Journey to the Falashas:
Ethiopia’s Black Jews
Half a century ago, Professor Jacques Faitlovitch, a young Jewish scholar from Paris, startled Jewish communities throughout Europe by presenting them with letters from the priests of the Falasha Jews of Ethiopia. Until then, except for a few scholars, no one in the Western world had been aware of the tens of thousands of Black Jews of Ethiopia, who claimed a history of more than two thousand years in their country.
Very little research has been undertaken since Dr. Faitlovitch’s original investigations, and therefore the early history of the Falashas is still clotried in darkness. They know no Hebrew, reading the Bible in Geez, a Semitic language spoken in northern Ethiopia until the 13th century c.E. They had not heard of the Talmud or of the Babylonian captivity until Dr. Faitlovitch told his Falasha students about them. How they came to profess Judaism in the first place, no one knows. The most plausible theory holds that Jews from across the Red Sea had a colony in the ancient Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum, just before that kingdom was converted to Coptic Christianity in the 4th century c.E. “Falasha” means “exile,” and it may be that some Ethiopianized descendants of the Jewish colony refused to accept Christianity and were exiled to the western escarpment of Ethiopia’s highland plateau.
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