Ethiopian Jews (Falasha or Beta Yisrael) - The Jewish community of Ethiopia.
Origins of Ethiopian Jews
The People of Ethiopia, Jewish and Christian, share the belief that they are descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, through their son Menelik, who returned to Ethiopia with his attendants after studying in Jerusalem. Supposedly, they brought with them the original tablets of the law of Moses, purloined from the temple of Solomon, which are hidden in the city of Axum. Various other theories claim that the Falasha are the descendants of the tribe of Dan or other tribes exiled by the Babylonians, descendants of the Jews of Elephantine in Egypt who migrated south to Ethiopia, or descendants of one of several possible Jewish military expeditions, or that they are Africans who were converted at a later date. One theory (Kaplan 1994) insists that Ethiopian Jews are Christians who converted to Judaism at a very late date. The evidence for this is rather tenuous. What is certain is that Ethiopian Christianity has many Hebrew elements (see Kessler, 1996 for a review of theories of origin). It is also obvious that Kaplan is correct that regardless of the origin of Ethiopian Jews, their customs and culture cannot only be understood in the context of Ethiopia, and have many Ethiopian elements. At least some Ethiopian Jews are very likely descendants of a Christian monk, Abba Sabra, who converted to Judaism in the 15th century. and likewise converted Abba Saga a son of King Zar'a Yaqob who in turn converted others (Pankhurst, 1992).
Genetic studies have failed to find evidence for genetic closeness between Ethiopian and other Jews, with the possible exception of Yemenite Jews. (Hammer et. al. 2000, Rosenberg et. al. 2001, Thomas et. al. 2002 and Zoosman-Diskin et al. 1991).
There is no direct written evidence for the existence of the Falasha or Ethiopian Jews prior to the 14th century. It is claimed, and likely, that Muslim invasions prior to that period destroyed their records, as they destroyed much of Ethiopian culture.
Ethiopian Jews do not speak Hebrew as a holy tongue, but rather Ge'ez, a Semitic tongue of uncertain origin. In their own language they are not always referred to as "Jews" (ayhoud) a term that may also be used to refer to Christian heretics. Ethiopian Jews are called "Beta Yisrael" or (a somewhat derogatory term) "Falasha." "Beta Israel" is evidently derived from "Beit Yisrael" - the house of Israel.
Religious practices of the Ethiopian Jews
The Jews of Ethiopia were evidently cut off from the main body of the Jewish faith prior to the writing of the Talmud and developed their own oral tradition instead, based on the Orit (Torah) and the book of Ezra and several apocryphal books such as the book of Enoch and Barch, plus their own holy books which may or may not have an ancient Jewish origin. These include the Arde'et, Acts of Moses, Apocalypse of Gorgorios, Meddrash Abba Elija, and biographies of the nation's forebears: Gadla Adam, Gadla Avraham, Gadla Ishak, Gadla Ya'kov, Gadla Moshe, Gadla Aaron, Nagara Musye, Mota Musye, the Te'ezaza Sanbat (percepts of the Sabbath) Sefer Cahen - priestly functions and Sefer Sa'aat (Book of the hours). The last named book seems to have an origin in similar books of the Christian tradition. The Abu Shaker. dating from the 13th century, lists civil and lunar dates for Jewish feasts, including Matqe' (New Year), Soma Ayhud or Badr (Yom Kippur), Masallat (Sucot), Fesh (Passover), and Soma Dehnat (Fast of Salvation) or Soma Aster (Fast of Esther). (Shelemay, 1989 pp 42-53). The Beta Israel have a unique holiday, known as Seged or Sigd, that falls on the 29th of the Jewish month of Heshvan. In the past the day was called Mehella - similar to an Ethiopian Christian holiday. The acts of bowing and supplication are still known as mehella. Sigd celebrates the giving of the Torah and the return from exile in Babylonia to Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah. According to the tradition of Beta Israel, ition holds that Sigd commemorates Ezra's proclamation against the Babylonian wives (Ezra 10:10-12). In Ethiopia, the Sigd was celebrated on hilltops outside villages. The location was called by several names, including Ya'arego Dabr (Mountain for making prayers) and in Amharic Yalamana Tarrara (Mountain of Supplication). The Kessim, equivalent to rabbis or elders of the community, drew a parallel between the ritual mountain and Mount Sinai. Another source described Sigd (calling it Amata Saww) as a new-moon holiday, after which the Kessim withdrew for a period of isolation.
