Sunday, June 3, 2018

How Did Jews Ever Live in Uganda, Africa and Why?

Nadene Goldfoot                                                    

Uganda is said to had become a home to some Jews such as the Abayudaya tribe years ago in 1903.    "The small Abayudaya tribe claims to have converted to Judaism." "They were converted to Judaism less than a century ago, after a row with the British.  "The Abayudaya Community arose out of one of these dissenting groups. Its founder, Semei Kakungulu, broke away from the church initially because of a personal quarrel with the British. Subsequently, his adherence to the Old Testament brought him step by step to Judaism."

It was when Uganda was under British control and was offered to the Jews of the world as a Jewish Homeland under the British Uganda Programme known as the UGANDA PLAN. "The majority of Africans are adherents of Christianity or Islam." Adherents of Judaism can be found scattered in a number of countries across Africa; including North AfricaEthiopiaUgandaKenyaCameroonGabonGhanaIvory CoastSierra LeoneNigeria and Southern Africa.

It ended with a troubled connection between Idi Amin with Israel the culminatd with OPERATION ENTEBBE OR THE ENTEBBE RESCUE OR ENTEBBE RAID OF 1976.

Many pogroms had been going on in Russia, who ruled much of the northern part of the world.  Jews were being slaughtered.  In 1880 the first aliyah back to Palestine had occurred when Turkey's Ottoman Empire ruled this land.  "The British Uganda Programme was a plan to give a portion of British East Africa to the Jewish people as a homeland.  The offer was first made by British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain to Theodore Herzl's Zionist group in 1903. He offered 5,000 square miles (13,000 km2) of the Mau Plateau in what is today Kenya and Uganda. The offer was a response to pogroms against the Jews in Russia, and it was hoped the area could be a refuge from persecution for the Jewish people.  

Many places had been considered as a place of refuge by the Jews themselves, let alone the British.  Each place was dismissed, as for the last 2,000 years Jews had read in their Torah that they were to live in Eretz Yisrael.  This was the only place that was close to their heart-in  fact that WAS THEIR HEART.  They agreed that only the land of the bible would do.  That's who they were and what they did.  They were to live there and return just like the Jews of Babylonia had done.  

Different Jews had made many attempts to return many times, and some had been successful.  Safed had a return in the 1600s, written about in James Mitchener's book, THE SOURCE.  THE SETTLERS by Meyer Levin tells about Jews of the first Aliyah and the hardships they encountered.  The difficult situation really was when Germany and its Nazis showed solid facts of the anti-Semitism going on and the Brits wound up keeping Jews out of Palestine but allowing Arabs to enter instead when Jews were facing real death in the European countries they were fleeing from.  Here they knew they had a Jewish Homeland but were denied entrance.  

