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Eastern Connecticut State University


“Ethiopia in Israel” Ilan Ossendryver


October 27 – December 8, 2011

Artist Talk with Ilan Ossendryver
Thursday, October 27
3 to 4 p.m.
Shafer Hall Auditorium

Opening Reception with Ilan Ossendryver and Len Lyons
Thursday, October 27
4 to 7 p.m.
Akus Gallery

Over the past 30 years and to the present day thousands of Jews have migrated from the horn of Africa to settle in Israel. In the 1970’s there were only about 100 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel.  Today there are more than 100,000 in Israel and only a few thousand left in Ethiopia.  The show is predominantly of the work of South African photojournalist Ilan Ossendryver whose photos capture their travel from Africa to Israel in the mid 1980’s, and early 1990’s and the ensuing settlement years.  In June 2011, Ossendryver returned to Ethiopia to photograph people in those few remaining villages of Beta Israel around the Lake Tana region in the northwest of the country.  These photos have never been published or viewed.  Many of the early photos appear in a book The Ethiopian Jews of Israel: Personal Stories of Life in the Promised Land by Len Lyons.  Also included in the exhibition is a very moving short film (20 mins) regarding Operation Solomon, produced by the Israeli Defense Force.  In 1991 while the Ethiopian regime was in turmoil, the Israeli Airforce organized and carried out a covert transport called Operation Solomon using 34 jumbo jets and 41 sorties to move nearly 15,000 Ethiopian Jews (during which there were 4 live births in flight) to Israel over a 35 hour period.  One jet carried a record 1,087 people (though the unofficial estimate is 1,200 as little children hid under their mother’s skirts).  The exhibition also explores the incredible challenge of integration faced by the Beta Israel most of whom were practicing an ancient form of Judaism in which they had no awareness of the Talmud’s existence and so knew nothing of post-biblical holidays such as Hanukkah and Purim. They lived for centuries in tremendous isolation in a third world country and are suddenly thrust into modern life in Israel.

  “Ethiopia in Israel” Ilan Ossendryver