For centuries, the Ethiopian Jews have celebrated their Jewish faith and roots in a unique holiday, known as Sigd, which means “prostration” or “worship” in Amharic. When Ethiopian Jews started celebrating Sigd in Ethiopia, they would pray to God and plead to return to Zion. Today, it celebrates that they are finally home in Israel!
The celebration is believed to have started in the 15th century when the priests gathered the Beta Israel, “House of Israel” as they call themselves, to strengthen their faith in the face of great persecution.
The priests were inspired by the description in the book of Nehemiah of how the Jews who had returned from Babylon after 70 years of exile dedicated themselves to follow God: “All the people came together as one in the square of the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel” (Nehemiah 8:1).
Since most members of the Ethiopian Jewish community have already made aliyah (immigrated to Israel), many with help from The Fellowship, members of the community travel to Jerusalem and visit the Western Wall and the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood.
The holiday marks the renewal of the covenant between the Jewish people, God, and the Torah, and serves as an annual gathering of the entire Ethiopian community. Its members view it as an opportunity to strengthen the connection with their roots and culture.
The Fellowship Participates in Sigd Celebrations
This week, The Fellowship joined in the celebrations by running an arts and crafts table for the children who had gathered at the youth center in Beit She’an to celebrate. Members of the local Ethiopian community gathered at the youth center for a celebration of music, dance, and authentic Ethiopian food.
The children decorated models of Tukul houses (round mud huts with cone-shaped thatched roofs, which are found in Ethiopia) using sand, straw, stones and other materials recycled from nature.
In addition, the children colored placemats with pictures illustrating aliyah to Jerusalem.
The experience was authentic and filled with joy and also exposed participants to the heritage and culture of the Ethiopian community.