Sigd is 49 Days after Yom Kippur

The Sigd holiday of Ethiopian Jews was held 3 days early in Petach Tikva when the Education Minister attended celebrations at a school there.

Yoni Kempinski, | updated: 11:34

Education Minister Sa'ar
Education Minister Sa'ar
Morasha School

The Sigd, the traditional holiday kept by Ethiopian Jewry which will officially be celebrated on Monday, was commemmorated on Friday in Petach Tikva, as Education Minister Gidon Saar attended the Sigd celebrations at the Morasha religious elementary school there. In February 2008, Knesset Member Uri Ariel submitted legislation to the Knesset in order to establish Sigd as an Israeli national holiday, and in July 2008 the Knesset officially decided to formally add the Ethiopian Sigd holiday to the list of State holidays.

The Sigd holiday is celebrated on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, 49 days after Yom Kippur, as the Ethiopian Beta Israel Jews considered this period the time for counting the Omer. The rest of the Jewish communiites count the 49 days from Passover (the Exodus) to the Shavuot holiday upon which the Ten Commandments were given on Mount Sinai.

On this day, the  Beta Israel would go up to the highest place in their area led by the local "kes" (religious leader) and look towards Jerusalem, affirming their belief in G-d and praying for the deliverance that would allow them to go there. This tradition is based on the Book of Ezra in the Bible, which describes an assembly of all the Jews who had come back to Israel after the First Temple's destruction.

To the Ethiopian community, Jerusalem was the place they dreamed of, almost a transcendent city, and today, Jerusalem Liberation Day is when they memorialize the 4,000 of their community who died of pillage, murder and disease on their trek to the State of Israel. The Falashmura Ethiopians, who returned to their faith upon their immigration to Israel, learned about the holiday here and made it part of their renewed heritage.
During the event at the Petach Tikvah School, the young Ethiopian boys and girls presented themselves, their names, and explained the sources of their Ethiopian names.

The Sigd is marked annually at the Morasha school in Petach Tikvah and in many other schools and youth villages that have Ethiopian students so that all students can become familiar with the traditions and dress of their Ethiopian classmates. During the event, the students performed a play about the yearning for and voyage to the land of Israel, and heard a personal story from one of the parents.

In Kfar Hanoar Hadati, a youth village near Haifa, for example, the students are woken by counselors before dawn to reenact their parents and grandparents' exodus from Ethiopia as they walk to the highest spot in the village, accompanied by the sound of a traditional Ethiopian horn. There, the youth village's Rabbi, Rav Menachem Kabeda, separated from his parents at a young age when he escaped to Israel from Ethiopia and taken in by the village (now Rabbi, combat soldier and father of four), recites Psalms with them, followed by singing and dancing in Hebrew and Amharit. A festive Ethiopian meal concludes the day's festivities.