Regarding Rabbi Jerome Epstein’s “Not Yet in Israel, Ethiopian Jews Languish While Waiting” (Opinion, online). One week before Rabbi Epstein’s trip, I celebrated my bar mitzvah in Gondar, Ethiopia. On Shabbat, I read Parshat Balak before 1,100 people. Many of them had walked miles to hear the Torah read.
Many Ethiopian Jews living in Gondar and Addis Ababa have mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters living in Israel whom they have not seen for many years. They continue to do their best to observe mitzvot despite their difficult lives.
Like Rabbi Epstein, I visited the pediatric clinic which treated kids up to the age of five. More than half were seriously malnourished; many had typhoid, typhus, malaria and intestinal parasites. Older kids, kids just like me, were not covered by the medical program. When they got sick, they could not afford a doctor. When they were hungry, they remained hungry.
Two orphans were stuck in Gondar with no one to take care of them. The Israeli government won’t let them move to Israel to rejoin their grandparents. They live in a small one-room mud hut shared with seven other people. There are only two beds and two blankets. The hut has no windows, no plumbing and no water. The mud outhouse is 50 yards away.
The boys went to synagogue every morning. On the wall of their house facing Jerusalem, they drew symbols of Israel and the Jewish people; a Magen David, a synagogue and a map of Israel. After all the hard years, after all the disappointments, they still dreamed of aliyah. The long wait has only made their faith stronger.
Maybe there’s a reason American Jewish organizations won’t help the community’s adults. But there’s no excuse for not feeding hungry children.
Micah Feit Mann