Disturbing News For the Jews of Ethiopia

MJAA Ethiopia Relief 

Urgent Letter from the Jews of Ethiopia

Dear Joel,

For half of June and almost half of July; we have been communicating with and traveling to our Jewish communities in different areas within the Amhara region in northern Ethiopia. However, we refrained from going direct to the Tigray region in NE Ethiopia. Rather, we called some representatives of the community there to come to north Wollo zone (Weldiya Town) near to the border of Tigray.  The reason for this is that the Tigray regional government authorities have come out against our effort to organize the Jewish community in Ethiopia.

From March to July of this year, the government officers and Ethiopian Orthodox Church priests in the south Tigray zone have been organizing other local and regional societies against our movement’s efforts to organize the Jewish community for the purpose of formal recognition by the federal government of Ethiopia. This effort against us has been especially felt by our community and committee members in the Tigray zone as they are facing a very difficult situation up to today.

The leaders in Tigray are actively calling together non-Jewish leaders and villagers surrounding the Jewish villages and saying to all that they do not want to see the Jewish people organize themselves again. They say that “a long time ago, the kings and church leaders of Ethiopia fought and destroyed the Jewish identity and their Jewish faith; therefore we should not allow them again to be organized openly but rather fight against their Jewish movement”.

Thereafter, there have been daily continuous warning messages sent to our community members and representatives collectively and individually warning us to not pursue this organization or else. The first is from the local authorities of the regional government and the other warnings are coming from local churches. As you know the name Jew is much hated in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the subject of consistent negative preaching and teaching.

It is also through the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for over 16 centuries that they have taught the people that we Jews have the “buda” or evil eye and that we can make Christians sick and even kill them by just looking at them. They also accuse us of being able to turn ourselves into hyenas that feed on the flesh of dead Christians in the night among many other libels.

The Church and local authorities are threatening that if we do not stop our organizing efforts that one of three things could happen to us: (1) our community will be characterized and seen as terrorists leading to attack or arrest, (2) our homes will be torn down or burned to the ground, or (3) our farmlands will be taken and given to others.

Soon after, during evening hours in the Tigray region, groups of gunmen started to knock on the doors of our Jewish community, attacked some and took others to police station where they were then arrested. All of this because we are seeking official recognition by the Federal government as an ethnic minortiy so that we have some form of protection against anti-Semitism and persecution.

Casie Fiseha

Chairman/Jewish National Committee

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