Middle East

Ethiopian Jews Only Recently Discovered the Second Temple Was Gone

Xsteadfastx, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday I learned something amazing, which I did not previously know.

As Jews, we mourn the destruction of the two Jewish Temples and yearn for it being rebuilt one day, in the times of the Jewish Messiah.

But after the below article was pointed out to me yesterday, I learned that my Ethiopian brethren only discovered that the Temple was destroyed after they made it to Israel last century.

Up until the age of 9, I lived in a world where the Beit HaMikdash — the Holy Temple in Jerusalem — actually existed. Like my parents and teachers, I believed that the Second Temple stood in its place in Jerusalem and was literally made of pure gold. I grew up hearing about the Kohanim — holy priests — and how they worked in the Temple. I fell asleep listening to stories about the halo hovering over Jerusalem, and about Jews who merited to dwell in the Holy City cloaked in white garments — people blessed with pure hearts, clean thoughts, and devoid of sin. Overhead, I would imagine the Shechina — the Divine Presence — as angels.

Deep within Ethiopia, my family and I, along with our neighbors from the Beta Israel community, hoped to merit to return to Jerusalem one day. We prayed, and performed customs that expressed our yearning for Zion. When we slaughtered livestock, we would turn the animals’ heads towards Jerusalem, and whenever we noticed a flock of storks above our fields, we would chant a song in which we requested that the birds deliver our prayers — the hope to return to our homeland.

We knew that the First Temple had been destroyed. During the first 17 days of the month of Av, we would fast during the daytime. We chanted special lamentations in Amharic, and practiced other customs of mourning prevalent among many Jewish communities. We even continued ritual sacrifices as a distant memory of the Temple times.

How strong was our belief in the sanctity of Jerusalem in our homes in Ethiopia!

The most powerful educational concept that resonated within children and adults alike in Ethiopia, passed down from generation to generation, was awareness of the need for us to safeguard the purity of our hearts and deeds in order that we would one day be worthy of entering Jerusalem — Heaven on earth.

The ideal of Jerusalem was the force that provided us with the stamina to persevere during the arduous trek through the desert. It was the dream that kept us going. We wanted to reach it, achieve it. We buried our beloved family members, left possessions behind willingly, and lost them to vicious thieves. We struggled to keep going despite the terrible conditions and the hunger, only because of our goal to reach Jerusalem of Gold, and after so many generations, stand at the gates of the Holy Temple.

Then we arrived and discovered that the Temple had been destroyed.

Jerusalem did not appear as the place I had so badly yearned to reach. Learning about the destruction of the Temple only as I reached the gates of the Old City was an earth-shattering disappointment, and it left a great void in me that I have been unable to fill.

Read the entire thing.

Tags: Ethiopian Jews Jewish Temple Judaism

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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