Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Ethiopian Jews / Beta Israel

« Back to Projects Dashboard

Beta Israel, בֵּיתֶא יִשְׂרָאֵל, ቤተ እስራኤል, also known as "Ethiopian Jews" የኢትዮጵያ አይሁድዊ are Jewish communities who located for centuries in the area of Aksumite and Ethiopian Empires (Habesha or Abyssinia), currently divided between Amhara and Tigray regions, although most have now moved to Israel.

Beta Israel lived in North and North-Western Ethiopia, in more than 500 small villages spread over a wide territory, alongside populations that were Muslim and predominantly Christian. Most of them were concentrated in the area around Lake Tana and north of it, in the Tigray Region; among the Wolqayit, Shire and Tselemt and Amhara Region of Gonder regions; among the Semien Province, Dembia, Segelt, Quara, and Belesa.

The Beta Israel made renewed contacts with other Jewish communities in the later 20th century. After Halakhic and constitutional discussions, Israeli officials decided on March 14, 1977 that the Israeli Law of Return applied to the Beta Israel. The Israeli and American governments mounted aliyah operations to transport the people to Israel. These activities included Operation Brothers in Sudan between 1979 and 1990 (this includes the major operations Moses and Joshua), and in the 1990s from Addis Ababa (which includes Operation Solomon). Israel has some 135,500 Jewish Israelis of Ethiopian descent, more than 92,000 of whom had been brought to the country, according to the Jewish Agency. Source. Israel has just agreed to accept 9,000 Falash Mura Ethiopian immigrants. Source

DNA evidence

A 2009 study of autosomal DNA (which is inherited from both parents) by Tishkoff et al. observed that the Beta Israel were predominantly of the Cushitic genetic cluster, typically found in populations from East Africa. The Beta Israel had elevated levels of the European genetic cluster compared to the other examined Ethiopian and East African populations in the Global Structure Run.

A 2010 study by Behar et al. on the genome-wide structure of Jews observed that the Beta Israel had levels of the Middle Eastern genetic clusters similar to the Semitic-speaking Tigreans and Amharas. Compared to the Cushitic-speaking Oromos, who are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, the Beta Israel had higher levels of Middle Eastern admixture.

A 2012 study showed that although they more closely resemble the indigenous populations of Ethiopia, the Beta Israel have some distant Jewish ancestry, going back 2,000 years. This has resulted in speculation that the community was founded by a few Jewish itinerants who moved to Ethiopia, converted locals to Judaism, and married into the local population. This evidence has been used as an explanation as to why the Beta Israel had no idea about the holiday of Hanukkah until being airlifted to Israel—the holiday commemorates events in the 2nd century BC, long after their ancestors had already left Israel.

Notable Israeli Ethiopian Jews

Priests

  • • Liqa Kahenat Berhan Baruch (Abba Uri; 1910–1984) - the main leader of Beta Israel from the Italian occupation until his death.
  • • Liqa Kahenat Raphael Hadane (born 12 August 1923) - the priest of the Jews in Dembiya.
  • • Liqa Kahenat Isaac Yaso (1892-1997) - the priest of the Jews in Tigray.
  • • Liqa Kahenat Menashe Zemro (1905–1998) - the priest of the Jews in Wegera.

Rabbis

  • • Rabbi Yosef Hadane - the Ethiopian Chief Rabbi.
  • Rabbi Sharon Shalom - a lecturer in Jewish ritual and tradition at Bar Ilan University in Israel. Is the rabbi of Ashkenazi synagogue in the town of Kiryat Gat.
  • • Rabbi Yefet Alemu (b. 1961) - In 1980, he left his small village in Ethiopia to go to Israel. He was arrested in Addis Ababa and escaped from prison. He arrived in the Gondar region and then set out walking to Sudan. There he met a Jewish Red Cross director who arranged for him to fly on one of the Israeli-organized secret flights to Israel. In Israel he studied and became a nurse. He was accepted by the Schechter Institute and after 6 years of hard work, he received a BA, MA, and his rabbinical ordination.

Knesset members

  • • Adisu Massala (born 16 June 1961) – former Israeli politician of the Labour party and later One Nation. Massala was the first Ethiopian-Israeli to serve in the Knesset.
  • • Shlomo Molla (born 21 November 1965) – an Israeli politician and former member of the Knesset for the Kadima party.
  • • Rabbi Mazor Bahaina (born 12 September 1973) – from Beersheba, studied at Yeshivat Porat Yosef, one of the most prestigious Sephardi yeshivot in Israel. Bahaina is a member of the Shas party and a former knesset member.
  • • Aleli Admasu (born 1963) - an Israeli politician and former member of the Knesset for the Likud party.
  • • Pnina Tamano-Shata (born 1977) - a lawyer, Israeli politician and former member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid. former journalist in Channel 1 and the first Ethiopian-Israeli presenter.
  • • Shimon Solomon (born 1968) - an Israeli politician and former member of the Knesset for Yesh Atid
  • • Avraham Negussie - one of Israel's most prominent Ethiopian Activists and a member of the South Wing to Zion. His struggle, with the support of many other Ethiopian-Israelis has resulted in the Israeli government continuing to bring the last 23,000 Ethiopian Jews from Ethiopia; though the Israeli government has set a quota of 300 Jews per month, half of what they agreed to under pressure from Negussie, NACOEJ and the United Jewish Communities. He is a member of the Knesset for the Likud party.

