Avishai Mekonen

Avishai Mekonen

Yeganyahu Avishai Mekonen emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel in 1984 as part of Operation Moses, and has worked as a photographer and filmmaker on projects investigating issues of race and identity.

400 Miles to Freedom, a documentary film executive-produced by Be’chol Lashon, is about Avishai’s dangerous journey from Ethiopia to Israel to the United States. In 1984, the Beta Israel–a secluded 2,500-year-old community of observant Jews in the northern Ethiopian mountains–began a secret and dangerous journey of escape. Co-director Avishai Mekonen, then 10 years old, was among them. In the film 400 Miles to Freedom, he breaks his 20-year silence about the kidnapping he endured as a child in Sudan during his community’s exodus out of Africa. This life-defining event launches an inquiry into identity, leading him to African, Asian and Latino Jews in Israel and the U.S.

Avishai’s other work includes Seven Generations, a photography and video installation that offers a view into an ancient Ethiopian Jewish tradition that is grounded in the past but keeps an eye to the future. Also in collaboration with Be’chol Lashon, a section of Avishai Mekonen and Shari Rothfarb’s documentary film project, Judaism and Race, is part of “The Jewish Identity Project: New American Photography” that originated at the Jewish Museum in New York, and has traveled to the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.


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