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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 (2015 est. pop. 99,873,000), 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 of the remaining Falash Mura was approved, but subsequent progress on the issue was slow. 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).

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References in periodicals archive ?
But saving the Beta Israel was a huge challenge, as Sudan and neighbour Egypt were sworn enemies of Israel.
Much of the cuisine of the Beta Israel mirrors the food eaten by Ethiopians at large--a common theme historically for Jews around the world, from Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean.
The first section sets the historical and social background to the consolidation of a Beta Israel self in opposition to the dominant Christian Ethiopian society that marked this Judaizing community as tainted with evil-eye and even animal qualities, and marginalized it physically and socially.
In 1972 Israel's chief Sephardic rabbi declared that the Beta Israel were true Jews.
Seeman notes that the term Beta Israel is the term most commonly used today in both academic and historical contexts, and is frequently used by Beta Israel to describe themselves.
Ethiopians who have been recognized as Jews by the State of Israel call themselves Beta Israel; their descendants, known as the Feres Mura, who converted to Christianity (arguably forcibly), are seeking to reclaim their heritage and right of return to Israel.
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 2001, I showed up at the gates of the compound of the Beta Israel people (disparagingly known as falashas), the Ethiopian Jews.
Stephen Spector has produced a meticulous, well-written account of the events leading up to and including the Israeli airlift of 14,310 Ethiopian Jews (also called Beta Israel) to Israel on May 24-25, 1991.
As a group, Jews are moved by social crises such as the tragic living conditions of the Beta Israel in Ethiopia.
Structurally, this was awkwardly placed in the text, falling after James Quirin's brilliant analysis of identity construction of the Beta Israel, rather than preceeding Beissenger, which seems natural given the connection between two discussions involving state legitimation in Marxist-Leninist nationstates.