Ethiopians observe Kashrut (Kosher) laws and ritual bathing. They do not eat food that was prepared by gentiles. However, there are many variations in the observances of various custums.
Falasha: Ethiopian Jewish family in Ethiopia
History of the Ethiopian Jews
Following the conventional narrative, Jews had been established in Ethiopia since some time after the destruction of the first temple. Originally the Jews of Ethiopia had their own independent kingdom and were apparently quite numerous, coexisting with pagans and converting them. Christianity arrived in Ethiopia in the fourth century and as it became established, the fortunes of the Jewish community declined. Like Jews elsewhere, Ethiopian Jews had to fight continuously to maintain their identity against attempts at conversion, forced or otherwise, and, after losing their independence about 1620, they had to struggle against economic adversity imposed by denial of the right to own land. As late at the 17th century there were as many as half a million Jews in Ethiopia (Kessler, 1996 p. 94).
Our knowledge of the history of Ethiopian Jews is sketchy and comes mostly from their rare contacts with the outside world as well as from the records of their persecutors. Toward the end of the 9th century, the Jews of Kairouan in Tunisia were visited by a man called Eldad son of Mahli, the Danite. Various versions exist of the tales of Eldad, who was variously supposed to be of Ethiopian or Yemenite origin. He is said to be the author of a book of travels, which exists in different versions.
According to one version, Eldad the Danite claimed to be the lone survivor of a shipwreck. He was described as having dark skin and speaking only a strange sort of Hebrew and no Arabic. In other versions, his Hebrew was mixed with Arabic. Eldad's fabulous story spread the tribes of Israel all over the known globe, including a reference to the Khazars. He claimed to be a Jew of a pastoral tribe residing in the land of Havilah beyond the river "Kush" - perhaps the Nile. . According to Eldad, his tribe was descended from the tribe of Dan, that had emigrated from Judaea at the time of Jeroboam's accession, after the death of Solomon. He said three other tribes, Naphtali, Gad and Asher, had joined them when Sennacherib laid waste to the northern kingdom of Israel around 722 B.C. According to the accounts, Eldad the Danite claimed the Children of Moses lived beyond a river of grinding stones. They were impossible to visit, except on the Sabbath day when the river ceased its grinding, very likely referring to the legendary Sambation. The tribes were pastoralists and mighty warriors. They were ruled together by a king assisted by a learned Torah judge-prophet. They did not know of the Talmud, but had their own traditions written down in Hebrew. Eldad the Danite supposedly displayed these to the rabbis of Tunisia and Egypt. The local rabbis corresponded with the Gaon (religious authority) Zemah ben Hayyim of Sura in Babylon. They concluded that Eldad the Danite was indeed a Jew.
Zemah claimed that the differences of his practice from their own were legitimate forms of customary law for the Jews of Havilah. In the early modern period, the variations from Rabbinic law which he practiced and obeyed were supposedly still cited by Rabbinic authorities as precedents.ref
In retrospect, the story of Eldad the Danite is thought by many to be a contact with Ethiopian Jewry, but there is no real evidence that Eldad was Ethiopian. He is also identified as a Yemenite Jew. It is also difficult to understand how, through all his supposedly harrowing escapades, Eldad had managed to somehow preserve a Hebrew document of Halachic law, as is claimed,
Sometime in the eleventh century the Falasha supposedly had a queen named Judith who had defeated the Christian monarchy and ruled a relatively powerful Ethipian Jewish kingdom for a while. The evidence for this queen is sketchy.
