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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
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Ethiopian Jewry to Celebrate Annual Sigd Holiday

Sigd means “prostration” or “bowing down” in Ge’ez, the ancient Ethiopian liturgical language.
Ethiopian Jews take part in a the Sigd holiday prayer in Jerusalem.

Ethiopian Jews take part in a the Sigd holiday prayer in Jerusalem.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90

By the afternoon, the hours of worship and study at the Armon Hanatziv Promenade build to a religious crescendo. The tone of the Sigd chanting becomes increasingly joyous, and the qessotch sway, accompanied by rhythmic drumming. Women raise their hands, ululate, and prostrate, pressing their foreheads to the ground.

When the qessotch descend from their platform at the conclusion of the services, they are quickly surrounded by hundreds of congregants, who accompany them with jubilant cries, applause, and trumpet blasts to a nearby tent, there to break the fast communally following the annual renewal of the covenant.

“I would suggest that Jews in Israel and the rest of the world adopt this holiday,” Rabbi Hadane, the chief rabbi of the Jewish community from Ethiopia, said to me outside the tent. “Our forefathers in Ethiopia always prayed to return to Jerusalem and always prayed in the direction of Jerusalem. We are here, but the vast majority of the Jewish nation is still in the diaspora, and this day and these prayers are very important for ingathering the exiles.”

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