Abstract: Beta Israel

Since its inception in 1948, Israel has been a self-proclaimed haven for Jews around the world. In 1991 the Israeli government declared that Ethiopian Jews facing persecution, otherwise known as the “Beta Israel” had the right of return (the right of any Jew to return to Israel) and therefore pioneered a rescue mission to bring them to Israel. The mission was dramatic, involving the air rescue of over 14,000 of the Beta Israel in just 36 hours and was hailed a success. However, assimilation of Ethiopian Jews in Israel has posed a number of challenges, as many still face discrimination and disadvantages in Israeli society.

My research will focus on the immigration and assimilation process of Ethiopian Jews and how it relates to identity. There is much to be asked about how the identity of the Beta Israel evolved after immigrating to Israel. I aim to build understanding surrounding the way daily life changed for the Beta Israel in terms of immigrating from a devoutly religious and rural society to a secular and industrialized one. My research will attempt to understand how such a move affected family structure, roles, and dynamics. My research also aims to understand the challenges the Beta Israel faced upon arrival to Israel in regard to facing anti-black sentiment and those who questioned the legitimacy of their Judaism. I hope to gain insights about how the Beta Israel’s perceptions of themselves may have changed due to these conditions. I will attempt to build knowledge of this topic from the perspective of the Beta Israel themselves by conducting interviews with members of the community. More broadly, my research will attempt to answer questions about why some groups assimilate into different societies well while others do not. I hope to foster understanding with regard to immigration absorption and what measures of integration were helpful in allowing the Beta Israel to assimilate into Israeli society despite their radically different identity.


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