The Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel is mostly composed of Beta Israel (practicing both Haymanot and Rabbinic Judaism) and to a smaller extent of Falash Mura who converted from Christianity to Rabbinic Judaism upon their arrival to Israel.
Ethiopian Jews were forbidden to eat the food of non-Jews. A Kahen eats only meat he has slaughtered himself, which his hosts prepare both for him and themselves. Beta Israel who broke these taboos were ostracized, and had to undergo a purification process. Purification included fasting for one or more days, eating only uncooked chickpeas provided by the Kahen, and ritual purification before entering the village.
According to another account, the forefathers of the Beta Israel are supposed to have arrived in Ethiopia by coming from the North, independently from Menelik and his company:
Eldad's was not the only medieval testimony about Jewish communities living far to the south of Egypt, which strengthens the credibility of his account. Obadiah ben Abraham Bartenura wrote in a letter from Jerusalem in 1488:
Rabbi David ibn Zimra of Egypt (1479–1573), writing similarly, held the Ethiopian Jewish community to be similar in many ways to the Karaites, writing of them on this wise:
Genealogical DNA testing allows research into paternal (meaning only through fathers) and maternal (meaning only through mothers) ancestry.
Richard Pankhurst summarized the various theories offered about their origins as of 1950 that the first members of this community were
In 1991, the Israeli authorities announced that the emigration of the Beta Israel to Israel was about to conclude, because almost all of the community had been evacuated. Nevertheless, thousands of other Ethiopians began leaving the northern region to take refuge in the government controlled capital, Addis Ababa, who were Jewish converts to Christianity and asking to immigrate to Israel. As a result, a new term arose which was used to refer to this group: "Falash Mura". The Falash Mura, who weren't part of the Beta Israel communities in Ethiopia, were not recognized as Jews by the Israeli authorities, and were therefore not initially allowed to immigrate to Israel, making them ineligible for Israeli citizenship under Israel's Law of Return.
As a result, a lively debate has arisen in Israel about the Falash Mura, mainly between the Beta Israel community in Israel and their supporters and those opposed to a potential massive emigration of the Falash Mura people. The government's position on the matter remained quite restrictive, but it has been subject to numerous criticisms, including criticisms by some clerics who want to encourage these people's return to Judaism.
The Israeli government hoped that admitting these Falash Mura would finally bring emigration from Ethiopia to a close, but instead prompted a new wave of Falash Mura refugees fleeing to Addis Ababa and wishing to immigrate to Israel. This led the Israeli government to harden its position on the matter in the late 1990s.