On Thursday, thousands of members of the Ethiopian community in Israel celebrated Sigd, a traditional holiday celebrated by the Ethiopian Jewish community.
The date for Sigd is the 29th of the Hebrew month of Heshvan, which marks 50 days after Yom Kippur parallel to the halakhah of counting the Omer between Passover and Shavuot. The term “Sigd” is based on the Hebrew word “segida,” which is used to describe a form of bowing in worship to G-d. The day is split into two: A lengthy morning service featuring prayers, supplications and fasting, and an afternoon feast with music and dancing.
Avraham Negosa, a leader of Ethiopian Jewry in Israel, expressed his satisfaction that many Ethiopian Jews who last year had celebrated Sigd in Ethiopia, were able to make aliyah this year and celebrate in Jerusalem.
“This is a very special holiday led by the Kessim (community leaders) and rabbis,” he told Arutz Sheva. “For thousands of years, the Jews of Ethiopia would ascend to the top of a high mountain with a Torah scroll and pray that they will be in Jerusalem next year. This year we were joined by 2,600 new immigrants from Ethiopia who came to celebrate in Jerusalem. We hope that those who are still in Ethiopia will be able to move to Israel in the coming year.”
Negosa noted that after Operation Moses, which brought some 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1984, there was a discussion within the community about whether the Sigd holiday should be canceled.
“Sigd expressed for years the yearning and the desire to come to Israel,” he said. “After Operation Moses there was a discussion about whether to continue to celebrate the holiday and in the end it was decided to continue the tradition. It is a holiday during which we continue to thank HaShem for hearing our prayers and allowing us to get to Israel and Jerusalem. We will continue to pray also for the rest of our brethren who remain in a foreign land.”
Negosa praised MK Uri Ariel (National Union), who in 2008 submitted legislation to the Knesset that would see Sigd established as an Israeli national holiday. He also took the opportunity to send a message to Israeli society at large.
“One of the achievements of the State of Israel and contemporary Zionism is bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel,” he said. “Today, thank G-d, we’ve reconnected to the people of Israel in Israel. Ingathering of the exiles is the blessing of Israel and the Jewish people. I call on Israeli society to understand the olim from Ethiopia and help them.”
“It’s not easy to adapt from a traditional society to a modern society but the community has a lot of motivation,” Negosa added. “So it depends a lot on the ability of society at large to embrace the community members and help them. I call on everyone to embrace the Ethiopian community, to integrate our children in schools so that everyone will learn together starting in kindergarten, then serve together in the Israel Defense Forces, and then join universities and help the Ethiopians integrate in the various places of employment.”