Journalists

  • • Tsega Melaku - a radio personality, Amharic language newscaster on Channel 33 and the director of Reshet Aleph radio station.
  • • Fasil legesse - one of the founders of the Amharic-language broadcast at Israel Radio and the director of Israeli-Ethiopian television channel (IETV).
  • • Berhanu Tegegne - a news reporter in israeli News Company.
  • • Ayanawo Fareda Senbatu - a journalist in Channel 1.
  • • Abraham Yerday - activist and Tigrinya language newscaster in Rekha radio.
  • • Rahamim Elazar - activist and Amharic language newscaster in Rekha radio.
  • • Danny Adino Ababa (born 1976) - an Israeli journalist and publicist.
  • • Germaw Mengistu - a journalist and the editor of Yedioth Nagt newspaper.

Military officers

  • • Issachar Makonnen - became the first Ethiopian-Israeli officer in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (Hebrew: סגן-אלוף‎).
  • • Tzion Shenkor - Ethiopian-Israeli officer in the Israel Defense Forces in 2009 when he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (Hebrew: סגן-אלוף‎) and became the first IDF battalion commander of Ethiopian descent.
  • • Avraham Yitzhak - the first Israeli-Ethiopian physician and a Major (Hebrew: רב סרן‎) in the IDF.
  • • Hadas Malada-Mitzri - First Lieutenant (Hebrew: סגן‎) in the IDF. The first woman from the Ethiopian community to serve as a physician.

Actors

  • • Meskie Shibru-Sivan (born 29 September 1967) - an Israeli actress and vocalist, well known in Israel and beyond for acting on theater stages, in television programs, movies as well as being an accomplished singer.
  • • Tehila Yeshayahu-Adgeh - a theatre actress and playwright.
  • • Shmuel Beru (born 15 October 1975) - Israeli actor, comedian and film director.
  • • Shai Fredo (22 July 1975) - Israeli actor.
  • • Yossi Wasa - Israeli actor, comedian and playwright.
  • • Ester Rada (born 1985) - Israeli actress and singer.
  • • Sirak M. Sabahat (born 5 December 1981) - actor.
  • • Tomer A. Benadam - comedian, satirist and entertainer.

Education

  • • David Mihret - Director of the Steering Center For Ethiopian Immigrants in the Education System.
  • • Pnina Gaday-Agenyahu - director of Hillel Foundation, Tel Aviv University

Activists

  • • Taamrat Emmanuel (1888–1963) - intellectual.
  • • Yona Bogale (1908–1987) - an educator and Aliyah activist.
  • • Fareda Aklum (1949–2009) - an Aliyah activist.
  • • Baruch Tegegne (1944–2010)- a prodigy of Bogale, was a leader in protests on behalf of Ethiopian Jewry in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • • Gadi Yavarkan - an activist, publicist and political figure in the Likud party.
  • • Daniel Uria - a political figure in the Kadima party and activist.
  • • Tsega Melaku -politician, author, journalist, community activist and former director of Kol Yisrael's Reshet Alef ("Network A")

Musicians

  • • Abatte Barihun (born 1967) - an Israeli jazz saxophonist and composer.
  • • Cabra Casay (born 3 August 1982) - Israeli singer.
  • • Hannah Aharoni (born 1930) - Israeli-American singer.
  • • Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou (born 12 December 1923) Ethiopian-Israeli nun and pianist (Christian).
  • • The sisters Ayala (born 21 August 1978) and Malka Ingedashet (born 1984) - both are Israeli singers.
  • • Hagit Yaso (born 1990) Israeli singer, winner of Kochav Nolad 9
  • • Teddy Aklilu (1977–2005) - an Israeli Amharic language singer.
  • • Jeremy Cool Habash - Rapper

Writers

  • • Omri Teg'Amlak Avera (born 1977) - Israeli Writer. Named "the first Ethiopian Writer" for his book "אסתרי" ("Asterai").
  • • Shai Amit - Author.
  • • Abraham Adgeh - Israeli Writer. His books "המסע אל החלום" ("The journey to the dream"), "עם הפנים קדימה" ("Facing forward") and the futuring novel "אלמז" ("Almaz" - Amharic for "Diamond").
  • • Asefu Baro - Israeli female writer, poetess and academic.
  • • Tsega Melaku -politician, author, journalist, community activist and former director of Kol Yisrael's Reshet Alef ("Network A")

Fashion

  • • Esti Mamo (born 29 January 1983) - an Israeli model. She is one of the first Ethiopian-Israelis to make it into the entertainment industry and is a budding actress
  • • Mazal Pikado - Ethiopian-Israeli model and singer.
  • • Israela Abtau - Ethiopian-Israeli model.
  • • Shani Mashsha - Ethiopian-Israeli model.
  • • Esti Elias - Ethiopian-Israeli model.
  • • Mimi Taddesse - Ethiopian-Israeli model.
  • • Fanta Prada - Ethiopian-Israeli model.
  • Yityish Titi Aynaw - Miss Israel 2013
  • • Tahounia Rubel - Ethiopian-Israeli model. She became widely known as the first Ethiopian-born to win the fifth series of HaAh HaGadol (the Israeli version of Big Brother) and the first Ethiopian-born Jew to win a beauty pageant in Israel.
  • • Avi Yitzhak - fashion designer.

Athletes

  • • Seteng Ayele (born 11 April 1955) - marathon runner.
  • • Asaf Bimro (born 1 January 1969) - marathon runner.
  • • Asher Iyasu - golfer.
  • • Zohar Zemiro (born 1977) - marathon runner
  • • Wodage Zvadya - (born 7 September 1973) - marathon runner.

Association football

  • • Shai Biruk (born 15 February 1984) - soccer player.
  • • Ziv Caveda (born 10 December 1978) - soccer player.
  • • The brothers Baruch (born 26 March 1981) and Messay Dego (born 15 February 1986) - both are Israeli soccer player.
  • • Amiya Taga (born 1 February 1985) - soccer player.
  • • Yehiel Tzagai (born 27 January 1983) - soccer player.
  • • Kfir Zokol (born 31 July 1982) - soccer player.