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In Ethiopia, it should be International Mothers Day

They cook, wash, clean, educate and lead; they grind the coffee, bean by bean; they care for the kids and pray for the Land of Israel. They are the real heroes (photo essay)
Baking challah at the synagoge in Gondar, Ethiopia.
Baking challah at the synagoge in Gondar, Ethiopia.

International Women’s Day: Also in the Jewish Community of Ethiopia

They cook, wash, clean, educate and lead. They are quiet and modest raising and caring for their children. They are the real female heroes of our generation. They do it all alone without help. The women in the Jewish community of Ethiopia teach us what feminine power is about. What is true strength, when these women are carrying crazy amounts of wooden planks on their backs? What is the power of their bare hands compared to ours? What is raising children, when these women have no housemaid or day care center, only many children living in a tiny house. And some of the mothers are single parents. How can we compare our washing machines to the bucket and water they use? The washing, the draining, the hanging, the heavy effort required. What is honest prayer, when the women wake up early in the morning in order to arrive at the synagogue before the prayers begin? They stand in the front rows. They sit with their young children and try to keep them quiet, praying intently and whole-heartedly to come to the Land of Israel. Walking for miles, with a baby on their back, without any stroller or transportation.

The preparations for Sabbath are already beginning a few days before — preparing the few challahs for the community, which are considered a whole meal for them. They knead the dough and when the Shabbat arrives, they light the candles with hope and tears.

They make the Passover matzahs with their own bare hands because there is no place to buy matzahs in Ethiopia.

They grind the coffee from the very start, bean by bean. They use all the muscles of the body, from their strong hands to their sturdy legs. Women up to the age of 80, mothers, grandmothers, women. Young girls.And all without a bit of pride and with great humility and modesty. There is so much to learn from them, even without degrees or certificates of merit. They are mothers, but much more than that, carrying their sons on their soft shoulders without falling. Because there is nothing like a mother’s love for her sons.But some of these women are separated from their families in Israel. Some of their sons are not with them yet, some of them have been separated for years. And they continue to fight every day and hour. When we look at the quality of the amazing youth who lead the Jewish community in Gondar and Addis, we can understand who stands behind their education, support and encouragement. In Ethiopia, the mother is the home, the foundation of everything. And their children appreciate their mothers so much and are grateful for them.

So let us take a minute to appreciate them, understand, thank and learn from these grateful woman. Let us pray for them, that they will no longer have to cry over their sons who are so far for them, but that they will come home to the promised land. Happy International Women’s Day!

About the Author
Avital Lisker recently returned from volunteering and traveling in Ethiopia. She is pursuing a degree in Social Sciences from Bar Ilan University. She can be reached at
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