Between 1850 and 1903 Europeans and Ottomans were in conflict regarding the status of Ethiopians living in Jerusalem. According to the Ottomans, Ethiopians in Jerusalem were Ottoman subjects. European powers like Great Britain, France, and Italy contested this opinion. According to them, Ethiopians in Jerusalem were not subjects of the Ottoman Empire but of the Ethiopian kingdom and as such they held an Ethiopian identity, not an Ottoman one. We will see that the first issue at stake here was the European protection of Ethiopians in Jerusalem. But we will show that the discourse proposed by Ethiopians to their interlocutors in Jerusalem concerning what is supposed to be the Ethiopian identity played an important role. In order to reach their goals in Jerusalem, Ethiopians played the game of Europeans while avoiding directly confronting Ottoman authorities. But in supporting the point of view of the Europeans, Ethiopians developed Ethiopian essentialism, solely centered on the Christian characteristics of Ethiopian identity. Between 1904 and 1916, this essentialism came into conflict with the new social reality of the Ethiopian kingdom.