Estranged People

Their Kitchens

When I went into the dwellings of the Bete Israel I saw a number of things that almost  all of them had for in their “kitchen” area; two burners, one gas and one coal, a tea pot in which to boil water, a clay coffee pot in which to steep coffee, a small pan with lid that “whet” is cooked and stored in,  a cabinet, a plastic coffee tray that holds small coffee cups, several large , lidded plastic buckets for storing (and catching when it rains) water, a large plastic bowl and cup for washing of hands, and 2 ingera baskets, one for fermenting dough and one for baked ingera.
This is a typical “kitchen area”. In the middle are the two “stoves” that everyone has, a gas burner and a coal burner, on top of the coal burner is the  “whet” pan, staying warm for the next meal.  A little to the left is the tea pot, used for morning and afternoon tea snack. Behind the burners is a typical cabinet and to the left of that is an ingera basket with ingera dough fermenting in it.  To the right of the cabinet is an ingera basket with ready to eat ingera in it. The Pringles can was where they stored the coffee in this home.
The diet of the Bete Israel is very simple. It consists of  mainly “ingera”, “whet” and tea. My topic next week will describe these in a little more detail.

The Hope of the Ethiopian Jews

I found this video on YouTube that I thought was particularly good at providing a visual record of the life of the Ethiopian Jews that have made aliyah. The video celebrates 30 years of Ethiopian Aliyah:

Appalling Living Conditions

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!”
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 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 at

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.