The first written citation in Ethiopian records that might refer to the Falasha or Ethiopian Jews is in records dating from the 14th century, when the Solomonic dynasty was renewed in Ethiopia, under Amda Seyon who fought a "people like Jews." In the 15th century, the emperor Zara Yaqob was titled "Exterminator of the Jews" in his chronicles. (Haber, Louis, "The Chronicle of the Emperor Zara Yaqob (1434-1468), Ethiopia Observer, 1961, V. 5. No. 2, P 167) During Yaqob's reign, his son Abba Saga converted to Judaism, converted a number of other tribes to Judaism, and persuaded others who had been forcibly Christianized to return to Judaism. They raised a revolt that continued during the reign of Zara Yaqob's son, Baeda Mariam. Baeda Mariam eventually quelled the rebellion and the apostates were forced to return to Christianity. (Kessler, 1996, p. 96).
In the 16th century Portuguese missionaries began arriving in Ethiopia. They focused on encouraging the Ethiopian kings to persecute the Jews, rather than on converting Ethiopian Christians to the Roman Catholic rite. During the reign of Lebna Dengel, Ethiopia was hard pressed by the Muslim Ahmad ibn Ibrahim, known as "the Gran." The Muslim invasions caused great chaos, evidently destroying most of the records of the Jews. The Jews switched sides, hoping to gain greater freedom by alliance with the Muslims. However, the Ethiopian Christians were aided by the Portuguese, who also brought firearms. The Muslims and the Jews were eventually defeated. Encouraged by the Portuguese and their Jesuit missionaries, the Christian kings pursued an active policy of conversion. This war was continued by Sartsa-Dengel (or Sarsa Dengel) (1563-1597). About 1578 the latter engaged in battle with the Abatis, a Falasha tribe, at Waina-Daga, and exterminated them. Two years later he made an expedition into Semien, seized and carried him off to Waj. In 1582 he conquered Kalef, another Jewish chief of Semien, and in 1587 made a fresh incursion into the country, attacked Gushn (Gweshan), brother of Gedewon (Gideon, and according to one account, slew him.ref According to another account, Both Gweshan and Gideon committed suicide with their followers, citing the example of the Jews of Masada. Supposedly, as many as 4,000 followers died with Gweshan. (Kessler, 1994, p. 100)
About 1615 another Jewish king named Gideon raised the flag of rebellion against the Christian monarch Susneyos. He made an alliance with one Amdo against the monarchy. This succeeded for a time, but then the king's forces arrived backed by fire arms and defeated the Jews in battle after battle. To save further bloodshed, Gideon agreed to surrender Amdo. The Christian monarch however, reneged on his truce pledge and sometime between 1616 and 1624 committed a great pogrom of the Jews living between Lake Tana and the Semien mountains. Gideon was killed, and Falasha independence seems to have died with him. The motive for the massacre was apparently religious as well as political. James Bruce, a Scot who visited Ethiopia in the 18th century and published a travelogue account (Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile) in 1790, reported that a few Jews had escaped the massacre and survived under the rule of Phineas (Pinhas) who had succeeded Gideon. The children of those slain were sold for slaves and all the Falasha in the Dembea and the low countries under the power of the king were forcibly converted and made to plow on the Sabbath. The king thought, wrongly, that he had managed to extinguish Judaism. (Kessler, 1994, p. 102) In this case, it is noteworthy that the Falasha had lived at peace and under treaty. Their murder and forcible conversion, like many similar incidents in Europe and some in Muslim countries as well, is an exemplary lesson to those Christians who cannot understand why conversion is a sensitive subject to Jews.
Until the visit of Bruce in 1770, the Falasha's were virtually unknown in the West, though several earlier rabbinical authorities had pronounced them to be Jews. Antoine and Arnaud d'Abaddie visited Ethiopia in the 19th century as well, as did the missionary Thomas Beke. In an interview given in 1849 and published in the Jews Chronicle, Antoine Abbadie claimed that there was a Jewish kingdom in the south of the country, and likewise resounted that he had met a young Ethiopian Jew who expressed the desire to visit Europe to acquire the "correct notions" on Judaism. Abbadie promised that he would inform the Jewish community. Abbadie's reports, including earlier ones, inspired the young Italian Jew, Philoxene (Filosseno) Luzzatto, to embark on a project of contacting the Ethiopian Jewish community and reuniting them with the Jewish people. (Kessler, 1994, p. 109). Luzatto died young, but his work inspired a mission by the Alliance Francais Israelite. Joseph Halevy travelled to Ethiopia with a British Army expedition in 1867, leaving the expedition and striking out on his own, and bringing back two young Ethiopians who were to be educated in the Jewish faith. However, the Alliance's project for advancement of Ethiopian Jews at the time was curtailed by the disaster of the Franco-Prussian wars. By the end of the 19th century, the Ethiopian Jewish population had been considerably reduced, as Ethiopia had suffered an invasion of Muslim dervishes from the Sudan, and an invasion of Christian missionaries, and most especially a converted Jew named Cohen.
