The Magic Flute and the Dancing Sheep
Written by: Ilana Zaidman
Illustrated by: Diana Prokopes
As he plays the flute, Or's father tells him about his childhood in Ethiopia, and his yearning for Jerusalem. The family story is part of a rich cultural tapestry of family stories about different lands, prayers, tunes, and memories. Families have come here from East and West, near and far. Each of their stories is part of the Israeli narrative.
The Beta Israel Jews had a tradition of singing prayers of yearning for Jerusalem on the Festival of Sigd:
Seek good and peace for Jerusalem… I have missed Jerusalem, I have missed it…
The ancient prayer is based on chapter 122 of Psalms:
Our feet are standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem … Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may those that love thee prosper
The Magic Flute and the Dancing Sheep invites us to get to know the story of the community, as well as our own family ones, while keeping an ear out for their echoing memories and tunes.
Beta Israel ('The Israel Community') is the Jewish community of Ethiopia. The community members have kept their Jewish faith for generations, living in isolated villages, making a living from agriculture and craftmanship, and dreaming of seeing Jerusalem. Most of them made Aliyah during the 1980s and 1990s on Operations Moses and Solomon, making their dream come true.
Reading together, experiencing together
Following the childhood story the father tells his child in this book, you could also share memories and stories from your own childhood with your child: Where did you grow up? What did you like doing? Which songs and stories accompanied you? What were your hobbies? Did you have any household chores or special roles to play within your family? Perhaps you had some pets?
You could also look at the illustrations in the book, choose your favorite one, and share your choice with each other.
A family story
How about asking some family members to share their stories of life transitions with you? Which countries have they lived in? how did they end up in Israel, and how was their absorption? Did they move into a new community upon making Aliyah? You could act the stories you were told out, or tell them using a song and dance.
A magical tune
Melodies can have a profound effect on us. In the spirit of this book, you could listen to different tunes together, close your eyes, "enter" the melody, and dance to it.
Jerusalem of Gold
At the end of the book, Jerusalem is depicted as golden, just as it was in the Ethiopian immigrants' dreams. The phrase 'Jerusalem of Gold' was mentioned in Jewish scripture as the name of the golden jewel that Rabbi Akiva gave his wife, etched with the image of Jerusalem. Inspired by it, Naomi Shemer wrote the lyrics and music to her song, so entitled, which became one of the most well-known and loved Israeli songs. Perhaps you could ask your child why they think Jerusalem was called that, listen to the famous song together, or play it as an ensemble.
Insert QR Code – Do you know any Ethiopian musical instruments? Scan this code and delve into a world of tunes and instruments!
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