Ethiopian Israelis

With the Ethiopian-Jewish holiday Sigd just around the corner on November 3rd-4th, we want to take the opportunity to explore the history of our wonderful Ethiopian community in Israel!

A young Ethiopian man carrying a large bundle of yellow flowers

Ethiopians and Aliyah

In the 1970s, a new wave of immigrants made Aliyah to Israel. The Ethiopians who came were fleeing war and religious persecution. In 1985, in what was called Operation Moses, 8,000 Ethiopian Jews were rescued by the IDF/Mossad from Sudan. In 1991, 14,500 more were brought to Israel on Operation Solomon in less than two days!


Today, there are more than 135,500 Ethiopians in Israel. Around 50,000 of them were born in Israel, as they continue to grow and expand their community here in the Holy Land.


With each wave of immigrants comes new traditions that make up the diverse culture here. Ethiopian Jews brought over aspects of Judaism that were unique and exciting! One of the most incredible things about the Ethiopian Jewish community is their observance of Biblical Judaism, rather than modern traditions. Because they were isolated from the modern world in Africa, they don’t follow the Talmud (Jewish oral laws), which came after the last exile. The community is strongly rooted in its traditions, many of them tracing all the way back to the times of the Israelites, or commemorating biblical events.


One such custom is the holiday of Sigd. Hag HaSigd marks the celebration of the Jewish people receiving the Torah. Ethiopians pray for the return of Jews to Israel on this holiday. They dress traditionally in robes, pray, carry Torah scrolls, and brightly colored umbrellas. This tradition marks the Ethiopian community honoring their roots.as Jews. Today, the holiday has become a national holiday in Israel, which falls on the evening of November 3rd this year.


Other aspects of Ethiopian culture that we are lucky enough to be brought to Israel are the delicious foods and incredible music and dance. Talent from the Ethiopian community has gained wider recognition in recent years, such as the artists "Cafe Shahor Hazak." This year's Eurovision nominee, Eden Alene, is from the Ethiopian community. Aviva Ngusa, who is of Ethiopian descent, is one of the starring characters in the hilarious Israeli comedy series, "Kupasharit," which is similar to the American comedy series, "The Office." And let us not forget about the famous injera, a fermented pancake style bread that is made of teff flour, a unique type of flour that originates from North Africa.


Israel is lucky to have the Ethiopian community! With their unique traditions, incredible forms of art and talent, and yummy foods, they help to make Israel the wonderful and diverse country that it is everyday!