A Family Risks It All for Book of Psalms

The Fellowship  |  July 12, 2022

Ethiopian Jewish man with Torah scroll
(Photo: Oren Nahshon)

As civil war continues to threaten Ethiopia, the remaining Jews of the war-torn nation look to Israel. However, writing at The Times of Israel, Cnaan Liphshiz tells us about an Ethiopian Jewish family in Israel that returned to Ethiopia to save a Bible passed down through the centuries by their ancestors:

When they flew out of this country for Israel three decades ago, Askabo Meshiha’s family left something valuable behind.

Unlike many other Ethiopian Jews who were airlifted to Israel in 1991, they didn’t say goodbye to any relatives. They also left behind a centuries-old Book of Psalms written in Ge’ez, a Semitic language used by Jewish clergy in Ethiopia.

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.

Their perseverance paid off.

In March, an unusual set of circumstances finally allowed the family to be reunited with the document, a rare but tangible relic from the rich traditions of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities…