“Africa to Zion”: Ethiopian Jew Danny Abebe Details Journey to Israel

"From Africa to Zion" details the struggles of discrimination he faced after immigrating to Israel from Ethiopia.
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Photos: Twitter

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Ethiopian-Israeli Jew Danny Adeno Abebe in his book "From Africa to Zion" details the struggles of discrimination he faced after immigrating to Israel from Ethiopia.

In the village of Tilamado, in the heart of the hill country, once lived a community of Ethiopian Jews who, for some 1,500 years kept their faith and traditions alive despite their exile far from the Holy Land. One night in 1984 they left their huts and started walking home. They were some of the 16,000 Ethiopian Jews who migrated to Israel as part of “Operation Moses,” a plan to bring these exiled children of Israel out of a country hostile to their religion and back to the homeland of their faith.

Today, one of those who made that journey is ready to tell their story, a story of faith, race and inheritance that will echo the world over.

In From Africa to Zion (Yedioth Ahronoth Group), Danny Adeno Abebe shares the story of his 500-mile journey from the country of his birth through Sudan and into Israel, where he faced prejudice and outright racism on his way to becoming the country’s first Ethiopian-born journalist. To make aliyah - to exercise their “right of return” to Israel - the Jews of Tilamado had to endure the horrors of thirst, starvation, disease, smugglers, cruel border agents and worse. But such was the strength of their attachment to the Jewish homeland in their hearts that they persevered, and like the Jews of the Scriptures walked out of the desert to their deliverance in Israel.

But in the Promised Land, they found promises denied. Instead of being integrated into the society of their fellow Jews, the new arrivals from Ethiopia received cold and callous treatment from the civil and religious authorities:

  • Ethiopian Jewish children, like Danny, were sent to special boarding schools in order to “train” away all traces of their Ethiopian culture.
  • When it came time for the important rite of passage of serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, Danny hoped to serve his country by signing up for the radio service, but was told he’d likely end up as a transport driver.
  • Despite keeping their Jewish traditions alive in exile for centuries, Ethiopians Jews had to undergo a “conversion” ceremony due to what the rabbinical leadership called their “outdated” practices.

Despite the odds, Danny did serve with Israeli Army radio and then became a popular national journalist, the first in that profession in Israel to be born in Ethiopia. But that success came with costs, and amid struggles over his own personal identity.

In From Africa to Zion, readers will learn:

  • How Danny first set aside his Ethiopian identity, focusing on his Israeli nationality and ignoring his roots in the land of his birth.
  • The personal and professional trauma of covering stories like the Blood Donation Scandal, where blood donated by Ethiopian Jews to Israeli hospitals was habitually thrown away.
  • Danny’s eventual rediscovery of his roots by making return visits to Ethiopia, his acceptance of himself as a proud Ethiopian-Israeli Jew, and his efforts to make sure his children understand all aspects of their heritage.

The treatment of Ethiopian Jews is a chapter in Israeli history that, for many years and many reasons, has never been fully told. As the world faces a reckoning on race and national identity, their story provides lessons and moving commentary on our shared humanity. From Africa to Zion is the story of how one man faced that reckoning within himself.

Today, Danny dedicates his work to helping his fellow Ethiopian Jews gain greater acceptance in their own spiritual home, and works with the Philos Project to help educate Christians worldwide about his fellow Israelis and issues in the Middle East. In many ways, his long journey from Ethiopia has never ended.

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