Persecution of Ethiopian Believers in Israel
The Ethiopian messianic community in Israel developed as a result of Operation Solomon, beginning in 1990. Included in the earliest immigrations to Israel were some of the Jewish believers, pastors and elders from Ethiopia. Once settled in the Land, they organized home fellowships which grew and matured into congregations. Today, there is a network of Ethiopian congregations throughout Israel, bound together by a commitment to Yeshua and a desire to worship in Israel as Ethiopian believers.
During the past year, the leaders of the Ethiopian messianic congregations in Israel have reported accounts of persecution from the Orthodox Jewish community. This persecution has taken various forms. People have been threatened with loss of jobs, housing and with having their citizenship revoked. Religious leaders within the Ethiopian community have been urged to speak out publicly against the messianic believers. There are threats and accusations on daily radio shows in the Amharic language.
The visas and immigrant status of Ethiopian believers have undergone unusual scrutiny from the Ministry of Interior. An article in the Hebrew newspaper, Ha’aretz Daily, reported that the Ministry of Interior was considering stripping three Ethiopian sisters of their citizenship and deporting them to their homeland. The Ministry of Interior had viewed videotape footage of a messianic Jewish event. The tape showed a choir comprised of young Ethiopians and resulted in a campaign to compile incriminating evidence against the three sisters. They had come to Israel in 1991 as part of Operation Solomon, accompanied by a man they called father.” He was an Ethiopian Jew who had adopted them years before and presented them to Israeli authorities as his own daughters. The three young women had never tried to conceal their own, non-Jewish identities from Israeli officials.
The unique aspect of their case is that they have all been in Israel for over nine years. They studied at boarding schools and became integrated into the society. They view themselves as Jews and also as messianic believers.
This case has far-reaching implications for the Israeli government’s right to go back into the files of Jewish believers. The sisters’ lawyer, Nadav Haber, had this to say: “Such meddling in the women’s past…encourages highly worrisome social phenomena…” Will there be a witch-hunt to find those olim who profess faith in Messiah and were granted citizenship years ago? As a messianic community, we need to pray, not only for the situation confronting these Ethiopian sisters, but that those who would look to dismantle the non-sabra messianic community in Israel would be stopped from pursuing such actions.