–93; establishment of state of (1948)31; Ethiopian Jews’ idyllic concept of62–3, 153; Ethiopian Jews’ problems finding employment186; ethos of suffering181–3, 184–5; and Holocaust181–3, 197; issue of authenticity of Jewishness of Ethiopian Jews31–2; journey as a preparation for life in173–4; myth of bravery183–5, 191; myths of immigrants197;

174. facts and figures32–6.254 INDEX myths in society180–5. sources of strength on130–2. 154. 110. recognition of Ethiopian Jews as Jews (1973)32. relations with Ethiopia33. 191. 204 Keilson. suffering on2. 200. 81–2. 78–9. observance of Jewish laws and customs on75–7. and phase of decision60–6. important role of in integration into Israeli society194–5. 195–7. in Sudan79–86 Jewish laws and customs: attempt to maintain whilst in Sudan83– 5. 192– 3. 154. 195. 76. 102–3. 200. 83 Katchil74. 153. 187. 190. fortifying of by journey72–9. meaning of152–4. problem of separation from families186. 23t . numbers involved32–3. attempt to observe whilst on journey75–7. 99. lack of complaining about difficulties131. questioning of by Israel1. survival rate1. functions of telling of194–5. H. 31–2 Jewish identity60–86. 106–7. 168. 8–9. courage and heroism on132–7. 200. 191. fortifying by re-experiencing Exodus of Israelites200. and Jewish Israelis180–1. 190. negation of Ethiopian Jews as brave people190–2. fortifying of Jewish identity on72–9. numbers of Ethiopian Jews in33. 154. treatment of topic in refugee studies10. 67. The53 jewellery20 Jewish Agency26. 92–104. questioning of Ethiopians Jews’ Jewish identity1. as a preparation for life in Israel173–4. endurance and determination128–32. 73–4. and setting out phase66–72. 95–8. forced to hide while in Sudan83. 98. and death200. 2. 174. 159– 60 Jonathan69–70. causes32. 93. 192–3. little research or analysis in migration studies4. undertaking of as acting under God’s guidance and protection73–5. relations with non-Jewish population on77–9. personal accounts of12 kamis20 kashrut75. 200 Italy: occupation of Ethiopia26–7 Jerusalem Post. associated with evil in Ethiopia65. skin colour as problem for integration1. 2. setting out phase see setting out phase. 159–60. resourcefulness on137–40. little research on in refugee studies11– 12. as unique part of life story8–9 journeys: consequences of extreme experiences on200–1. 89–90. 154.164–5 Kenya33 kessoch76–7 Kfar Batya project188 Khartoum35. as a myth ‘in the making’4. 150 kutara22. bravery and inner strength128–40. view of Ethiopian Jews by191–2 Israelis: and Jewish identity180–1 Israelite Exodus152–3. 204 journey: association with Israelite Exodus152–3.

in Israeli society180–5. 31. 8. S. reaction to Ethiopian Jews’ migration to Israel68–9. 110 manliness133.J. 40. of Israeli immigrant197. Kristene13 Mossad33. Greater Ethiopia120–1 Lieblich. demography of6.6 ‘limen’200 Loizus. 117. 41–2. ‘push-pull’ theory4–5. Kess37 menstruation76. 121 letters: role of relatives66–7 Levine. 204 Memorial Day194 Menasheh. 186. 114–15. Major123 malaria97. 42. direction and boundaries5. 31 long silence156 ‘lost tribe’ theories27 Ma’ariv La’noar (newspaper)53 Ma’ariv (newspaper)53 McClelland.H. 107. Robert39 Noah104. patterns of5. 150 oral history4. international5. 36 Operation Solomon33 operators86. 159 media191 media interviews53 medical services: and Sudanese refugee camps174 Mekonen94–5. 152–3. causes and motivation for4–5. 35. Rollo196 meaning152–4. 148 migration1. and Gold. 86. internal5. 204 North African Jews197 Nurit204 OAU Convention10 On the Move9 Operation Moses32. Peter13 London Mission for the Jews30.6.N. 148. 84. Douglas5 May. 199. 129. 54. 6. and the journey4. striving to achieve ideal of131–2 manual work: religion of184 Marito74. 159– 60. 75. I. 111.INDEX 255 land29 Law of Return27. failure of1862 attempt to go to Jerusalem63–4. 95. Amia14 life-stories4. 194–7 names. 13–14 Oral History8 . The (Werbner)9 migration studies4–9 Miller. 127 masa184–5 Massey. 143–4. 22. 41. 148–51 Lehawi135 Leslau.122. transnational7–8. 109. 190 Operation Queen of Sheba33. 204 marriage6. Ethiopian49 narrative interview14. 32. 40 Malaku. 190 leadership123. 123. 24 Marxist regime. 35 mourning24 Muslims146 myth(s)14. 35–6. Joseph196–7 Mollica’s Harvard Trauma Questionnaire155 Monzel. D. 201 narrative signals: and trauma155–7 narrative truth44–5 Nazi concentration camps164–5 night walking/trekking92–3. 129 Nili88. Wolf120. regional5. labour6.C. 204 Nisbet. 83. 58. and women8 Migration9 Migration Process. D. 201 Light. 153–4 messengers34.

