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November 3, 2013 3:20 pm

Ethiopian Jews Mark Ancient Holiday in Israel’s Capital

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

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Ethiopian Jews celebrating in Jerusalem. Photo: Inbal Gross / Tazpit News Agency.

JERUSALEM – On Thursday, thousands of Ethiopian Jews poured into Jerusalem to celebrate the Sigd holiday, a 2,500-year old tradition from Ethiopia. The date of the holiday falls exactly 50 days after Yom Kippur, and symbolizes the Jewish covenant of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Every year Israel’s Ethiopian community celebrates the holiday with a mass ceremony on the Armon Hanetziv Promenade overlooking the Old City and the Temple Mount, and a procession to the Western Wall – one of the most sacred sites for the Jewish people.

In Ethiopia, the holiday of Sigd, which means “prostration” or “worship” in Amharic, was a day of fasting and repentance. Jews would climb a local mountain to pray and carry the Ethiopian Torah, known as the Orit, which is comprised of the Five Book of Moses, writings of the Prophets, Songs of Songs, and Psalms, and excerpts from the book of Nehemiah.

In Israel, the holiday has taken on new meaning with Ethiopian Jewry marking the day with prayers for the Messiah and the building of the Third Temple. The holiday was made an Israeli national holiday in 2008, when Israel’s Knesset legislated the Sigd Law, declaring the 29th of Heshvan a national holiday.

Jerusalem’s newly re-elected mayor, Nir Barkat, Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, Minister of Education Shai Piron, as well a number of MKs and religious figures including Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef were present at Thursday’s ceremony.

Deputy Religious Services Minister, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, told Tazpit News Agency that he blesses the aliyah of the Ethiopian Jewry to Israel. “The aliyah of Ethiopian Jews to Israel and their return to Jerusalem today is a light to all Jews.”

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