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Ethiopian Israelis celebrate Sigd holiday under the shadow of war

(JTA) — For years, the 50th day after Yom Kippur has been marked by the pilgrimage of hundreds of Ethiopian Jews dressed in white and carrying colorful umbrellas to Jerusalem to celebrate Sigd.

This year, that day falls on Monday. But with Israel country at war, official public celebrations of the Ethiopian Jewish holiday celebrating acceptance of the Torah and yearning for Israel were not safe to hold at the usual site overlooking the city. And Israel’s population of approximately 160,000 Jews of Ethiopian origin are reeling in the wake of Oct. 7, when a heavily Ethiopian area was among Hamas’ targets.

Many Ethiopian Israelis live in Sderot, a city near the Gaza border that has been largely evacuated because of the war. The Israeli government relocated an immigrant absorption center there to the northern community of Nir Etzion, where a smaller-scale Sigd celebration took place on Monday.

“The Sigd holiday is a holiday that expresses unity and longing for Jerusalem,” Ophir Sofer, Israel’s minister of aliyah and integration, said at the event, according to Israeli media reports. “Precisely these days, despite the grief and sorrow, the people of Israel are showing themselves in their unity. … I see it on the ground, the unity is only growing among us.”

The Sigd ceremony opened with a tribute to Ofir Libstein, the head of the Shaar Negev security council who died in battle with Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7.

Sigd was first celebrated in Israel in significant numbers in the 1980s amid a wave of Ethiopian immigrants who had made their way partly by foot, through Sudan and countless hardships. Advocacy from within the Ethiopian Israeli community led to Israel adopting Sigd as a national holiday in 2008. But it remained largely under the radar in other countries — and even to many in Israel — until the last few years, amid a growing appreciation for Jewish diversity. Now, it is routinely marked in Jewish communities around the Diaspora, particularly in the United States, and new books and materials have been produced to facilitate the festivities.

Recently, Israel’s population of Ethiopian immigrants has grown for the first time in years. In the latest development in a painful and protracted immigration saga, hundreds of Falash Mura — descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity about 200 years ago and who are relatives of the Jews who were airlifted to Israel in 1991 — were allowed to move to Israel last summer and earlier this year.

But Sofer said in August that no additional immigration was planned, even as Israeli airlifted some of its citizens out of the country amid a worsening civil war. Hundreds of Ethiopians remain on a list of people approved to move to Israel.

As more recent immigrants, the families housed at Nir Etzion had experienced war in their home country before coming to Israel. Many of them had no idea that they would face further risks once they immigrated, concluding a process that for many was decades in the making. “Nobody told us about any security problems,” Anagu Walle, who arrived earlier this year, told Times of Israel last month.

The war casualties include an Ethiopian Israeli paratrooper named Yehonatan Semo, 21, who died after being injured in combat in Gaza. He was buried Sunday, according to a Facebook post by a woman who attended the funeral.

“The Semo family are members of the Ethiopian community, who immigrated to Israel on foot via the desert in Sudan, to make their way home to Israel,” the woman, Noa Choritz, wrote in a post that has been shared widely. “Each year the Ethiopian community gathers on a high point in Jerusalem to gaze upon the Old City and commemorate the journey they had to take to arrive here, and those they lost along the way. This holiday is called Sigd, and it should be celebrated tomorrow. The celebrations have been canceled this year, and as his family mourns his loss, do the Semos need to commemorate what they lost to make it to this point anyway?”

The post Ethiopian Israelis celebrate Sigd holiday under the shadow of war appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Protester Sets Self on Fire Outside Israeli Consulate in Atlanta

Illustrative. Anti-Israel protesters demonstrate outside AIPAC President Michael Tuchin’s vacation home in Los Angeles, Nov. 23, 2023. Photo: Screenshot

i24 NewsA protester was in critical condition on Friday after setting themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. authorities said. A security guard who tried to intervene was also wounded.

A Palestinian flag found at the scene was part of the protest, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a news conference. He added that investigators did not believe there was any connection to terrorism and none of the consular staff was ever in danger.

JUST IN: A pro-Palestine protester is in critical condition after they set themselves on fire in “political protest” outside of the Israeli Consulate office in Atlanta.

The protester was reportedly draped in a Palestine flag.

The protester has severe burns and unfortunately, a…

— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) December 1, 2023

“We do not see any threat here,” he said. “We believe it was an act of extreme political protest that occurred.” Everyone inside the consulate building was said to be safe.

Anat Sultan-Dadon, Consul General of Israel to the southeastern U.S., said: “We are saddened to learn of the self-immolation at the entrance to the office building. It is tragic to see the hate and incitement toward Israel expressed in such a horrific way.”

“The sanctity of life is our highest value. Our prayers are with the security officer who was injured while trying to prevent this tragic act. We are grateful to the city of Atlanta’s law enforcement and first responders for all they do to ensure safety.”

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Released Israeli Hostages Call for Captives to Be Freed

Relatives and supporters of hostages kidnapped on the deadly October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, rally for their release, after a temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas ended when the terrorist group broke it, in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 2, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Israeli hostages released in the past week by Hamas in Gaza called on Saturday for the immediate release of fellow captives left behind, a day after a temporary truce that had allowed scores to come home broke down.

Tens of thousands gathered at a rally in Tel Aviv outside Israel‘s defense headquarters, where they cheered Yelena Trupanov, 50, standing on a stage just two days after being freed.

“I came to thank you because without you I wouldn’t be here. Now we must bring back my (son) Sasha, and everyone. Now.”

Similar pleas from other released hostages were shown on video.

A seven-day truce, during which Hamas had released more than 100 hostages, collapsed on Friday after Hamas breached the ceasefire.

Israel said on Saturday it had recalled a Mossad intelligence agency team from Qatar, host of indirect negotiations with Hamas, accusing the Palestinian faction of reneging on a deal that would have freed all children and women held hostage.

More than 240 people – Israelis and foreign nationals – were abducted to Gaza on Oct 7. by Hamas terrorists who burst through the border with Israel and killed 1,200 people.

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IDF Foils Stabbing Attack Near Nablus in West Bank, Eliminates Terrorist

Illustrative. Palestinian attacker near Nablus hurls stones towards Israeli troops during clashes at a riot in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, May 5, 2017. Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.

i24 NewsThe Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported thwarting a stabbing attack on Saturday afternoon against reserve Battalion 7037 at the X junction near Nablus in the West Bank.

According to the IDF spokesperson, the event unfolded when the forces at the roadblock became suspicious of an individual approaching the barricade.

During the questioning process, the suspect suddenly drew a knife and advanced towards the IDF personnel.

ניסיון פיגוע דקירה אירע לפני זמן קצר לעבר כוח צה”ל במילואים מגדוד 7037 שפעל בחסם בצומת האיקס סמוך לעיר שכם שבמרחב חטיבת שומרון.

הכוח חשד במחבל שהגיע לחסם והחל לתחקר אותו, המחבל שלף סכין והחל להתקדם לעבר הכוח.
הלוחמים חתרו למגע והגיבו בירי לעבר המחבל שחוסל. אין נפגעים לכוחותינו.

— דובר צה״ל דניאל הגרי – Daniel Hagari (@IDFSpokesperson) December 2, 2023

The soldiers, faced with the threat, engaged in contact procedures and ultimately responded by opening fire on the assailant. The spokesperson confirmed that the attacker was neutralized due to the IDF’s action.

It was also noted that there were no casualties among the IDF forces involved in the incident. According to the spokesperson, the situation at the X junction has stabilized, and IDF continues to maintain vigilance in the area to prevent further attacks.

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