Beta Israel (Falasha, Fenjas, Foggara)

Beta Israel (Falasha, Fenjas, Foggara) are Ethiopian Jews. The Ethiopian ethnic is popularly known as Falasha, meaning stranger and immigrant in Geez. They call themselves Beta Israel or House of Israel. They traditionally resided in the northern province of Gondar, Semien Mountains, Tigray and Wollo province. The Beta Israel's language is Falashina or Kailina, a dialect of Agau. Most Beta Israel spoke Amharic, outside the home. As of 2011, 120,000 Beta Israel live in Israel.



Four major theories exist as to the origins of the Falasha. The first is that the Beta Israel is the lost Israelite tribe of Dan. The second is they are descended from Solomon via a union with the Queen of Sheba, who bore Menelik. Third, they could have converted to Judaism from Christian and non-Christian population, a century ago. 

Immigration to Israel

Israel did not acknowledge the Beta Israel, as true Jews, until 1973. In 1975, automatic Israeli citizenship was granted. Since then mass exodus from Ethiopia has been occuring. Between 1977 and 1984,  Jewish Ethiopians migrating to Sudan were taken to Israel. Israel had no diplomatic relation with Ethiopia. A total of 5,000 Beta Israel were taken by sea via the Israeli navy. In 1984, Operation Moses was conducted covertly, transporting 8,000 Beta Israel. Operation Joshua transported 650 Ethiopian Jews in March 1985. In May 1991, 14,000 Jews were airlifted from Ethiopia. 

Current Status

Social advancement, development, and acceptance is proving to be an issue for Ethiopian Jews. Some in Israeli society have question their Jewishness. The first wave of migrants were forced to undergo the mikveh(ritual bath). In some cases requested to undergo the hidush hayihud(renewal of the unique), which many Ethiopian Jews refuse. These rituals seem to re-certify their Jewishness.

Ethiopian Jews face much racism in Israeli society. They are discriminated against in housing. In the town of Kiryat Malakhi, 100 Israeli families signed an agreement not to rent or sell apartments to Ethiopian Jews. Ethiopian Jews held a major protest against racism and discrimination at the Knesset because of the incident in Kiryat Malakhi. 

Some Israeli schools have refused to accept Ethiopian Jews into their classrooms. 

Ethiopian Jews makeup 1% of the Jewish population. It was found 60% of Ethiopian Jewish women were being given Depro Provera for birth control, a form of birth control not very much known in Israel but prevents pregnancy for months even after disuse. Data shows there has been a 50% decline in the birthrate of Ethiopian Jews in the last 10 years (2013).

In 1996, it was revealed that Israel’s Emergency Ambulance Services, Magen David Adom, had routinely been dumping donations of Ethiopian Jewish blood on the assumption that it was likely to be tainted with HIV. Racism and discrimination against Ethiopian Jews has been exacerbated with increase sentiments against assylum seeking black Africans, mainly Sudanese and Eritreans. 

Work Cited

Harkov, Lahav. Discrimination against Ethiopians should mean prison term. Jerusalem Post.01/23/2012. Falashas<>retrieved 11 Sept. 2012

Jewish Virtual Library. The History of Ethiopian Jews. <>retrieved 11 Sept. 2012

RT. Dubious Birth Control Policy Leads to Drop in Numbers of Black Babies.<> retrieved 11 Sept. 2012

McDonough, Katie. Israel admits Ethiopian Jewish immigrants were given birth control shots. 28 Jan. 2012. retrieved 3 Sept. 2014 < >

Winchester, Atira. MyJewishLearning, Ethiopian Jews in Israel:Ancient traditions in a new Jewish State.>. retrieved 11 Sept. 2012