Ehtiopians at the Holy Sepulcher
Submitted By seekfor1
Researching the historical and religious connection to Ethiopians and its sacred relationship to Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher was a bit difficult to find. But the deeper I looked into the history of the Ethiopian people, I have found that there Jewish roots connects them to Jerusalem further back than the newly revised version of the Holy Sepulcher’s presence. Currently they live in a kind of African village on the roof called, Deir Sultan, but many centuries ago they once held services and lived inside one of the Holy Sepulcher chapels. According to biblical history, Ethiopians presence has been in the region of Jerusalem since 1000 B.C., surviving for more than 1500 years through many wars and challenges. Though there has been many landlord changes in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Ethiopian monks have retained there monastic covenant until the mid-19th century. This is how the Armenians and Coptics expanded control over Ethiopians. Since the Ethiopian’s historical records were destroyed they were unable to provide evidence or claims to their original chapel inside the Holy Sepulcher. Today the ownership of the church is shared between the Greek Orthodox, Catholics, and Armenian Orthodox. The three minor Orthodox communities Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian Orthodox have rights to use certain areas of the Church, Leaving the Ethiopian monks and nuns as the only black presence in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulcher. Ethiopian monks have recorded historical data saying that Queen Helena of Rome gave them the keys to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem since the 4th century. Under Turkish rule, Ethiopians were the only religious sec that refuses to pay homage and taxes to the Ottoman kings. From (1831 to 1840) Egyptians had temporary control in Jerusalem. So after the 1838 plague, the Coptic’s had political control and burned the Ethiopian libraries, deeds, and other important documents, which they believed were contaminated. They also destroyed hundreds of nearly 2000 year old manuscripts that were handwritten on goat parchment (Ayele, Negussay. “History of Ethiopian Church Presence in Jerusalem.” Tadias Magazine.25 April 2005). The plague within the holy places took a lot of Ethiopians monk’s lives, but during this time the Egyptian authorities gave the Egyptian monks the keys to the church of the Holy Sepulcher and since then have been mistreated or treated as slaves by the Armenian and Coptics. I must admit I was very grieved as I discovered the refutation these people have endured because of their ethnicity. Part of their religious and historical rejection steams from political greed and social bigotry from political impulses that are the respective powers that control the region at any given time. I have learned and realized that the Israeli's right to exist in Palestine...is not based on...the hypothetical origins of the Jewish people, nor on the mythological covenant of Abraham with God; it is based on international law -- i.e., on the United Nations' decision in 1947 to partition Palestine, once a Turkish province, then a British Mandated Territory, into an Arab an a Jewish State (Jagersma, J. A History of Israel in the Old Testament Period, trans. John Bowden). For this very reason it was difficult to write on such a subject as I learned more about the Ethiopian Christians and their place in the Holy Sepulcher.
According to the Ethiopian royal book Glory of the Kings, which was stolen by the British in the late 1800’s, Queen of Sheba, known in Ethiopia as Makeda, and King Solomon had a son. Both names are mentioned in both the Bible and the Quran. The Quran tells of King Solomon’s intimate relationship to a mystical woman with hooves named Saba or as we know her as Queens Sheba. The Bible discusses diplomatic relations between this monarch and King Solomon of Israel, but Ethiopian tradition holds that their relationship went deeper: Makeda's son, Menelik I, the first emperor of Ethiopia, is said to be Solomon's offspring. The story tells that almost 3,000 years ago, the ruler of Sheba, which spanned modern-day Ethiopia and Yemen, arrived in Jerusalem with vast quantities of gold to give to King Solomon. Now an enormous ancient goldmine, together with the ruins of a temple and the site of a battlefield, has been discovered in her former territory. The term 'Middle East' is actually a relatively new term. It first began to gain popularity in the mid-1950s, with the release of the Eisenhower Doctrine and its report on the Suez Crisis. The exact boundaries have been a give-and-take topic amongst mapmakers and politicians for decades, and controversy still remaining as to the fine details concerning this land. At one point, Hebrews literally WALKED in and out of Egypt and into 'the Promised Land'. It is told by many that King Solomon of Israel and Queen Sheba of Ethiopia were married and had a son together. His son Menelik at the age of 22 visited his father Solomon for the first time with the ring his father gave to his mother explaining that he was his son. Many Ethiopians believe Solomon gave Menelik the Ark of the Covenant as a gift after he chooses not to reign in Israel with his father Solomon. Though Menelik’s mother rules Ethiopia he was also heir after Solomon's death to the Throne of Israel, which was moved into Ethiopia because he originally choose to return to his mother in Ethiopia This is where the digging and the opening of the Suez Canal (in 1869), plays a vital role in understanding the relationship between Israeli and the Ethiopian people. Essentially this man-made lake or body of water that extends from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, the section of the world now known as the 'Middle East' was actually considered a part of Africa. It was simply the Northeastern most corner of the continent of Africa. The first-century C.E. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus relates an incredible story in which Moses, in his first act as an adult, leads an army of Egyptians and Hebrews against the Ethiopians, or Cushites, and ends up marrying an Ethiopian princess named Tharbis (Jewish Antiquities 2.10-11).During the 18th, 19th and 20th Egyptian dynasties (1552-1069 B.C.E.), Cush (Ethiopia) was under direct Egyptian control and basically part of Egypt. There were thousands of Cushites in Egypt, and they permeated all levels of society (Daniel Hays, "The Cushites: A Black Nation in Ancient History).During this time, there were no geographic, geological, cultural, racial or otherwise empirical barriers that separated the two lands. African empires, trade routes, civilization and environmental terrain were not foreign or unfamiliar by any means to the inhabitants of the so-called Middle East, because they were one and the same (Du Bois, W. E. B. The World and Africa: An Inquiry into the Part Which Africa Has Played in World History).
Many wonder if this story is true, but new evidence reveals close links between Ethiopia and groups outside of Africa. Some Ethiopians have 40-50 percent of their genomes that match more closely with populations outside of Africa than those within, while the rest of the genomes more closely match African populations, said study researcher Toomas Kivisild of the University of Cambridge. Now scientific research has found that the Queen of Sheba's genetic legacy may live on in Ethiopia. According to this new research that finds evidence of long-ago genetic mixing between Ethiopian populations Syrian’s and the Israeli people. Now although this is not a history paper, the journey to understand why Israel is so sacred to the Ethiopian Orthodox in Jerusalem one must understand their beliefs. And after understanding their beliefs, I believe that many Ethiopians are Jewish by decent and believes part of Jerusalem or all of Jerusalem belongs to them. Their religious sacredness to the land is not just physical, but part of their spiritual birth right.
Ayele, Negussay. “History of Ethiopian Church Presence in Jerusalem.” Tadias Magazine.25 April 2009. Web. 14 February 2014. Daniel Hays, "The Cushites: A Black Nation in Ancient History," Bibliotheca Sacra 153 (1996), pp. 270-280.
Du Bois, W. E. B. The World and Africa: An Inquiry into the Part Which Africa Has Played in World History enlarged Ed. New York: International Publishers, 1965.
Jagersma, J. A History of Israel in the Old Testament Period, trans. John Bowden. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983.
Josephus, Flavius.Antiquities of the Jews 2.9 trans. William Whiston, in The Works of Flavius Josephus