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Jewish Ethiopians. The Falasha call themselves House of Israel and claim descent from Menilek I, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Probably descended from local Agew peoples converted by Jews in southern Arabia, they remained faithful to Judaism after the Ethiopian kingdom was converted to Christianity in the 4th century AD. Persecuted by Christians, they settled in the area around Lake Tana in northern Ethiopia. Though ignorant of the Talmud, members adhered strictly to the Mosaic law and observed some festivals of Judaism. In 1975 the Israeli rabbinate affirmed that Falashas were Jews, and from 1980 to 1992 some 45,000 Falasha emigrated to Israel, leaving probably only a few thousand in Ethiopia.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Falasha, visit Britannica.com.