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Israel's Ethiopian Jews keep ancient language alive in prayer

For Israel's Ethiopian immigrants, the liturgical Ge’ez language is a fading memory used only in religious settings.
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 29: New Jewish immigrants during a welcoming ceremony after arriving on a flight from Ethiopia, on October 29, 2012 at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. Some 240 Ethiopian Jews have arrived on a flight to Tel Aviv. The flight is the first of a series of monthly flights planned as part of Operation Dove's Wings, an Israeli government initiative to bring to Israel the remainder of the Falash Mura, members of the Ethiopian Jewish community who converted to Christianity during
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On June 7, another group of about 70 Falash Mura (people of Jewish origin) immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia. Their arrival revived discussions of the preservation of Ethiopian Jewry's ancient traditions, particularly their language, Ge'ez.

Ge'ez is an ancient Semitic language with its own unique alphabet. It served as the national language of the Ethiopian Empire until about one thousand years ago. It is survived by its close relatives, the contemporary Semitic languages of Ethiopia: Tigre, Tigrinya and Amharic. With the penetration and growth of Amharic, Ge'ez was increasingly marginalized. Now, it is only used as the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Church, the Eritrean Church and the Ethiopian Jewish community.

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