in Ethiopia were separated from the Christian and Moslem
communities by their distinct way of life and religious
The majority of Ethiopian Jews were farmers, but a smaller
portion were traditional craftsmen, working as tinsmiths
Overall the community had very little contact with other
ethnic communities and developed a very rich culture in
Jews in Ethiopia lived in huts and
their villages were built near rivers and streams in
the mountainous regions of Ethiopia. Besides the economic
benefits of living near the water, there was the importance
of flowing waters in the rituals of purification and
cleanliness practiced by the community. The Ethiopian
Jews maintained a strict biblical code of purity surrounding
menstruation, birth, death and preparation for the Sabbath.
Fresh running water was therefore essential to the community's
way of life and spiritual health.
The Kessim ("Kohanim")
were the top religious and spiritual leaders of the
Jewish community. Members of the community came to the
Kessim for information related to religion, holidays,
wedding ceremonies, divorce proceedings, burials, etc.
The 'Hashmaglitz' (Ethiopian elders)
came second in rank to the Kessim. They were granted
authority on the basis of wisdom and age. The Hashmaglitz
had much power and fulfilled the role of social leaders.
They assisted in resolving disagreements between neighbors
and other personal issues.
The foundations of the Ethiopian
Jewish community are built on the following values:
mutual respect, politeness, modesty, fulfillment of
promises, patience, visitation of mourners, and reception