120,000 Jews of Ethiopian origin live in Israel today, most of them immigrated to Israel (made Aliyah) during Operation Moses in 1984 and Operation Solomon in 1991.
Sigd is an important holiday for Jews from the Ethiopian community. Held on the 29th on the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, the holiday marks the acceptance of the Torah, the longing for Jerusalem & Zion, and the unity of the Jewish people.
And where did I first hear about Sigd? Well, I just received a letter about it from my friend Zvuvi in Israel – here it is:
I bet you never heard of Sigd, but in Israel it’s been a national holiday for the past four years. It’s a holiday that began in Ethiopia and was brought to Israel by the Beta Israel –Ethiopian Jews who live in our country. Some people believe that the Beta Israel Jews are descendants of King Solomon and the beautiful Queen of Sheba. Wow!
Ethiopia is a country in Africa. The Beta Israel community always dreamed of making Israel their home. After thousands of years, Israel is finally their country the same way it’s mine. I’m so happy and proud. That’s why I took a picture of some of my Beta Israel friends. I also took a picture of part of the Sigd celebration.
So what is the Sigd holiday all about? It takes place 50 days after Yom Kippur and it celebrates the Jews accepting the Torah on Mt. Sinai as their way of life. Sigd is cool because it’s like other Jewish holidays that start with a fast and end with a feast. We Jews know how to fast and we know how to cook! Look at the Fast of Esther which ends with a Purim feast. And what about Passover? We have the fast of the first born followed by the Seder. There’s another connection between Passover and Sigd. Passover is all about how we left Egypt and made it to the land of Canaan. In between, we were given the Torah. Towards the end of the Seder what do we say? “Le Shana Ha’ba’a B’Yerushalayim” – “Next Year in Jerusalem.” For thousands of years, on Sigd, the Beta Israel gathered on mountaintops outside their Ethiopian villages to pray for their return to Jerusalem…and look where they are today and where they have the big Sigd celebration. In Jerusalem!
*Letter to Joe from Zvuvi is taken, with author’s permission, from Zvuvi’s Israel blog.
Zvuvi’s Israel is a fun Israel tour book for children written by award winning author Tami Lehman-Wilzig.
Read more about this year’s celebration in this article in the Times of Israel, complete with many photos from the celebration held today at the Tayelet in southern Jerusalem.