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January 11, 1985 - Image 19

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-01-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

•-■111.i

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

"Just Like
Downtown"

SP A

Wataiac

LUGGAGE

structed stucco and glass apart-
ment blocks where foreign em-
bassies are situated and high
government officials live.
Elsewhere in the city, cor-
rugated tin-roofed huts and
shanties predominate, crowding
each other and overflowing with
peop le
What looks like a row of
wooden cages broders the road-
way. Inside are newly planted
young trees, their pens protec-
ting them from hungry animals
and people. A few very young
children, almost naked, crouch
along the grassy median
dividing the roadway. They are
gathering tinder in sacks, not
very energetically. Some just
gaze listlesly at traffic.
The famine has been a boon to
the capital's hotels. Every
media representative, every
relief official, every foreign
diplomat must come through
Addis Ababa to inspect the star-
vation or confer with the
government. Every hotel is
overbooked. Our National
Tourist Office (NTO) guide tells
us we've been bumped from the
luxury class Hilton and put in-
to the much shabbier Ghion.
Most of my fellow travelers fell
into an exhausted sleep after our
8,000 mile journey despite the
hotel's sagging mattresses,
dingy walls and dim lighting.
Forgoing sleep, I joined a small
group taking a first look at the
city.
Our van drove past Revolu-
tion Square with its massive
murals of Marx, Engels and
Lenin — Ethiopia's new holy
trinity — and another of Col.
Mengistu portrayed leading
Ethiopian workers. We drove
past the government buildings,
the sports arena, the university,
the ubiquitous red and gold
hammers, sickles and stars
adorning every official building.
Then we were driven partway up
a mountain and directed to walk
to the crest for a dramatic pano-
ramic view of the city. Enroute
we got an equally vivid view of
the quality of Ethiopian life.
Trudging up the trail beside
us was a long, ragged cortege of
barefoot women and children.
The same procession wound its
way down the mountain, each
woman and child burdened by a
load of wood. Here and there, a
woman or child stopped ex-
hausted, breathing hard and
leaning against a rock for
support.
Wood is found now only high
up near the top of the mountains
around Addis Ababa. Each load
weighs 20 kilograms; 44 pounds.
Children begin this labor at age
seven. Ethiopian men, tradition-
ally warriors, eschew such tasks
-- women's work, our NTO
guide explained. Workers are
paid by the load. They are for-
tunate people, we're told,
because they can earn a regular
income while their strength
holds out. Why not employ
animals for such backbreaking
labor? It's cheaper to pay a
human being than feed an

animal. Per capital income in
Ethiopia is about $140 a year.
From the hilltop we saw the
sprawling shantytown that is
Addis Ababa, hardly resembling
its name, which means "new
flower" in Amharic, a language
which, we learned is rich in sym-
bolic implications and allusions.

Now in Southfield
29181 Northwestern
at 12 Mile, Franklin Plaza

352-1760

101 Cadillac Square
Downtown Detroit

962-7518

SN3S

Friday, January 11, 1985 19

Susan Weingarden
851-0552

Personalized poems for all occasions.
There's no end to my creations.

candle lighting recitations
birthday celebrations
Bar Mitzvahs and consecrations
wedding congratulations
anniversary elaborations
get well inspirations_
birth annunciations
words of appreciation
official installations
high school graduation
creative invitations
Mother's Day communications
holiday jubilations
Father's Day narrations

The Villages of Gondar

Falasha means "stranger" or
"foreigner" in Amharic. It is a
pejorative term for an outcast
people, a despised minority that
'was conquered, enslaved and
dispersed centuries ago by the
dominant Christian Amhara
tribe after having sustained an
autonomous Jewish kingdom in
the north of Ethiopia.
Jews of Ethiopia practice
literal, biblical Judaism. They
know only Torah and had no
idea until recently of rabbinic
Judaism, which is contained in
the Talmud and Mishnah. Until
this century, they were also in-
nocent of Hebrew. Their Torah
scrolls and other holy books are
written in Ge'ez, the Ethiopian
liturgical language, which only
their priests, called kes of kahan,
could read.
Outsiders in Ethiopia find it
virtually impossible to
distinguish a Jew from a non-
Jew without the help of another
Ethiopian Jew. The skin colors
of Jews, common with the other
30-odd Ethiopian subgroups,
vary from pale brown to almost
black. Like the otherS, some
Jews have Negroid features, but
most have markedly Semitic
features, including "Jewish"
noses.
Non-Jewish Ethiopians say
they can recognize Jews by the
smell of water on them. The
Jews ritually bathe in a river
before each sabbath, called San-
bat, as well as before holidays
and rites of passage. Another
disparaging Ethiopian term for
Jew means "people who stink of
water." A third epithet —
because Ethiopian Jews tradi-
tionally worked as blacksmith
and potters — trades employing
the mysterious powers of fire —
means "possessor of the evil
eye" or "devil."
Understandably, Ethiopian
Jews do not call themselves
Falashas, as much of the world
does. In Ethiopia they refer to
themselves as Beta Israel, the
House of Israel". Those now liv-
ing in Israel wish to be called
Ethiopian Jews — not Falashas,
not Abyssinians, not Kushites.
They are a proud people who
have clwig to their Judaism and
to the dream of returning to
Zion. They have resisted forcible
conversion by the dominant
Christian majority. The late
Emperor Haile Selassie (whose
name means "Holy Trinity")
considered himself the chief mis-
sionary of his nation. Despite
his mostly good relations with
Israel before his overthrow in
1973, the emperor never
understood why all "his" people
refused to embrace his faith. He

Continued on next page

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