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Mishpacha Junior Speaks to an Ethiopian Immigrant

Shira Yehudit Djalilmand

“Leah” is a member of the Beta Israel, the Ethiopian tribe claiming Jewish descent. Today, she is grown-up and lives in Eretz Yisrael as a Torah-observant Jew. Mishpacha Junior asked her about her childhood inEthiopia.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ethiopian kidsMJ: Hi, Leah. Can you describe where you lived in Ethiopia?

Leah: I grew up in Matcha, a village in Gondar, where most of the Beta Israel lived. You can’t imagine how beautiful it was — like Gan Eden! So green, the river running through our backyard, trees to climb, and mountains looming in the distance. We grew everything we needed – fruit, corn, wheat, humus, paprika. Our village was like one big family, all helping each other and sharing simchahs. There was great emphasis on kibud horim and modesty, humility, and politeness.

MJ: What was the daily life of the village like?

Leah: We lived far from the other Ethiopians, as they weren’t too fond of the Jews. There were no roads — any traveling was done either on foot or on donkeys. When the villagers needed to go to the town to buy staples such as coffee and sugar, we would travel for half a day by foot, load up our purchases on our heads, and make the long trek home.

There was a strong sense of community — togetherness. The men worked in the fields, while the women prepared food for them. First, all the men in the village would work on one field, and then they would move on to someone else’s field. There were no tractors or plows, just hand-made tools and donkeys. After the harvest, we would gather in the evening to sing and dance.

The men also helped build each other’s homes — huts made of mud and stones. The river was the center of our lives, we used it for everything — washing, bathing, and laundry. We had no electricity. We lit a fire in our homes for cooking and heating in the winter. My mother would grind a type of seed, tif, into flour and bake injera, thin pancake-like bread, on the fire. We would eat it with waat, a spicy sauce made with meat, beans, and paprika — delicious!


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