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Crossroads & Connections: Across the Wilderness

By The National Library of Israel

Published Apr 26, 2023


Orit, the Sacred Scripture of Ethiopian Jews, Ethiopia, 18th century

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This copy of the Orit—sacred scriptures of the Beta Israel of Ethiopia—was handed down from generation to generation over more than three hundred years. Kes Isaac Yaso (“Yitzhak the Teacher”) received this Orit from his father. In the early 1980s, the Kes and his family left Ethiopia and embarked on a long and arduous journey to Israel, via Sudan, carrying the treasured Orit. The family donated the Orit and its colorful covering to the National Library of Israel in 2016, and periodically return to the Library to recite from the sacred text.

Written on parchment in Ge’ez, a Semitic language sacred to both Christians and the Beta Israel, the Orit includes the Torah and the Books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. The Orit was usually kept in the home of the Kes, the community’s priest, who would read from the manuscript before the entire community on holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah and Sigd—a distinct holiday of the Beta Israel community celebrated fifty days after Yom Kippur, which marks the renewal of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, the Jewish people’s commitment to Torah, and their yearning for the Temple in Jerusalem.


Orit, folio 36r. Donated by Kes Isaac Yaso and his family in 2016, Ms. Or. 87.

Photography by Ardon Bar-Hama


Click here to return to the full Crossroads & Connections: Collections of the National Library of Israel digital exhibition on Kolture.


Founded in Jerusalem in 1892, the National Library of Israel (NLI) serves as Israel's preeminent research library


Click here to visit the exhibition resource page to learn more and to browse accompanying lesson plans, webinars, and videos, about the treasures in this exhibition.

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