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Beta Israel: Ethiopian Jews Exhibition at Eastern

Written by Chris Herman

Ethiopian Jew.jpgWillimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University is hosting an exhibition this fall that explores the mass migration of Ethiopian Jews into modern Israeli society and the difficulties of integration that they faced. The exhibition will be on view from Oct. 27 through Dec. 8 in the Akus Gallery. The public is invited. Admission is free.

A talk with South African photojournalist Ilan Ossendryver will take place from 3 - 4 p.m. on Oct. 27 in Shafer Hall Auditorium. A reception will follow from 4 - 7 p.m. in the Akus  Gallery in Shafer Hall, and will include a book signing with Len Lyons, author of "The Ethiopian Jews of Israel: Personal Stories of the Life in the Promised Land," a recent publication featuring Ossendryver's photography.

 

Ethiopian Jewish child.jpgThe exhibition will feature a 20-minute film of a mass airlift, and will display photographs of the Ethiopian Jews migration from Africa to Israel from the early 1980s to the present.Since the 1970s, thousands of Ethiopian Jews have journeyed from the Horn of Africa to settle in Israel. The Law of Return, passed by the Israeli government in 1950, allows any Jew to settle in Israel and qualify for Israeli citizenship. This law also extended to the isolated Jews of Ethiopia, also known as Beta Israel, one of the Lost Tribes of Dan.

A Marxist revolution in Ethiopia in 1974 sparked the first wave of immigration to Israel. The routes Ethiopian Jews often took through unstable countries like Sudan resulted in as many 4,000 deaths between the mid-'70s and '80s.
In 1991, the Israeli government conducted a covert operation called Operation Solomon, a massive evacuation of Ethiopian Jews using more than 30 jumbo jets to move more than 14,000 Ethiopian Jews into Israel in a 36-hour period. There are over 100,000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel today.

Isolated in Ethiopia, the Beta Israel practiced an ancient pre-rabbinic form of Judaism.   Today those who have successfully completed "aliyah" -- a purposeful and transforming journey -- from Ethiopia to Israel continue to face tremendous challenges of culture, language, religion, race, and social status as they integrate into modern Israeli society.

For more information on the event, contact the Akus Gallery at (860) 465-4659 or (860) 465-4647, or visit www.easternct.edu/akusgallery.

December 2011

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