Two further expeditions were undertaken, one by Jacques Faitlovitch in 1904 and a later one in 1908 by Haim Nahum and a Dr. Eberlin. Faitlovitch, a student of Halevy, was sent under funding of the Baron Rothschild, and the Alliance claims him as well, though evidently he did not agree with the approach of the "official" Alliance expedition. Faitlovitch also brought back two young Ethiopian Jews to be trained in Judaism as well as European subjects in his 1904 expedition. Faitlovitch a Zionist, settled in Tel Aviv and continued to work on behalf of Ethiopian Jews, to get them recognized as Jews and to integrate their customs and culture with the mainstream. Faitlovitch noted that the Ethiopian Jews were not at all defensive about maintaining their old ways, and were anxious to learn about the proper customs of the Jews, recognizing that they had been cut off from the mainstream. Depending on who is to be believed, the Alliance Israelite was either favorably disposed or in total opposition to this effort. ref ref
Ethiopian Jews and Zionism
The attachment of Ethiopian Jews to their religion and their people despite their abject situation and continuous struggle against persecution is remarkable. It testifies that Zionism was not an artificial invention of European Jews at the end of the 19th century, but an organic part of the culture of Jewish people everywhere, even in the remotest reaches of the mountains of Africa. It is necessary to emphasize this because ignorant racists (including Jewish bigots) and anti-Zionists have tried to make a case that Ethiopian Jews are all pretenders who are trying obtain Israeli citizenship and prosperity under false pretences.
The accession of a king named Theodore, believed by many to be the name of the Messiah, as well as missionary propaganda that may have been deliberately deceptive, caused the following letter to be written in the Ge'ez language by one Abba Saga, addressed to the chief priest of all the Jews in Jerusalem, inquiring whether the time had come for them to return to Jerusalem. This letter was reprinted in the Paris Journal Asiatique (Vol. 9, Feb March 1867). The translation, based on a defective Ge'ez text reads:
The letter was given to Bishop Gobat, who did did not deliver it to its intended recipient, if he know who it was. It reached the hands of Rabbi Yaakov Safir of Jerusalem, author of "even Sapir" who transmitted it to Hermann Zotenberg, who published it. Unfortunately, in the meanwhile a great multitude of Jews set out eastward to reach the sea. They got as far as Axum, in great disarray. Many died on the way. Eventually they returned to find their homes occupied by gentiles. (Kessler, 1996, pp. 123-125).
Aliyah: From Ethiopian Jews to Ethiopian Israelis
Israel's first Ethiopian Oleh (immigrant) may be Matti Elias. The elder statesman of the Ethiopian community in Israel arrived in 1956, with 14 other high school students. They were brought for a year;Mr. Elias stayed, married a kibbutznik and still lives on the kibbutz. He has worked for the Jewish Agency for Israel, for the Israel Ministry of Absorption and now, for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, as Senior Program Director in charge of Young Leadership development. ref
Almost nothing was done about the Aliya of the Ethiopian Jews for many years however. In 1973 Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef declared the Falashas to be Jews, but the Zionist establishment of the time demurred. There may have been racist overtones. Supposedly, Golda Meir made racist remarks. David Zohar, the first secretary of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, stated plainly that "Israel does not regard the law of Return as being applicable to the Falasha" and "is not enthusiastic about the prospect of Falasha immigration." This remained official Israeli policy until 1975, when, after the Ashkenasi Rabbi Shlomo Goren also accepted the Falasha as Jews, the Interior Ministry accepted them too. The background for the change of heart was that Israel had had an exceptionally good relationship with Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia. Haile Selassie did not want the Jews to leave and the diplomats were reluctant to spoil this relationship. But a coup had ousted Haile Selassie in 1974, and the position of the Ethiopian Jews soon became very precarious.
