The Sigd is an old Jewish holiday of the Ethiopian Jews which began centuries ago in Ethiopia itself but more recently appeared in Israel after the immigration of tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews (almost the entire Ethiopian Jewish community) to Israel beginning in the mid 1980’s and early 90’s. The essence of the holiday in Ethiopia was twofold, the affirmation of the communal covenantal relationship with God, and the age old wish to return to what was seen as the original ancestral land of Israel and specifically to Jerusalem.  The word “sigd” is from the Geez language (the traditional holy language of Ethiopian Jews). It means ‘to prostrate’ or ‘bow down’ and has connections to the Muslim term “Masjid” (Misgad in Hebrew) or mosque. After a fast, the community, led by its religious leaders, carrying their sacred scrolls, would walk up a certain mountain and pray, read from the holy texts and reaffirm their wish to return to Jerusalem.  After this, the fast would be broken and a celebration would follow. By TheeErin

Following the communal immigration in the 80’s and 90’s, the festival was adjusted to the new situation and a ceremony in Jerusalem was instituted. Taking place on the traditional date of 29th of the month of Cheshvan (usually in November), exactly fifty days after the holy day of Yom Kippur, the Ethiopian community (known traditionally as the Beta Israel – the house of Israel) comes from all over the country in buses which converge on Jerusalem and meet at the overlook of the old city in the East Talpiot area of Jerusalem. It is a site which carries traditional associations of Abraham and replicates the motif of Mount Sinai and the acceptance of the Torah, which was symbolized by the walk to and up the mountain in Ethiopia. On this hill, overlooking the old city of Jerusalem, tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews, observe the traditional ceremony, with the difference that the prayers to return to Jerusalem have been replaced by prayers of thanksgiving for having returned. The Kessim (priests, religious leaders), carrying multi-coloured umbrellas in traditional colours, address the crown from a platform. The women are all dressed in white traditional clothes and most of the men have elements of traditional dress. One of the interesting aspects is that many non-Ethiopian Jewish Israelis have started to go to the assembly and a large number of festive elements, song, dance, story-telling and talks on Ethiopian Jewish history and culture have been increasingly emphasized both for Israeli visitors who come from different backgrounds and for the younger generation of Ethiopians who have become increasingly “Israel-ised” and in many cases, less familiar with the traditions of their mother culture.

In 2008, a law of the Knesset was passed to institute the Sigd as an official national holiday with the result that on that day, there are likely to be educational activities connected with the subject at schools as well as cultural celebrations at many different locations in the country.



Rossing Center logo

More about Judaism

Rossing Center logo
  • All
  • Jewish Basic Concepts
  • Jewish Communities
  • Jewish festivals
  • Jewish Life Cycle
Introduction: Who are the Jews?

Who exactly are the Jews? There are those (including many Jews themselves) who see them as a religion (like Christianity or Islam) while others see …

The Jewish Calendar – Introduction

Every human culture has particular ways of marking time, calendars and festivals—usually, both feasts and fasts. It is human to seek meaningful ways of marking …


While often mis-translated as “law” Torah means “teaching.”  Torah is used in the widest possible sense including teaching, wisdom, doctrine, heritage and tradition and can …


Mitzvot (pl.) are commandments.  The Talmud calculates that the number of mitzvot commanded by God in the Torah is 613.  These are divided into positive commandments (248 things …

Sages – Hazal

Hazal is an acronym for the Hebrew words Hakhameinu Zikhronam Livrakha (our sages of blessed memory) and refers primarily to the rabbis of the Talmudic period.

The group known as the sages came into being in the second Temple times and continued until the Arab/Muslim conquest – a period of over 1,000 years.  The Sages were dedicated to interpreting the Written Torah (s.v.) and applying it to Jewish life.  According to their own tradition (Pirkei Avot 1:1) the Sages inherited the traditions revealed to Moses orally, passed them on and developed them further.  Belief in the Oral Torah is the most important characteristic of this group.  They are the creators of the Mishna, Talmud and Midrash (s.v. Torah – oral).


The rabbi is the dominant clerical figure in Judaism.  The term Rav (heb: רב ) means master and is used in the sense of teacher.  …

Scroll to Top