Ambover Village: This was once a thriving Jewish village in northern Ethiopia. Unlike other places in the world, Jews flocked here from other villages to live together and build their own isolated community. Not a ghetto,not a shtetl. This was a choice these Jews made to maintain the purity of their deep, religious beliefs. The synagogue and school remain and the village is occupied today....but the Jews all left. Jerusalem was their holy goal.
All along the way to Ambover, young children ran beside our vehicles waving and yelling “Money, Money”. This was hard to see and hear. The countryside of farms and thatched houses made of whatever could be found, is exquisitely beautiful, the fresh air soft and delicious. The poverty I witnessed is beyond disturbing. In a way I felt very uncomfortable....what am I doing peeking into their lives without their permission like some kind of voyeur.
This road trip was a glimpse into a distant past for us....but a present time for these people. No running water or electricity, few vehicles, no modern farming tools. People were walking many kilometers to and from market, carrying heavy loads on their heads and backs. Some had malnourished donkeys to help shlep their slim bounty. Babies were carried on the mothers’ backs. Many were dressed in the traditional white robes, ghost like figures wearing rubber shoes and sandals, carefully stepping between loose rocks. Some wore no shoes at all.
Next post: More about Ambover Village and introduction to Micha Feldmann, “Abba Micha”, as the Ethiopians affectionately and respectfully call him.
We flew from Addis to Gondar and received a surprise welcome as we exited the airport. Live music, dancing, the mayor of Gondar! Both Israeli and Ethiopian flags waving hello! Such a thrilling entrance to begin our Gondar adventure and introduction to local culture. I was immediately engaged and felt so honored to be part of this "mission".
We checked into the Landmark Hotel in Gondar, supposedly the best hotel in the city. I think I was bitten by bed bugs here! Ahhhhh! Gross! Breakfast is included which consists of pasta (yes, pasta), good bread, sour tasting butter (ew), hard boiled eggs and vegetables. Lucky me as I did not suffer from stomach “issues” but quite a few of my fellow travelers lost a few pounds on this trip! Oh well, to be expected in third world countries! But good coffee, bottled water and sodas are readily available in the hotels and restaurants
Our first stop in Addis Ababa was the National Museum of Ethiopia. Here we saw fossilized bones of “Lucy”, a tiny human believed to have lived over 3M years ago. She is the oldest humanoid ever found. The real “Lucy” is safely stored elsewhere but a replica of her skeleton is on display here. She’d have been about 3.5’ tall, weighing 60-65 lbs. She was discovered in Hadar in 1974 and was named “Lucy” from the Beatles song, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”. This song was often played in the celebrations of her discovery. I don’t get it, maybe you do?
From here we went to the nearby “Lucy Lounge and Restaurant “...a cozy, busy restaurant with a big menu of Ethiopian food, salads, soups, fish and pasta. Someone said: “The food is nice but watch out for the bones”.
Next, we went to The Red Terror Museum which was established in 2010 as a memorial to the victims of the Red Terror under the Derg government. Torture instruments, skulls and bones, coffins, blood stained clothes and photos are on display. Don’t go here on a full stomach. Maybe don’t go here at all. Or maybe you like this stuff. Not me.
The city of Gondar is next, the real essence of this “mission”.
Love this sign above that I saw on my way to the gate at JFK.
The trip began with a wonderful connection while waiting to depart. An Israeli artist living in NY and I chatted non-stop and shared pictures of our creations and ideas. The first leg of the trip was from NY to TLV where I was to meet the Israelis and Americans who were going with me to Addis Ababa, usually referred to as Addis.
Dinner was at the Tel Aviv Sheraton Hotel with Ruth Bar-On, founder of Selah. And Micah Feldman who wrote "On Wings of Eagles: The Secret Operation of the Ethiopian Exodus" and who led our mission. READ THIS BOOK!!!
We had no idea what to expect on this trip. And good we had no expectations. Night flight to Addis. So get this: I was seated next to a NJ woman, strictly by chance, who turned out to be one of my bunkmates at Camp Pinemere eons ago. We sang camp songs, recalled our male counselor crushes, shared which boys we kissed and remembered a disastrous overnight canoe trip. A great beginning!
Dinner was at the Tel Aviv Sheraton Hotel with Ruth Bar-On, founder of Selah. And
Micah Feldman who wrote "On Wings of Eagles: The Secret Operation of the Ethiopian Exodus" and who led our mission. READ THIS BOOK!!!
We had no idea what to expect on this trip. And good we had no expectations. Night flight to Addis. So get this: I was seated next to a NJ woman, strictly by chance, who turned out to be one of my bunk mates at Camp Pinemere eons ago. We sang camp songs, recalled our male counselor crushes, shared which boys we kissed and remembered a disastrous overnight canoe trip.
A great beginning!
Stay tuned for more posts and photos from my trip.
Miriam Seiden is a cultural explorer who loves to write about her living bridges around the world.