Until 1978, the Mengistu government, officially anti-Zionist, had allowed a limited number of immigrants to leave in return for Israeli arms deliveries. However, when Moshe Dayan, for unknown reasons, made the deal public in 1978, the Ethiopian government stopped the immigration. In the 1980s, a great famine enveloped Ethiopia. Thousands of people seeking famine relief trekked northward to the Sudan where refugee camps were set up under very poor conditions. Sudan is a Muslim country that had no relations with Israel. Nonetheless, Israeli officials were able to negotiate the immigration of Jews who had gathered in the camps, and who were rapidly dying of starvation. They were ferried to Israel by Israeli Seals (Shayetet 13) and other Navy personnel as well as by C-130 transport aircraft. But the rate of evacuation was too slow and people continued to die. In 1985 a massive airlift, Operation Moses, was undertaken. About 8,000 Jews were airlifted out of Ethiopia in Israeli and US supplied aircraft. Once again, Israelis broke the the story prematurely and the Sudanese government stopped the immigration. ref
Nonetheless, 1,200 Jews were airlifted in Operation Sheba and another 800 in operation Joshua in 1985, which the aid of US Vice President George Bush. At first, the Chief Rabbinate had demanded humiliating conversion rites, but these were soon abandoned.
In 1991, the Mengistu regime was about to collapse. In return for money and the promise of asylum for regime officials, the disintegrating Mengistu government permitted the airlift of Operation Solomon. In 36 hours Israel Air Force C-130s and El Al passenger aircraft flew 14,325 passengers to Israel. On May 24, 1991, a single Boeing 747 carried 1,122 passengers from Sudan to Israel. This world record was made possible because the malnourished refugees weighed so little.
Immigration continued throughout the 90s and into the first decade of the 21st century at a rate of about 3,000 - 5,000 per year. An exception was made for Jews of the remote Kwara (Qwara) region, who were endangered by fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 1999 and 2000, an accelerated airlift brought most of them to Israel. A small number of Jews had taken Christian spouses either as part of genuine marriages, or in some cases through fictitious marriages or being forces or bribed to do so. The Israeli government would not accept these non-Jewish spouses as a rule. About 170 Kwara Jews were left in Ethiopia for that reason. ref
In all, about 120,000 Ethiopian Jews now reside in Israel.
Falash Mura are Ethiopian Jews who converted either willingly or under duress to Christianity. Their identity and desire to come to Israel became evident only after Operation Solomon, Perhaps 20,000- 30,000 of them had gathered in camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa and wanted to come to Israel. It was impossible to tell how many of these persons were actually Jews or descendants of Jews who had converted and how many were simply poor people looking for a better life. They had been rejected by the Ethiopian Christian community and were in an especially poor position in Ethiopia. By twisted logic, this discrimination came to be understood as the fault of Israel and articles in various anti-Zionist publications accused Israel of "racism" for not being willing to subsidize their immigration and integration into Israel. ref ref Each Ethiopian immigrant represents an estimated average investment of about $100,000 (NIS 400,000) according to bank of Israel figures. On the one hand, Israelis of Ethiopian origin insisted that Falash Mura immigration should be halted, because Christians had been coming with the immigrants and they proceeded to try to convert Ethiopian Jews to Christianity. ref However, soon after, a different group of Israeli Ethiopians protested government and Jewish agency plans to halt Falash Mura immigration to Israel at the end of 2007 ref. By August 2008, the Jewish agency had announced that as far as it was concerned, the last of the Falash Murah had been brought to Israel, and the Ethiopian immigration efforts were at an end. ref. They would still extend help to an estimated 1,400 Falash Mura who have concentrated in Gondar and want to be reunited with their families in Israel.
That was not the end of the Falash Mura Aliya (immigration to Israel). In September of 2008, the decision to end the Aliya was reversed. About 3,000 Falash Mura were waiting in Ethiopia to be allowed into Israel and the program continued. However, budget cuts threatened to stop the immigration program in April of 2009.ref
Critics claim that there is a market in fraudulent documents to prove relationships to Israeli Ethiopians, and that many of the Falash Mura continue to practice Christianity in Israel.
