Frontmatter

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

An ethnographic study of this nature can only succeed as a work of friendship. My warmest and most profound thanks go to the many individuals and families who have opened their homes and lives to me over the years, and who continue to do so today. This book could not have been written without each of you, although I cannot for your own sakes mention you by name. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-11

“Feres Mura” immigrants of the 1990s and early 2000s have not had to trek across hundreds of miles of dangerous desert terrain in order to reach Israel. But they have frequently been forced by circumstance to spend years in conditions of extreme poverty and displacement while they await decisions about their right to emigrate by successive Ethiopian and Israeli governments. Since...

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1. A Death in Addis Ababa

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pp. 12-40

We arrive in a white pickup truck with the plain wood coffin of an eighteen-year old girl—I learned her name was Tigest Mekuriaw—smaller than life, loaded on back. The corpse of an older man who died the same day in an unrelated incident is also being returned from the shed outside Menelik Hospital where rough autopsies and some semblance of taharah—the cleansing of the bodies before....

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2. The Question of Kinship

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pp. 41-61

At some point during their first year in Israel, most Ethiopian immigrants are taken from their schools and absorption centers on a field trip to the kotel, or Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem. The wall has both national and religious significance for many Israelis since it represents the last of the ancient retaining walls of the Temple destroyed by Rome after a Jewish revolt in 70 CE. One....

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3. Purity of Heart

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pp. 62-83

The question of kinship could not, by its nature, be answered once and for all by men like Jacques Faitlovitch or Henry Aaron Stern. Both men invoked the fragile certainties of race but also demonstrated by their own example just how delicate an interpretive construct “race” can be. The question of kinship between Beta Israel and foreign Jews derives its hard moral edge precisely from ...

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4. Returning to Judaism

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pp. 84-108

Tazza Gember was reputed to be upwards of ninety years old when I encountered her on a rainy summer day in 1993 near the gated entrance to the “Feres Mura” compound in northern Addis Ababa. She was with a group of older women, all regal in their clean white shammas, sweeping past me on their way to market. Tazza paused just long enough to recite a verse she had recently...

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5. Absorption

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pp. 109-149

One of my first visits to the “absorption center” at Neve Carmel was on the day of Tazza Gember’s first tazkar (memorial feast), in October 1994. Tazkar was observed on the fortieth and eightieth days after death in Ethiopia, and up to seven times during the first year, by both Beta Israel and Christians. Observances like these are typically truncated in Israel, but it was a little more than a...

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6. Blood and Terror

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pp. 150-179

Not all events that were of ethnographic import to the main themes of this book took place within the “Feres Mura” community alone, or in the microcosm of local social relations at Neve Carmel. On a Friday in late January 1996, an investigative report in the daily newspaper Ma’ariv broke a story that changed the whole discourse on immigration and cultural authenticity...

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7. The “Feres Mura” Dilemma

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pp. 180-211

When the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe (1988) sat down to compose an essay on the question “Who is an African novelist?” it is not surprising that he was drawn to its cognate question, “Who is a Jew?” Like David Ben-Gurion, Achebe was writing in a context of postcolonial statehood, transnational migration, and anxiety over the identities—bureaucratic, national, and religious—that the new...

Notes

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pp. 213-214

References

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pp. 215-231

Index

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pp. 233-240