This paper analyzes how the Zionist discourse on shelilat ha-galut – “the denial of the diaspora,” or rejection of the image of the exilic Jew, which also implies removal from the culture of the country of birth in the diaspora – is prominent in Hebrew literary works. Whereas this discourse remains very complex in Ashkenazi writers, we can identify even greater challenges and disparities in the output of writers of Moroccan and Ethiopian origin who left the countries of their birth and in whose work “at home” seems to be the very country of exile. In these writers, we find a self-distancing from Israeli reality and from identifying with the “Israelis.” This is a reversal of the exile-vs.-redemption discourse, with Eretz Israel now as the country of exile and the country the writer has abandoned, previously deemed the land of exile, as the homeland. These writers have left a homeland, a supposed land of exile, only to arrive in a promised homeland which becomes even more of a land of exile, and makes them yearn for their former exile. In this article I will restrict myself to analyzing Avne shaish tahor [Stones of Pure Marble] by Herzl Cohen, Asterai by Omri Tegamlak Avera and Ha-derekh li-Yrushalaim: reshit ha-‘aliyah me-Etyopyah u-qelitatah (1980) [The Road to Jerusalem: The Beginnings of the Aliyah from Ethiopia and Its Absorption (1980)] by Yilma Shemuel.
This article discusses the processes of de-diasporization and re-diasporization experienced by the Israeli-Ethiopian community in Israel but which take a special twist regarding the homecoming of a Jewish diaspora. At first the Ethiopian immigrants’ culture and religion were marginalized or silenced. Yet, the older generation progressively returned to their linguistic, religious, social, cultural and economic practices, forming a “little Ethiopia” in Israel while the younger generation, who strove to become as Israeli as possible, began feeling discriminated, leading to the beginning of a protest movement in 2015, demanding social justice and inclusion in the Israeli narrative. A second part examines physical and virtual “returns” to diasporic spaces through an ethnic revival and the re-appropriation of Ethiopian roots among the younger generation (in theatre, dance, music, literature and visual arts), as well as through return trips to Ethiopia and “heritage tourism;” new identifications, with a global Black diaspora, and the emergence of Israeli-Ethiopian diasporas living abroad, complicating yet again the notion of “home.” This paper thus shows how Israeli-Ethiopians challenge notions of homecoming and question constructions of location, displacement and identity.