Ethiopians oppose Christian evangelists

Thursday, October 19, 2006 |  by Staff Writer
Christian Ethiopians who evangelize Jewish Ethiopians in Israel will be blacklisted and not allowed to marry within the community, leaders of the Ethiopian Jewish community have decided.

Though Christian evangelization of Jewish Ethiopians is not a new phenomenon, it has increased since the immigration of the Falashmura, Ethiopian immigrants with Christian roots, said Kes Avihu Azariya, Chairman of the Council of Kohanim, an organization of traditional Ethiopian spiritual leaders.

"Today, missionaries are active all over the country from Jerusalem to Netanya, to Nazareth Ilit, to Haifa to Kiryat Malachi," said Azariya.

The community’s spiritual leaders called for excommunicating members of their community who engage in Christian missionary activity.

"We know who they are," said Itzhak Zagai, Chief Rabbi of Rehovot's Ethiopian community. "The worst punishment imaginable for an Ethiopian is excommunication, because we are all so interdependent."

Kes Samai Elias, head of the Ethiopian community in Rishon Lezion, said that a lack of leadership made the Ethiopian community particularly ripe for missionary activities.

"Ethiopians have a simple understanding of Judaism; therefore they are easily persuaded to incorporate Jesus. One man interviewed Wednesday on the Amhari radio station, defined himself as a Jew who believes in Jesus. He saw no contradiction.”

None of the actual missionaries were available for comment.

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