Mazor Mahoy Bahaina (b. 1973) was born in the Ethiopian village of Welkite. As a child, he fled the country with his family on foot, heading for Israel. It took a year and a half, most of which was spent in Sudanese refugee camps, to finally reach the Promised Land. Bahaina enrolled in religious yeshivas for study, eventually making it to the prestigious Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem. After earning his rabbinic ordination, he moved to Be’er Sheva to support the influx of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, ultimately becoming the chief rabbi of the city’s 10,000 Ethiopian Jews. He also sat on the city’s council, which brought him into the political sphere. Bahaina eventually got on the list of Shas (“Shomrei Sefarad”, Israel’s religious Sephardic political party). He worked for the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and as an advisor to Israel’s Minister of Finance. In April 2008, Bahaina was given a seat in the Knesset, and served as a member of parliament until the following year. He was a member of the Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee, as well as the committee for children’s rights, among others. Though no longer in government, Bahaina continues to diligently serve Israel’s public, particularly the Ethiopian community, and is working to assist the remaining Jews of Ethiopia to make aliyah.
Words of the Week
Six million of us were murdered in the Holocaust. But instead of disappearing, we decided that after 2,000 years of exile, it would be better to go home and rebuild our own country. And so we did. What took other nations hundreds and hundreds of years to build, we did in only a few. What was possible we did very quickly, and what was impossible took us just a bit longer. – Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo
Haile Satayin, a.k.a Ayele Seteng (b. 1955) was born in Ethiopia. He immigrated to Israel in 1991 as part of ‘Operation Solomon’, when 35 Israeli Air Force and El Al aircraft amazingly transported over 14,000 Ethiopians to Israel in just 36 hours. The secret operation was launched in response to the collapsing Ethiopian government, and subsequent rumours of war and attacks on Ethiopia’s Jews, known as Beta Israel. In Israel, Seteng pursued his dreams and became a professional long-distance runner. He soon won a number of Israeli national championships, then moved on to international competitions, and competed all over the world. In 2004, he represented Israel at the Athens Olympics, and at nearly fifty years of age, was the oldest track athlete there. Four years later, he qualified again for the Beijing Olympics, making him the oldest runner once more. He nearly made it to the London Olympics in 2012, too, despite being 57 years old. Of this he has said: “My age is old, but my heart is young.” His Tel-Aviv half-marathon (21 km) time of 1:03:43 and Venice Marathon (42 km) time of 2:14:21 are still Israeli records. The father of seven children, he has won 31 national titles, and holds the record for being the oldest person ever to compete in a IAAF World Championship. In 2011, an Israeli documentary, Seret Ratz (“Running Movie”) was made about him.
Pharaoh commanded his people: “Every son that is born shall be cast into the River” (Exodus 1:22). The Nile was the mainstay of the Egyptian economy and its most venerated god. Therein lay the deeper—still relevant—significance of Pharaoh’s decree: Today, too, Jewish survival depends on our ability to resist the dictum that children must be submerged within an educational system whose focus and goal is the attainment of a “career” and “economic success…” – Menachem Mendel Schneerson, The Lubavitcher Rebbe