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Ethiopian Jews Celebrate Ancient Holiday, Thank God for Jerusalem

Thousands of Ethiopian Jews gather to for the holiday of Sigd, in Jerusalem. Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Thousands of Ethiopian Jews gather to for the holiday of Sigd, in Jerusalem. Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

JERUSALEM, Israel – Imagine God answers a very big prayer for you. Would you remember to thank him for it year after year? That's what Ethiopian Jews do – thank God for bringing them back to Israel and Jerusalem and for uniting them with the Jewish people.
It's called Sigd. It's an ancient holiday that Ethiopian Jews brought with them when they returned to Israel.  
Sigd comes from a Hebrew word that means to worship God.
For generations Ethiopian Jews dreamed of returning to Jerusalem. Now they celebrate the holiday of Sigd right here in the holy city.

"Sigd is a holiday we celebrated for thousands of years in Ethiopia, a central holiday and symbol of the Ethiopian Jews," said Dr. Simcha Gathon, board member of the Center for the Legacy of Ethiopian Jewry.  
"What we did there was to go up the highest mountain and face the direction of Jerusalem, pray for the peace of Zion and Jerusalem," Gathon told CBN News at the holiday celebration.
For the last 10 years the holiday has been an Israeli national holiday. Celebrated at the Haas Promenade overlooking Jerusalem's Old City and the Temple Mount, it's marked with prayers, fasting and an official ceremony.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressed the gathering.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the Sigd, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
"How good it is to know that we already reached home, that we're here together, continuing with a joint hope of all of us, to go up to Jerusalem," Rivlin told the crowd.
Although Sigd is not named in the Bible, Gathon says its origins are found there in celebrating Jerusalem and the unity of the Jewish people.
"We do this 50 days after Yom Kippur," Gathon said. "On Yom Kippur we do personal introspection (soul-searching) and after 50 days we do collective introspection, together, united."  

Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Some 16,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in secrecy in 1984. Another 14,500 were airlifted in just 36 hours in 1991 and some 8,000 in the years in between.
The origins of the community, also known as "Beta Israel" (House of Israel) are unknown, but their style of Judaism dates back 2,500 years before the destruction of the First Temple.

Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

"Today, after we have arrived in the Land, we continue to celebrate it," Gathon explained. "We still pray to the Creator of the world for peace on the people of Israel, the peace of Jerusalem and peace on the State of Israel."
About 10,000 Ethiopian Jews and others turned out for the festive occasion this year on Wednesday. CBN News asked some of the participants why they continue to celebrate the holiday even though they are now here in Israel.

Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

"It's important, first of all, to say thank you to God that he granted us to immigrate to Israel, the holy land, the holy city, to unite with the people of Israel and in addition to pray that the third Temple be built and to pray for all the people of Israel," said Bat-El, a lawyer who immigrated with her family when she was just three.
"I have three children and am married. I live in Rehovot [near Tel Aviv]. Every year that I come, I give honor, I honor my parents. It's fun," said Avraham.
"Why? Because our dream was fulfilled, because we always dreamed about Jerusalem, do you understand? Because of this we are coming here," said Leah.
"This holiday represents the holiday of Sigd, not only for the Ethiopians, but for all the State of Israel, for everyone.  From year to year we celebrate this. Look how many people are here. It's really exciting," said Allamo.
The Ethiopian Jewish community is hoping that in time, all of Israel will join them in this annual celebration.

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