medical services174. biographical data204 robbers93. 25. 83. 161. C. 107. 112. harassment and animosity by Ethiopian Christians/Muslims80. 75. 28 psychological truth43–4 purification76. integration problems107. 204. embedded within concept of gobez121– 2. 101. 13. debate on ‘as a burden’ versus ‘as an asset’10. 204 Orit37 Paine. 121. 115. 109. 54 pilot study57–8 Portelli. 140. 112. see also Sudan refugee studies10–13 refugees10–12. mapxiv.120. increased confidence in ability170–1. Alesandro14 Portes. 146. 110 Red Sea route35 reflection200 refugee camps154. 153. 86. 26. 112.256 INDEX Organization of Rehabilitation through Training (ORT)25. lessons for life169–71. 152 phenomenological approaches14. belief that Sudanese/Christians were poisoning Ethiopian Jews43. Robert183 Palestinians82 Parfitt. deaths35. hospitalisation149–50. 160–1. ‘hatching’ from a child’s worldview168– 9. 32 Ori95. studies on experiences of12–13 refugee camps (Sudan)12. 34–5. exacerbation of pain of separation112. 108–9. number of in world202. overcrowding and bad housing conditions108–9. experimenting with behaviour and fulfilling adult roles167–8. 149. and repatriation11 regional migration5 relief workers142 ‘religion of manual work’184 repatriation11 repetitive reporting156 resourcefulness121–3. 111. 153–4 ‘push-pull’ model of migration4–5 qualitative methodology40 quantitative methods39 Quirin. on journey137–40. Alexander6. Tudor34 participant observation52–3 Passover see Pessach personal development and growth166–71. 32. readiness for change166–7 Pessach (Passover)75. 33. Carl200 role expectations171–3 Rosen. girls and boys compared in cultural context172–3. 110–12. see also shifta Robinson. 200 purity21. shortage of food106. 149. 24. in Sudan141–6 respect: central value of in Ethiopian culture124–5 return-migration6 Rivka97. contracting of diseases109–10. 204 rape101. and setting out phase126–8. 141–2. Vaughan13 Rogers. 201. James27 Ramat-Rachel194 Rammy69. 82. and burials84–5. 163–4 Red Cross34. 22. 8 positivism39 Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome165 pottery21.109. harsh conditions in34. 124. 122 . 101.

Raphael and Thompson. G. 127. overcoming pain seen as inner strength125. 159–60. Arthur7 Segev. 204 shifta70. 133. and leadership148–51. role of letters from relatives in Israel66– 7. 99. inability to say goodbye91. 104. and Jewish identity66–72. and resourcefulness126–8. 132. 71. 80. contacts with Israel86. 152. 133. 128. differences encountered in173. 83. Roy157 Schlesinger. 204 Sabbath75.42–3 Sudan33–4. escape process from see escape process. 130. 103–4. 90–1. punishment of those forced to return123–4. 204 Shmuel61.INDEX 257 Rosenthal. 100. harsh treatment of Ethiopian Jews by authorities43. 163–4 shamma19–20 Shaul61. 187. rupture of bond with parents87. 138–9 Shlomo64. refugee camps see refugee camps (Sudan). 65. 80–1. 150. 173. 66. 40 soldiers100. 180 salvage ethnography14 Samay204 Samuel. 76. 193. 204 skin colour: as problem for integration into Israel1. 204 Save the Children Fund10 Schafer. from life in Ethiopia174. 167–8. clothes worn127–8. experimenting with new types of behaviour by boys and girls167. 94. 95. 97. 124. 106. escalation in hostility with Christian neighbours67. Tom181. 94. maintaining a Jewish way of life83–5. 127. 187. 191 social methodologists39 social phenomenologists40 sociological methods39 sociology39. 70–1. 134. Paul195– 6 Sarah62. living in towns by refugees34. 197 self-concept3 self-image164 self-report155–6 separation: children without their parents88–90. Marxist regime’s reaction to migration and attempts to stop68–9. 109. 159 setting out phase: bravery and inner strength in123–8. danger of shifta see shifta. .P. resourcefulness141–6. exacerbation of during stay in Sudanese refugee camps112. 100–2. 76–7. 68. King27 Spence. 70–1. 84. 77. relief workers142. Jewish identity in79–86. 167. 123. preparations for126.41 Rothschild. as source of trauma158. bravery and inner strength in140–51. cover stories when crossing border141. relations with non-Jews80–3. 128. hiding of Jewish identity141–2. 123. 127 sexual abuse113–14. 127. 138 Sosenuis. 62. 132. Baron de30 Ruth97. opposition to emigration by neighbours69–70. during escape process116. 99. pain of separation87–92. endurance and determination140. mourning loss of old world90–1. D. 67. escaping without consent from parents by youngsters124–5. crossing of border points33–4. and disintegration of families87–8. secrecy of69. and setting out phase87–92. problem affecting Ethiopian Jews whilst in Israel186. 144.

