Photo by Ayelet Vardi/TPS on 21 September, 2023

From Ethiopia to Israel: Story of Beta Israel Told in Brazil Parliament

Public By Pesach Benson • 21 September, 2023

Jerusalem, 21 September, 2023 (TPS) -- Brazil’s National Congress paid tribute to the history and resilience of the Jewish people of Ethiopia with the opening of a photographic exhibition at the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday.

Titled “Homage to Ethiopian Jews,” the exhibition aims to shed light on this community’s journey and connection to Judaism. Deputy Pereira, currently serving as the acting Speaker of the House during Arthur Lira’s trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, expressed his admiration for the Ethiopian Jewish community’s enduring faith and their successful migration to Israel.

“The saga of the Ethiopian Jewish people who migrated to Israel is the only known episode in human history in which black, poor, and persecuted people left Africa for a better economic and social situation, and not for slavery. Long live the strength of the Jewish tradition, which spans centuries in Africa and Europe,” said Federal Deputy Marcos Pereira (Republicans-SP).


A photo exhibition honoring Ethiopian Israelis in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies on Sept. 21, 2023. Photo by Israeli Embassy in Brazil

More than 100,000 Ethiopian Jews fleeing civil war and economic hardship have moved to Israel in various waves of immigration including the Operation Solomon airlift of 1991, which brought more than 14,000 of the Beta Israel to Israel. Another 4,000 died trying to reach transit camps in neighboring Sudan by foot.

Today, around 165,000 Jews from Ethiopia and their descendants live in Israel.

The exhibition, curated by journalist Sionei Ricardo Leão, is a joint initiative of the Chamber’s first vice-presidency and the Brazil-Israel Parliamentary Group. It will be open to the public in the Tereza de Benguela Corridor, located between the Green Room and Annex 2 of the Chamber of Deputies, from September 19 to 29.

“Homage to Ethiopian Jews” features photographs, documents, and artifacts, including several photographs taken by the Tazpit Press Service (TPS), which is a partner in the exhibition.

“I was a young girl growing up in a quaint Israeli village, where I vividly recall watching the news broadcast – thousands of children were being carried by their mothers onto airplanes, embarking on a journey to an unfamiliar land or trekking through mountains and crossing rivers to reach an unknown destination. It struck me then how terrifying that experience must be – a voyage to a new country, a new language, and a new culture,” said Ayelet Vardi, a member of Tazpit’s advisory board who represents the news service in Latin America.

Brazil exhibition

From right, Ayelet Vardi, Sionei Ricardo Leao, Patricia Nunes Naves, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Zonshine, and Brazilian Federal Deputy Marcos Pereira at the opening of an Israeli photo exhibition in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia on Sept. 21, 2023. The exhibition pays tribute to Israel’s Ethiopian community. Photo by TPS

“They came to Israel, believing it to be their promised land. Upon arrival, they encountered challenges akin to any immigrant in the world. But despite these hurdles, they persisted, and today we see the second and third generations of these immigrants becoming lawyers, doctors, parliamentarians, educators, and spiritual leaders. They’ve integrated into Israeli society,” Vardi noted.

“Israel, like Brazil, is a country of immigrants, and while it strives to embrace all minorities, many still encounter unique challenges. Racism can run deep, but it is never futile to attempt to overcome it. Now more than ever in our globalized world, we have much more to gain in working together than apart. I hope this exhibit plays its role in continuing to push this conversation forward – here, and abroad,” she added.

Tazpit CEO Amotz Eyal said, “As Israel’s only news service, our mission is to share with the world the full canvas of Israeli society. We are proud to contribute our photographers’ photos that document the coming home of the Beta Israel community and their integration into Israeli society. This commitment reflects Tazpit’s dedication to showcasing the richness of Israeli society through the lens of our photographers.”