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The road to ‘Yerussalem’ – Asterai and the Hebrew literature of Beta Israel

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The immigration of the Beta Israel community from Ethiopia to Israel during the 1980s and the 1990s posed a challenge to Israeli society in relation to its ability to know, understand, and absorb a Jewish community with differing religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. For the Beta Israel, immigrating to Israel created a rift between their dream of returning to Jerusalem, a dream that would only be fulfilled after a journey of suffering, and its realization – in which they became an inferior and excluded minority within Israel. This article discusses Hebrew Ethiopian-Israeli literature, focusing on the major narrative of homecoming – the Journey to Yerussalem. This literature, which is relatively new and small, brings the voice of two generations – those who immigrated to Israel as adults, and the younger generation who were small children during the journey. Presenting various texts, and focusing on Asterai by Omri Tegamlak Avera (2008a) I shall show how Ethiopian-Israeli literature constituted itself as a journey literature, contrasting the old generation with the younger generation's identity formation as it appears in the representation of this journey narrative, constructing a more complex, ambivalent approach to the concepts of immigration and absorption, homeland and diaspora.
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Keywords: Beta Israel; Ethiopian-Israeli literature; Hebrew literature; immigration; journey narrative

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Open University of Israel, Raanana, Israel

Publication date: January 2, 2014

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