The Falashas (Beta Israel) of Ethiopia are “on the verge of a black Holocaust,” according to reports and spokespeople coming out of the war-torn African country.
The Falashas have lived for centuries in small, isolated villages in the highland country of northwest Ethiopia, earning their living from farming and craftwork. Having numbered 250,000 in the 19th century, the Falashas are down to about 28,000 at present.
They are presently caught in the middle of two warring Ethiopian rebel armies, both of which oppose the Provisional Military Government.
The left-wing EPRP has vowed to wipe out the entire tribe because the Falashas have refused to join them. The right: wing EDU, led by relatives of the deposed ruler Haile Selassie, has been waging a brutal war against the Falashas.
Two thousand Falashas have been killed by the two rebel armies, according to recent reports. Seven thousand more have been forced to flee their homes and become refugees. They are starving on the outskirts of Gondar.
Louis Peres reported in The New Republic (Feb. 24, 1979) that when the EDU captured a Falasha village recently, the soldiers raped the women and cut off their breasts, arms and hands. Many women and men were taken away in chains and sold in the still-thriving slave trade. The men remaining in the village were castrated.
Dr. Graenum Berger, who has chaired the American Association for Ethiopian Jews since 1975, said in a recent interview that the solution to the Falasha problem “lies in emigration to Israel.” The fact that only 300 Falashas are currently living in Israel —a statistic Berger calls a “scandal” —reflects, he said, not only the great difficulties Falashas face in leaving the country but “perhaps in greater measure, the intolerable obstacles placed before those who seek to enter Israel.”
Other activists on behalf of the Falashas have charged that Israel has made no special effort to save the tribe, but stressed that it must do so now, before it is too late.