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The Monasteries of the Beta Israel

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Findings of the archaeological survey of Beta Israel monasteries (2015-2019)

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The Monasteries of the Beta Israel - New Discoveries from a Recent Archaeological Survey

Bar Kribus

Note - This event will take place online via Zoom. All registrants will be sent links to the session shortly before the event.

The Beta Israel monastic movement is the only Jewish monastic movement known to have existed in medieval and modern times. It was a monastic movement in the full sense of the term - the monks were celibate, observed ascetic practices and devoted themselves to the worship of God.

The Beta Israel monks served as the supreme religious leadership of the community. They were charged with training and consecrating Beta Israel priests. And with the final subdual of Beta Israel autonomous rule in the Semien Mountains (17th century), the monks served as the supreme leaders of the Beta Israel in non-religious matters as well.

The Beta Israel monastic movement suffered a drastic decline from the late nineteenth century. With the immigration of the Beta Israel to Israel, all of the community's monastic sites in Ethiopia were abandoned. These monastic sites had never been examined in detail before, and their locations have been, prior to our research, known only to some members of the Beta Israel community and to people living in their vicinity.

In this talk, Bar Kribus will present the major discoveries of the archaeological survey of Beta Israel monasteries (2015-2019), which he led together with Sophia Dege-Müller and Dr. Verena Krebs. In the course of the survey, they were able to locate and examine several Beta Israel monastic sites, including Semien Menata, the last great monastery of the Beta Israel and seat of their supreme monastic leadership in recent generations.


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