during escape to Israel from Sudan115– 19. hunger and thirst93–5. and disintegration of family160–1. changes in voice and body language157– 8. Elizabeth14 torture43. 164–5. 35 ‘theoretical sampling’55 thirst94–5. 111. 143. diseases and sickness97–8. 154–66. meanings154–5. 161. on journey2. suffering in80–1. 163–4 transmigrants7–8 transnationalism7–8 trauma3. 129. results in personal growth165–6. violation through torture or sexual abuse163–4 trekking (masa)184–5 trust45–6 truth42–5. 112. and death160. 25 Takaleh111–12. 168–9. 205 testimony48 Tewawa refugee camp34.258 INDEX shock on arriving at105–6. and shock of arriving in Sudan158–9. detection of through narrative signals155–7. 108–9. 92–104. 113–15. 127. 159. 202. 105–15. 105–15. exploitation of travellers by guides102– 4. 163–4. and humiliation161–3. 17. state of uprootedness felt by refugees106–7. 184. 205 Tamar138. 197. and separation87–92. and death99–100. 115. 197. 205 Tena73. girls and boys compared in cultural context172–3. 87–119. encounters with soldiers100. 109–10. uncertainty regarding length of stay106. and adolescents155. getting lost95–7. rape and sexual abuse101. 149. pathological consequences155. 15. 111. as ‘entrance ticket’ into society202. 184–5. in Sudan80–1. 165–6. 14 Tigest92. 80. 110. inability to observe Jewish religious laws159–60. harsh conditions in Sudanese refugee camps34. 99. 128. and night walking92–3. 197 ‘Tzion-Yerussalem’62 Um-Rakuba refugee camp34. and separation from parents as source158. Paul8. ethos of in Israel181–3. 129 Thompson. 110. external154–5. 112. 205 tattoos20 teachers26 Telaynesh82. 44–5 Turner. and the Holocaust181–3. 98–9. 108 synagogue16. 150. historical43. 205 Tigray67 Tigrean Jews56. and robbers95 (see also shifta). 158–9. 109. 66 tiyul184 Tizazu205 Tonkin. 148 UN Protocol (1967)10 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)10 . 159. narrative42–3. uprootedness and non-belonging in Sudan106–7. 108. 169. 109. and setting out phase87–92. 108 suffering3. 98. Victor199–200 tzabar183. tiredness99. 84.

Pnina9 Wolkitian Jews56 women: appearance and adornment20. 189 ‘youth project’ (Israel)189 Zionist Church184 Zionists183 . 71. 163–4. 94. A. 147. 153–4.6 Waldinger. 17. 117–18.197 Yediot Aharonot (newspaper)53 Yehuda73. 150. learning of18 World Bank10 World Council of Churches10 wot19 Wrong. pottery production21. and basket-weaving20. and isolation huts16. Getiah30 Yeremyah170. 160. 99. and Bozorgmehr. D.41 Yablonka. 21. working as prostitutes in Sudan refugee camps34 work skills. 205 ‘Yerussalem’1. 78. R. 61–2 Yoav66. James6 Werbner. 169. Roger8 walking92–3. 129. H. 22. 129 water: lack of in Sudanese refugee camps109. M. shortage of on journey94–5 water-carrying19 Watson. sexual abuse of and rape113–15. 81.T. Israeli189 Van Gennep. 20. and migration8.200 verbal abuse162–3 Vietnamese refugees12 voice: changes in when narrating traumatic event157 Wad el Hileau refugee camp34 Wad Sherifat refugee camp34 Waldinger. 205 Yossi l08. 205 Youth Aliya organisation188. 103. role of in Ethiopian home18–19. 128.INDEX 259 United States: Jewish/Italian immigrants and Protestant work ethic in6. movement of Ethiopian refugees to12 universities. 205 Yeremiah.

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