See main article Falash Mura
Ethiopian Jews: Race Issues and Pressures
Undeniably and regrettably, Ethiopian Jews in Israel are the victims of racism. They are also the beneficiaries of a huge and expensive effort by the Israeli government and numerous voluntary organizations to aid their integration into Israeli society.
American Jewish immigration groups, who are usually eager to promote the emigration of Jews to the United States in competition with Israel, show a remarkable avidity to support Aliya of Ethiopian Jews and Falash Mura to Israel, but they do not seem to have any programs to encourage such Jews to come to the United States. Ethiopia has a per capita GDP of about $200, placing it fifth from last even in the impoverished continent of Africa.reff No governments or aid organizations from any country other than Israel are rushing to offer Ethiopians of any religious or ethnic group citizenship in their countries, yet Israel stands accused of racism because it is unwilling to absorb all the Ethiopians!
Integration of Ethiopian Jews into Israeli Life
Integration of Ethiopians into Israeli economic and social life has not been easy. They have come from a rural culture close to the stone age to a twenty first century economy in a country where they do not speak the language initially and have virtually no marketable skills. Employment and education statistics are not promising: ref
These figures are presented by a charitable group working to improve the status of Ethiopians. They should be compared to performance of other disadvantaged immigrant groups soon after their arrival in Israel, rather than to the Israeli average. Still, the lack of progress is not encouraging.
Ethiopian Jews are nonetheless slowly working their way up the ladder of Israeli society. In 2009 the IDF promoted its first Ethiopian Jewish Lieutenant Colonel, Tzion Shenkor.ref Super model Esti Mamo is the Ethiopian community's first representative in the fashion industry.ref She has appeared in Elle and Vogue and intends to run for the Knesset. Her family's adjustment has not been easy. Her brother committed suicide in 2004 and she is determined to better the lot of Ethiopian Jews in Israel.
Another Ethiopian Israeli success story is Belaynish Zevadia, deputy consul general for Southwestern United States.
April 23, 2009
Hammer M. F., Redd A. J., Wood E. T., Bonner M. R., Jarjanazi H., Karafet T., Santachiara-Benerecetti S., Oppenheim A., Jobling M. A., Jenkins T., Ostrer H., Bonné-Tamir B. "Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations share a common pool of Y-chromosome biallelic haplotypes", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 6, 2000 vol. 97 no. 12 6769-6774.
Kaplan, Steven, , על התמורות בחקר יהדות אתיוםיה, Pe'amim 58 (1994), pages 137-150.
Kessler, David, The Falashas, A Short History of the Ethiopian Jews, Third Edition, London, Frank Cass, 1996.
Pankhurst, Richard, "The Falashas, or Judaic Ethiopians, in Their Christian Ethiopian Setting", African Affairs, Vol. 91 (October 1992), pp. 567-582.
Rosenberg Noah A.,Woolf Eilon, Pritchard Jonathan K., Schaap Tamar ,Gefel Dov, Shpirer Isaac, Lavi Uri, Bonné-Tamir Batsheva , Hillel Jossi, Feldman Marcus W. "Distinctive genetic signatures in the Libyan Jews", Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 January 30; 98(3): 858–863.
Shelemay Kay Kaufman, Music, Ritual, and Falasha History, Michigan State University Press, 1989,
Thomas, Mark G., Michael E. Weale, Abigail L. Jones, Martin Richards, Alice Smith, Nicola Redhead, Antonio Torroni, Rosaria Scozzari, Fiona Gratrix, Ayele Tarekegn, James F. Wilson, Cristian Capelli, Neil Bradman, and David B. Goldstein. "Founding Mothers of Jewish Communities: Geographically Separated Jewish Groups Were Independently Founded by Very Few Female Ancestors", Am J Hum Genet. 2002 June; 70(6): 1411–1420.
Zoossmann-Diskin A, Ticher A, Hakim I, Goldwitch Z, Rubinstein A, Bonne-Tamir B. "Genetic affinities of Ethiopian Jews.", Israel Journal of Medical Sciences 1991 May;27(5):245-51.
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:
'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.
ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."
u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.
a- sounded like a in arm
ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.
'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.
o - close to the French o as in homme.
th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.
q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.
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