"Most Abayudaya tribesmen are of Bagwere origin, except for those from Namutumba who are Basoga. They speak LugandaLusoga or Lugwere, although some have learned Hebrew as well."  "They are a Bantu ethnic group in Uganda. The Bagwere constitute an estimated 4% of Uganda's population.
They live in the eastern Uganda, mostly in Budaka District, Pallisa District and Kibuku District, where they make up over 80% of the population."  "The Abayudaya, or People of Judah, are in many ways like the (Falasha). Both are devoutly orthodox, isolated and sometimes persecuted. Both black African Jewish communities practice slightly different rituals to the wider Jewish world's.  We don't use the term, "Falasha" anymore, but Ethiopian Jews. 
Ethopian Jews are  a member of a group of people in Ethiopia who hold the Jewish faith but use Ge'ez rather than Hebrew as a liturgical language. The Ethiopians (Falashas) were not formally recognized as Jews until 1975, and many of them were airlifted to Israel in 1984–85 and after. I witnessed one group who were moved to Safed and lived across the street from me.  
The Bagwere culture has the following tradition, none of which have Jewish origins.  For example,  "Whenever a woman was pregnant, she was not supposed to look at the nest of a bird called Nansungi. It was believed that if the woman looked at the nest she would miscarry.
After giving birth, the woman was not supposed to leave the home. She was given banana leaves to sleep on. Custom demanded that she could not eat from her husband’s clans until her days of confinement were over.
During this time, she could eat from neighbors or in her parents’ home. She was required to eat bananas that were cooked unpeeled and if the piece of banana broke in the process of peeling or eating, she was not supposed to eat it.
Besides the woman was not supposed to look at the sky before the umbilical cord broke off."  
For 30 years, the British had held the mandate over Palestine from the time of the League of Nations to May 14, 1948 when they left, putting the land in charge finally in the hands of the Jews for their JEWISH HOMELAND, named Israel.  They had then gone back on the mandate rules and had given over 80% of the land to Abdullah, a prince of Saudi Arabia without a land to rule.  He named it TransJordan, and then later, just Jordan.  The attempt at re-organizing a Jewish Homeland in Africa must have been very short-lived because not many Jews could have regarded it as a serious offer in the first place.  
Somehow, those first seeds of British re-organization must have brought in a few Jews and suddenly the tribe converted to Judaism with the Conservative movement; not the Orthodox.  This is a problem.  All people, before receiving the LAW OF RETURN, must show how you happen to be Jewish.  A conversion must be by the Orthodox rabbis.  If you're going to do something like receive a completely new religion, you are expected to do it right.  Go all the way, not spare any details.  This is why they have been turned down.  If they are serious, they should go back and have an orthodox rabbi in their 2,000 population and study some more, and go through the mikva.  I would throw in that while they're at it, to all start learning Hebrew; Hebrew and English if they don't know either.  Then they will psychologically more immersed into the population.  Their children will be coming home speaking these languages and parents must keep up.  
Members of the Jewish community in Nabagoye, Uganda (Courtesy of Be’chol Lashon)
2,000 Ugandan Abayudaya tribesmen now expect to immigrate to Israel under the Jewish LAW OF RETURN.  Many are already in Israel.  It's hard enough for anyone to move to a new country and learn a new language.  You want to come prepared as much as possible.  
"The Interior Ministry denied the request of a Ugandan Jew, Kibitz Yosef, to immigrate to Israel, Haaretz reported Thursday. The ministry said Yosef, who is staying at a kibbutz in southern Israel, had to leave the country by June 14, according to the report."
They haven't been Jews for very long.  The Israeli Interior Ministry decided not to grant recognition to them for one reason being: the conversion was not orthodox.  It took a long time for the Ethiopian Jews to be accepted for a return to Israel and they had a history going back possibly to the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.  They came over wrapped up in sheets and barefoot.  Many Rabbis have to agree to such a decision.  It's not something you hurry.   Africa is going through hard times right now.  There is a short supply of food.  A tribesman must leave the country by June 14th or risk deportation. 
Converts are eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return, regardless of what movement they are affiliated with, provided they come from recognized Jewish communities. But through its response, the ministry clarified that it does not regard the Abayudaya as a recognized Jewish community.  "The Law of Moses made specific regulations regarding the admission into Israel's community of such as were not born Israelites."  This is why Abram left Ur in the first place long ago.  He wanted to start his own community of people who believed in one G-d and didn't make idols. 
Stanley of Stanley and Livingstone
In 1875 the explorer Henry Stanley reached Uganda. At that time Uganda was divided into kingdoms. Shortly afterwards the first missionaries came to Uganda. The first Anglican missionaries arrived in Uganda in 1877. The first Roman Catholic missionaries arrived in 1879. Catholics, Protestants and Muslims all tried to convert the Ugandans. We Jews haven't practiced proselytism, but having a few Jews in their midst has caused the whole tribe to have converted.  That is nice, and says good things about those few Jews to have set a good example.   
 This is the period of gathering up the 10 LOST TRIBES.  Now this is including accepting a brand new group who just became Jewish a few years ago.  This is a lot to expect out of 8,000 sq miles of little Israel.  
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