PORTFOLIO | REPORTAGE | FALASHMURA
The story of the aliyah of Ethiopian Jewry is an exciting and dramatic episode that begins more than thirty years ago. Through journeys and hardships in enemy territories and crossing deserts, their story is an example of the unstoppable struggle for survival. This is a journey that bridges hundreds of years of culture and is still not complete.
The Government of Israel made an historic decision to bring the last remnants of the Jewish community of Ethiopia – known as the Falash Mura – home to Israel and turned to the Jewish Agency for help in this mission.
Today, approximately 14,000 people are waiting in Addis Ababa and Gondar to receive their long-awaited approval to make aliyah and reunite with their families in Israel. They are currently living in a state of dire poverty, in a "biblical" lifestyle, earning money from temporary jobs, farming, weaving or blacksmithing. For many generations they have dreamt of this – longing and preparing for their aliyah to Israel- to "Yerusalem" (Jerusalem), in their own words.
The photographer Ziv Koren went to Ethiopia to document their lives, as they wait for aliyah to Israel. During his visit, he accompanied the Malede' family from their hut in Northern Ethiopia to their arrival in Israel.
In his own words, Ziv Koren describes the emotional experience of the trip:
My journey with the Malede' family and the Falash Mura, from the mud hut in Gondar until their integration into Israel, was like a journey in time for me and for them as well. The Malede' family left the village where they lived and moved to the city of Gondar more than eight years ago in order to be closer to the Jewish Agency compound in the city, like the rest of the Falash Mura.
The Gondar Jewish community's traditional way of life amazed me. I did not believe that I was in the middle of the African continent. Synagogues and learning centers held thousands of students and worshippers donning kippot and tefillin, as Israeli flags and Stars of David identified the central entrances to the compound and the Jewish residences. This was a very moving experience both personally and professionally. I felt that I had the opportunity to photograph a period existing before the camera had even been invented.
The historical importance that I see in this project not only documents the lives of the Falash Mura community but also presents the incredible gaps from which Ethiopian Jews come to Israel as well as how they are integrated into Israeli society.