President Isaac Herzog celebrates Sigd in Jerusalem
President Isaac Herzog celebrates Sigd in JerusalemAmos Ben Gershom/GPO

Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Thursday addressed the main prayer service celebrating the Ethiopian Jewish festival of Sigd, on the Armon Hanatziv Promenade in Jerusalem. The President thanked the dignitaries of the Ethiopian Jewish community for the invitation to open the ceremony.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday, Herzog said: "The festival of Sigd, which we are celebrating today, is in my view a holiday of victory. A national holiday that renews the covenant of the return to Zion and expresses, in large part, the realization of a great dream. For many years, at the center of this festival, as we know, was your intense longing for the Land of Israel, and first and foremost for Zion — for Yerusalem!"

"Today, as we mark the decades since the State of Israel mobilized to bring over the Jews of Ethiopia, who were on their way to the Land of Israel, this is also an opportunity to underline an important fact: The story of the aliyah (immigration to Israel) of Ethiopian Jewry is not a passive story but a story of bravery and haapala (proactive efforts to make aliyah).

"The Jews of Ethiopia did not wait around, but got up and took the initiative. They did not just dream about and pine for the Land of Israel — they also started to take action, on a journey here. And how good that the State of Israel also knew to act on its own side with determination to bring over the sons and daughters of our homeland."

President Herzog added: "This holiday is also a good opportunity to examine ourselves, as individuals and as a society, in regards to the path that we have taken thus far to integrate members of the community in Israel. Our national mission, for the best possible integration of Ethiopian Jews in their land, has not ended. This is not just a duty — it is a tremendous privilege, because we all see the immense contribution of immigrants from Ethiopia wherever we look. We see the rising higher education rates, the number of officers, and diversity of roles and elite units in which Ethiopian Jews serve in the IDF, and also the growing prominence of immigrants from Ethiopia and their descendants in public life in Israel."

Herzog concluded by saying: "The longings of the past are in large part the foundation of this holy day, but it is important that we not neglect for a moment longings for the future. Thousands are still waiting to make aliyah to Israel, and some of them are threatened and in a worrying situation. We must continue to act to bring them over to Israel quickly."

"Ladies and gentlemen, as we recall the historic longing for a built-up Jerusalem, we must also lay the infrastructure and foundations for our shared future here — our social, human, and spiritual construction. This mission rests on the shoulders of all of us. The Jewish People and Israeli society all have much to learn from the richness and deep-rooted connectedness that the wave of immigration from Ethiopia brought, [and] much to learn in the spirit of 'study leads to action' (Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 40b).

"This responsibility rests on all of us, as a people and as a state. We must never for an instant forget our roots; we must be proud of them and always take care to grow new, blessed fruits. Thank you all, and chag sameach (happy holiday - ed.)!"

President Herzog at the Sigd event in Jerusalem
President Herzog at the Sigd event in JerusalemAmos Ben Gershom/GPO