Updated: Nov 21, 2021
Every year the youth movement associated with Dror Israel gathers to celebrate the Sigd holiday with the Ethiopian community. This special holiday, unique to Ethiopian Jews, was originally celebrated in Ethiopia by the entire community climbing a high mountain symbolizing Jerusalem, taking stock of their year and the community, praying, fasting and celebrating. Now that the community is in Israel, the celebration has moved to Jerusalem, serving as a day of gathering for the Ethiopian-Israeli community, with many non-Ethiopians joining the festivities as well.
This year we asked a youth leader and an adult leader to tell us about their Sigd experiences with the youth movement.
Aviot from the Lod branch of HaNoar HaOved tells us about the movement’s seminar for Sigd:
On the first day of the two-day seminar we went to an absorption center in Be’er Sheva to run fun activities for olim children. At first I complained about how long the trip was (from Lod to Be’er Sheva), and that I wanted to go to the central celebration in Jerusalem on Thursday only with my close friends instead of travelling all around the country. But as soon as I entered the absorption center, I was instructed to play the game three sticks with the kids, so I set up the station and started playing with the kids and as soon as I saw their smiles, I abandoned any plans to go to Jerusalem on my own on Thursday.
After the games and laughs we sat down for an interesting lecture, and watched dancers dancing to songs in Amharic. After the show ended the dancers invited the audience to come dance with them. After the dancing, we loaded onto the busses and left for Jerusalem. When we arrived, I spent the evening learning with friends- we read a play about a father and son. I asked the audience for volunteers and we gave them all tasks to do in the spirit of the holiday. Watching the kids do their tasks made me feel that today’s generation isn’t as spoiled as I thought.
On Thursday we arrived in the Jerusalem neighborhood Armon HaNatziv (where the major national Sigd celebration takes place), and we ran activities in the spirit of the holiday. We talked about what it means to be a Jew - a question that still resonates with me. We then gathered with some participants from the Bnei Akiva religious youth movement. A rabbi who came told us a fascinating story about his mother, and said a prayer that was only for important and exciting times, and talked to us about the holiday. We celebrated, sang, and danced as our community knows how to do. Dozens of people joined in, including older movement members, families and friends.
The seminar was a fun and meaningful experience for me.
Liel, a movement member and leader wrote about her experiences this year:
There is a lot to be said about how tradition is created, what its role is in a person’s life and how long it can last.
On Sigd I have two holiday traditions: one is to go to Jerusalem, and the other is to celebrate with the movement, participants and leaders, coordinators, friends and partners. Year after year (with the sad exception of the first year of the pandemic), we open the holiday celebration with youth movement participants running a Sigd festival at an absorption center for new olim families. It’s an event that connects the youth movement kids to the olim kids through Judaism and Zionism. It also links between the younger generation and the older generation, between foreign identity and Israeli identity, new olim and sabras.
Objectively it is such a beautiful event, which amazes me every single year. We run activities in groups- discussing and asking and thinking about what is important to take stock of this year. The next day we go to Jerusalem. And there- there the heart is full. We met with members of the Bnei Akiva religious youth movement, soldiers, parents, families and participants who came to celebrate Sigd with us in our tent.
Hundreds of people amassed in their blue shirts, dancing together, talking, and tasting the dabo (special bread) that the Rabbi blessed. All gathered to visit our tent.
One more exciting tradition. Every year Faranus Salamsa (mother of Yosef Salamsa, an Ethiopian teen who allegedly took his own life in 2014 after being harassed by the police) looks for us in the crowd with a bag of the most delicious dabo there is. “I cannot go to the Western Wall without seeing you,” she says, and hugs our participants as though she has known them all her life. She talks with us and tells us not to forget her son Yosef.
We will continue adding our traditions inside traditions inside traditions.
Melkam YeSigd Bahal!