August10, 2008 Filed in: History
Today I will talk about the living conditions of the Bete Israel, specifically their dwellings. There are two distinct Jewish communities in Addis Ababa, I lived among the Bete Israel community (for more information about the two communities see the About the Estranged link above). This community is disbursed among a very poor section of Addis that is close to the Israeli Embassy. The people moved close to the Embassy because their sole reason for moving to Addis was the belief that they would soon be moving to Israel. Some have been waiting in dire living conditions for up to 12 years to go to Israel.
The Bete Israel are living in incredible poverty. They did not mind this at first as a temporary condition as they believed they would soon emigrate to their beloved Israel. But they are not happy with having to live so long in such conditions. I was taken to some of their homes and visited with some of the people. One lady said to me when we first arrived “Please, please help us go to Israel, we have to live in such dirty conditions!”The families with more people than can sleep on these beds pull out plastic burlap and blankets stored under a bed during the day and sleep on the dirt floors (the picture to the right, the lady is showing us the blankets and plastic that they pull out to sleep on atnight).
Their dwelling places can hardly be called homes, most live in one room structures that are shared by 4 to 12 people. Each dwelling has two beds, set perpendicular to each other against the walls.
The remaining space (also used for sleeping for larger families) is the living and “kitchen” space. Future entries will discuss diet and food preparation. These dwellings often leak, which is why items are kept in plastic bags. These are typical samples of the dwellings of the Bete Israel in Addis Ababa. There are no bathrooms, appliances, nor running water in these “homes”. I will discuss how they manage without these things in future reflections.