Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



The Thousand-Mile Shidduch

Rhona Lewis

How close are Ethiopia and England? When Ethiopian Galit married British Eliyahu, they found that with rock-solid emunah and a generous dash of flexibility, the bridging of two very different cultures could become the adventure of a lifetime.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

“Life in a village in the mountains of north Ethiopia was only a little different from the kind of life that Avraham Avinu led,” Galit says from her apartment in Ramat Beit Shemesh. With gentle candor, she takes me back to her home, and the rock-solid faith she imbibed as a child. It was this emunah temimah that her husband was drawn to.

The simple homes in Avratensa, a tiny village near the city ofGonder, northwestEthiopia, were set among hills of tawny grass dotted with tall trees. The round huts were constructed from a framework of branches, plastered with gray-green clay that the women prepared, and topped with a roof of straw. Beds lined the walls, with parents sleeping on the top bunks.

Men worked in fields an hour’s walk away, cultivating wheat, barley, and corn. Closer to home, the women tended vegetable patches filled with peas, beans, and pumpkins. “We also grew cotton, and my mother would roll it into threads that she’d weave on a simple wooden loom into cloth, which we then dyed and embroidered,” Galit recalls. “An industrious housewife would be up at five in the morning to join the group of women going to the river to fetch water in clay jugs that we had made.”

Jewish life in this simple setting was rich. “My father prayed to Hashem in his own words every morning, before leaving for the wheat fields. My mother was always talking to Hashem. When it rained, she’d pray for the rain to fall as a blessing and not a curse. When my three brothers, sister, and I left our home to walk to the village school, she’d ask Hashem to open our hearts to learn good things,” says Galit. “On Shabbat, however, we all went to shul and repeated set prayers after the kesim (rabbis). Then we’d make Kiddush over bread — we didn’t grow grapes. Back at home, we ate a cold milchig meal, because we couldn’t light a fire on Shabbos.”

Many of the hundred people in Galit’s village descended from the elder who headed the village. “We took a fiery pride in our status as Jews and could all draw our lineage back seven generations,” says Galit. “We kept ourselves totally separate from the non-Jews, refusing to attend their schools. I’d never seen a non-Jew before I left the village when I was six years old. When my husband later told me that he had been to school with non-Jews, I was horrified. In Ethiopia, if a non-Jew touched you, you had to toivel. The non-Jews in turn, looked at us with awe.”

This respect from non-Jews was so second nature to Galit that when she visitedLondonafter her marriage and heard Muslims hurl racist comments at her family as they walked back from shul on Shabbos morning, she yelled back just as loudly, much to the consternation of her new English family.

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


 
Top-Down Theory
Shoshana Friedman Our true currency, the accomplishments we value most
Strive for What Binds Us
Yonoson Rosenblum The chareidi community represents something of an oasis
Embracing Victimhood
Eytan Kobre Combating the allure of victimhood
The Kids Are Going to Camp, the Parents Are Going Broke
Miriam Klein Adelman Mindy has to feel good; it doesn’t matter that I feel ba...
Work/Life Solutions with Carlos Wigle
Moe Mernick “Rejection is Hashem’s protection” 
How to Create a Simple 900-Page Novel
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman All of us can reset the titles of our own lives
Stand There or Do Something
Baruch S. Fertel, MD, MPA, FACEP It’s called collaborative care, and it works miracles
I'm Here — Are You Ready?
Riki Goldstein Upbeat and catchy, but still makes listeners think
Back in Time
Riki Goldstein "I wish I could recapture that excitement"
Mixed Messages
Riki Goldstein The unsung craftsmen who give albums their special touch
Go in Peace
Faigy Peritzman Inner peace makes us vessels for blessing
All Work and No Play
Sarah Chana Radcliffe A life only about doing your duties loses all its color
Dying to Believe
With Rav Moshe Wolfson, written by Baila Vorhand Emunah peshutah is the force behind Jewish continuity