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(fälä`shəs) [Amharic,=exiles], Jews of Ethiopia who refer to themselves as Beta Israel (House of Israel). Long isolated from mainstream Judaism, they practice a form of the religion based on the Jewish Scriptures and certain apocryphal books; they also adhere to certain traditions that correspond to some of those found in the MidrashMidrash
[Heb.,=to examine, to investigate], verse by verse interpretation of Hebrew Scriptures, consisting of homily and exegesis, by Jewish teachers since about 400 B.C.
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 and TalmudTalmud
[Aramaic from Heb.,=learning], in Judaism, vast compilation of the Oral Law with rabbinical elucidations, elaborations, and commentaries, in contradistinction to the Scriptures or Written Laws. The Talmud is the accepted authority for Orthodox Jews everywhere.
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. They claim descent from those who migrated from Jerusalem with Menelik I (see Early History under EthiopiaEthiopia
, officially Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, republic (2005 est. pop. 73,053,000), 471,776 sq mi (1,221,900 sq km), NE Africa. It borders on Eritrea in the north, on Djibouti in the northeast, on Somalia in the east and southeast, on Kenya in the south, and on
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), but scholars believe they adopted Judaism from Jews who migrated from S Arabia or from those living in Egypt. Pagan and Christian influences have affected their Judaism. In modern times there were pogroms against the Falashas, and some, known as the Falash Mura, converted to Christianity, often without actually becoming practicing Christians. In 1975 the Israeli rabbinate recognized the Falashas legally as Jews.

During the Ethiopian civil war, about 10,000 Falashas from the Gondar region of Ethiopia were airlifted (Sept., 1984–Mar., 1985) to Israel. A second airlift of more than 14,000 occurred in May, 1991. Ethiopia subsequently agreed to permit Israel to evacuate those still remaining, and by 1999 the last remaining practicing Jews, from the Quara area of Ethiopia, were flown to Israel, bringing the total there to over 70,000. About 26,000 members of the Falash Mura seeking to immigrate to Israel remained. Questions by Israeli officials concerning their faith and sincerity resulted in the slow processing of their immigration requests. Roughly a third of the group ultimately immigrated before the Israel immigration program ended in Aug., 2008. In Jan., 2010, however, Israel resumed the immigration program, and eventually decided to allow several thousand to immigrate in stages over the next several years; the program ended in 2013. In all, about 90,000 Ethiopian Jews immigrated through 2013; several thousand Falash Mura who had sought to immigrate remained in Ethiopia. In 2015, the conditional immigration over five years of the remaining Falash Mura, numbering about 9,000, was approved. In Israel, there have been conflicts with the Orthodox Israeli rabbinate over some of the practices and traditions the Falasha that diverge from Orthodox Judaism.


See W. Leslau, ed., Falasha Anthology (1951, repr. 1969); D. Kessler, The Falashas (1985).

References in periodicals archive ?
In 1972 Israel's chief Sephardic rabbi declared that the Beta Israel were true Jews.
Yet, along with this elite view, one would also like to know more about how members of Beta Israel themselves experienced these events.
Spector does present two anecdotes about Chomanesh, a fictional Ethiopian Jewish woman who, he says, represents a composite of the experiences of many of the Beta Israel he interviewed.
The discovery that all their blood donated to help other Israelis had secretly been destroyed by the authorities caused an uproar among the Beta Israel or Ethiopian Jews (Falashas) in Israel who had recently immigrated.
The Israeli attitude towards the Beta Israel were ambivalent.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the role of education has been raised in studies on Beta Israel social fabric.
In the case of the Beta Israel child, some internalized norms and values facilitate resocialization, while others hinder it.
The religious authorities have been forthcoming--witness the 1973 Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's historic responsa to Rasar Hazi Ovadia pertaining to the Beta Israel as well as the more recent strong letter in support of even the Falas Moira, converts to Christianity who want to return to Judaism, by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Amar.
What then can we legitimately say about Jewish identity in relation to the Beta Israel, the Jews of Ethiopia?
The term "Ethiopian Jews" was invented by Americans working to help the Beta Israel and adopted in the 1970s by the Beta Israel themselves.
His up-and-down relationship with the Israeli government is part of the extremely complicated story of the rescue of the Beta Israel.
But they called themselves the Beta Israel, the "House of Israel.