Tracing the Steps of Ethiopian Jewry on Their Way to Israel

Feb. 21 2018

Having traveled to the Ethiopian village of Ambover—once home to a significant Jewish community—accompanied by Jews who left the country for Israel as children or teenagers, Miriam Seiden describes what she learned and saw:

Our [group’s] introduction to Ethiopia was the Red Terror Martyrs’ Museum in Addis Ababa, a memorial to the victims tortured, imprisoned, and killed for their political beliefs under the Marxist Derg regime, which overthrew Haile Selassie and ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987. Here we began to learn about the struggle of the Ethiopian people and the cruelty they endured. . . .

In the Ambover synagogue, which remains intact thanks to private donors, we were spellbound by the emotional story that Belaynesh Zevadia, [who left the village for Israel when she was thirteen], shared of her brother Yosef’s three-year imprisonment for teaching Hebrew. Her father, the village kes (the Ethiopian Jewish equivalent of a rabbi), lived in the synagogue most of that time, sleeping on the floor and praying that his son would be released.

[We also attempted] to walk in the footsteps of those who escaped through the Semien Mountains to Sudan [in 1984, from which they were airlifted to safety by Israel]. Children and elders had marched alongside their families, trying to avoid loose stones on the trails. Some died over the course of their long journey, a proper burial all but impossible, and babies were born in this rugged but stunning mountain range.

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More about: Ethiopia, Ethiopian Jews, History & Ideas, Israeli history, Sudan

At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations