An Ethiopian Jewish Family Rescues a Rare Copy of the Book of Psalms

In 1991, thanks to the IDF’s Operation Solomon, Askabo Meshiha escaped Ethiopia with his family, but had to leave behind many possessions, including a manuscript of the book of Psalms written in Ge’ez—the liturgical language of the country’s Jews and Orthodox Christians. A few months ago, the family retrieved it. Cnaan Liphshiz tells the story:

Secretly and on short notice, the family had to leave their rural homes for the capital Addis Ababa with as little baggage as possible, and so they entrusted non-Jewish neighbors with keeping the book safe until they could retrieve it. From Israel, they tracked the book’s whereabouts for more than 30 years, never losing hope of getting it back—even after their native country fell into civil war and the book wound up in the hands of a Christian priest who demanded a steep ransom to release it.

Dozens of square parchment pages measuring 11-by-11 inches had fallen out of the binding, and others were barely attached. But the book’s significance remained easy to identify: among the multiple types and colors of ink, some segments are written in red—a way of signifying that a kes, the Amharic-language word for a rabbi, had made additions to the original.

Even speakers of Amharic typically cannot read or communicate in Ge’ez, which is decipherable only to a dwindling group of spiritual leaders of Ethiopian Jewry, who mostly now live in Israel. Last week, the book was used in prayer, probably for the first time in at least 34 years.

The book is significant to far more than just Askabo Meshiha’s extended family. It is one of just a handful of texts in Israel that are part of the Orit, an Ethiopian variant of the Hebrew Bible that predates the advent of that standardized text.

Read more at JTA

More about: Ethiopian Jews, Hebrew Bible, Psalms, Rare books

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy