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Summerfield, Daniel P. (1997) From Falashas to Ethiopian Jews: The external influences for change c. 1860-1960. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The arrival of a Protestant mission in Ethiopia during the 1850s marks a turning point in the history of the Falashas. Up until this point, they lived relatively isolated in the country, unaffected and unaware of the existence of world Jewry. Following this period and especially from the beginning of the twentieth century, the attention of certain Jewish individuals and organisations was drawn to the Falashas. This contact initiated a period of external interference which would ultimately transform the Falashas, an Ethiopian phenomenon, into Ethiopian Jews, whose culture, religion and identity became increasingly connected with that of world Jewry. It is the purpose of this thesis to examine the external influences that implemented and continued the process of transformation in Falasha society which culminated in their eventual emigration to Israel. The original research provides an in-depth insight into the processes which were set in motion among the Falashas during the course of the twentieth century. The thesis begins with a description of their religion, culture and identity before the Falashas' exposure to external influences, an analysis which is used to examine and interpret the modifications that subsequently took place in the Falashas' society. The missionaries' activities, which brought the Falashas to the attention of Western Jewry, are then examined. Considerable attention is devoted to Jacques Faitlovitch who was instrumental in developing the concept of an 'Ethiopian Jew.' His programmes and activities in Ethiopia and abroad, which were fundamental for the success of subsequent endeavours by Israeli organisations, are examined in detail. The Italian occupation of Ethiopia and its impact on the Falashas is also a topic thoroughly researched for the first time. Finally, the activities of Israeli organisations and their impact on the Falashas are examined. The conclusions of this thesis are based on the results of both archival research and interviews with Falashas and key personalities who worked with them before the 1960s.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03

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