The immigration of the Beta Israel community from Ethiopia to Israel during the 1980s and the 1990s posed a challenge to Israeli society in relation to its ability to know, understand, and absorb a Jewish community with differing religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. For the Beta Israel, immigrating to Israel created a rift between their dream of returning to Jerusalem, a dream that would only be fulfilled after a journey of suffering, and its realization – in which they became an inferior and excluded minority within Israel. This article discusses Hebrew Ethiopian-Israeli literature, focusing on the major narrative of homecoming – the Journey to Yerussalem. This literature, which is relatively new and small, brings the voice of two generations – those who immigrated to Israel as adults, and the younger generation who were small children during the journey. Presenting various texts, and focusing on Asterai by Omri Tegamlak Avera I shall show how Ethiopian-Israeli literature constituted itself as a journey literature, contrasting the old generation with the younger generation’s identity formation as it appears in the representation of this journey narrative, constructing a more complex, ambivalent approach to the concepts of immigration and absorption, homeland and diaspora.
Diaspora and homeland, seemingly opposite concepts, constitute the foundation of a historical narrative in which immigrant groups are forced to leave their homeland and live in a foreign country, while continuing to dream of returning to their old home. In the case of Zionism, specifically the Beta Israel community in Ethiopia, the conditions were set to fulfill the dream of returning “home”—to Jerusalem. Yet, the realization of this collective dream uncovered a complex relation between the concept of “diaspora” and “homeland.” This article discusses the relationship between diaspora and homeland—Africa and Israel—in Hebrew Ethiopian-Israeli literature. It focuses on two major biblical narratives, the Exodus from Egypt and the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and explores the transition from the representation of Israel as “home” and Africa as “diaspora” to its invert picture in which Africa is the “home” and Israel is the “diaspora.”