Ababa begins with a song of yearning for Jerusalem. He talks about his family history and his village – a holy place inhabited by Nazirites. The Nazirites educated many Kesim, who were stationed in various Jewish communities. It was there that Ababa’s father was ordained as a Kes, became the spiritual leader of the village, and even taught generations of Kesim himself.
Ababa describes various illnesses and the way they were treated in great detail. Due to the huge distance from a modern medical clinic, the residents of the village were forced to use traditional medicines and to find their own ways to treat illnesses, which were, of course, not always successful. Ababa’s oldest sister lost eight of her children to the same illness in one year. He talks about the mutual assistance in the village – the community would provide help for the bereaved families, with agricultural work and anything the family needed.
Ababa compares the different regimes that ruled Ethiopia during his lifetime: from the feudal regime of Emperor Haile Selassie, the Derg regime and the EPRDF regime (the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front). He talks in detail about the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie and the rise of the Derg regime. This took place on the backdrop of national uprisings on issues such as farmers owning their lands and their work hours. The rebellion against the Emperor’s regime was led by officers in the national army and various rebel organizations. When the rebellion was successful and the Emperor’s regime fell, the rebel organizations began to fight among themselves and the split among the people grew.
The Derg party led by Mengistu Haile Mariam eventually took power and persecuted all of its opponents. This bloody period is known as the “Red Terror”, during which forced conscription was instituted. Ababa had to choose whether to wait to be kidnapped to the army or to enlist with one of the organizations he was ideologically aligned with.
Ababa chose to join the EPRDF rebel organization, which worked to bring down the Derg regime and to establish a democratic state in Ethiopia. In his role in the organization, Ababa worked within the civilian population in various villages in the north of the country. His task was to establish political and educational institutions, appoint regional rulers on behalf of the organization and ensure that the residents’ lives and routine could continue without disruption. His activity even reached places still controlled by the Derg.
During the fighting, many areas were captured by the EPRDF and soldiers in the Derg army were taken captive. These captives were interrogated and their testimonies circulated to the public by the organization, in order to expose the murderous actions of the Derg regime.
Ababa, who began his career in the organization in a junior position, rose steadily through the ranks. He describes the structure of the organization, the way orders were handed down the chain of command, and the method of supervision of their implementation.
Ababa reminisces about the period of his service in the organization during the civil war. He wandered from place to place and position to position for three years, unable to communicate with his family. When the EPRDF army reached the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Operation Solomon began to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Ababa received permission from his organization to reunite with his family and to immigrate to Israel.