On the 29th day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, 50 days after Yom Kippur, the Ethiopian Jewish community celebrates the Sigd Festival. The name Sigd comes from the word “sgida” prostration before the Holy Torah and before the Lord, and the Sigd Festival commemorates both the giving of the Torah and the communal gatherings held in Jerusalem in the days of the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah.
In Ethiopia, the Sigd was marked with a half-day fast and a pilgrimage to the top of the nearest high mountain. There, the community’s religious leaders would chant from the Torah and lead the community in prayer, praying for the restoration of Jerusalem and the reconstruction of the Holy Temple and for their dream of making aliyah to Israel to come true. The day would end with a festive meal.
Since 2009 the Sigd has been incorporated into the Israeli calendar as a National Holiday for the Ethiopian community, many of whom travel to Jerusalem where they gather on the Talpiot Promenade, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem for a day of prayer and festivities.
The Ethiopian pupils of the MAKSAM Network of After School Study and Enrichment Centers in Hadera celebrated the Sigd with a modest ceremony, including readings, songs and dancing, in the delighted presence of their parents and invited guests.
The pupils were excited by their awesome task, and their parents were overjoyed to watch their Israeli born “Ethiopian Sabras” celebrating the Ethiopian community’s most holy day with such reverance.