Book Launch - Gondar's Child: Songs, Honor & Identity Among Ethiopian Jews In Israel

Wednesday 9 January 2013

17 January 2013, 5pm-6.30pm

ICwS fellow Dr Shihan de Silva will chair the forthcoming book launch hosted by the Centre of African Studies, SOAS.

About the book

In Ethiopia, Ethiopian Jews were attributed with dishonourable status because of their perceived dissociation from the land.  Yet they derived their self-ascribed honour from their link with Israel, expressed through their name:  Betä Israel (“House of Israel”). 
In the Israeli context, the Betä Israel’s association with Ethiopia constitutes both a limiting factor to their honour, leading to a concern among Betä Israel with the image of their ethnic group, and constitutes also a medium for the pursuit of honour.  It is in these terms, and in its concern to progress, that the Betä Israel Band of Porachat HaTikva (Blossoming Hope) is viewed as a microcosm of Bet Israel society in Israel.  As such, the Band is portrayed as expressive of a shift taking place in Betä Israel identity in Israel in terms of gender and generational relationships, and of the discursiveness between values in tune with their traditional village identity and those they associate with the “decadent” Ethiopian town. 
Traditional Ethiopian song-types which form the repertoire of the Band are turned to the Israeli context of the time, amid major international political events, including the first Gulf War.  Through the adaptation and performance of these songs, honourable values – heroism, patriotism, and honourable expressions of love, are attributed to the Betä Israel, and the Band in particular.  Among these songs, those of reminiscence and relating to their migration to Israel provide the focus for various perspectives on this migration, from the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, to the painful memories of a land of birth and history, where family members were left behind.

About the author

Marilyn Herman received her D.Phil in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford.  She has tutored at Oxford University, taught at San Francisco State University, and has carried out in-depth research relating to Ethiopian Jewish music and society, and to Jewish music and society in Yemen in relation to gender and ethnicity. 

For more information click here.