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Desalun Shetie

Father's name: Kavada Ishta
Year of birth: 1936
Place of birth: Wara, Daldali, Wegera
Region in Ethiopia: Gondar
Main occupation in Ethiopia: Policeman
The language of the interview: Amharic

Desalun Shetie, owning land, the Sigd festival, horses, training, breeding, mule, wedding, virginity, Italians, prayers, eulogy, competition, sheep, diseases, kishra, notification about death, messenger, snake, river, blood sample, medicines, syringe, hepatitis, policeman, curse, racism, Derg, TPLF – Wäyanä, rebels, border police, city, village, Aybe, Omara, Humera, Wegera, Dabat, Welkait, Arbay, Begala, Gondar, Gaynet, Wollo, Telem, Seman Jon Amora, Debarq, Sudan.

Summary of the testimony:

Desalun describes his family tree and explains the meanings of his various names.

Shortly after he was born, the entire family moved to a village called Aybe. As a child, he was responsible for the family’s sheep and was involved in the family business of buying and selling sheep.

When Desalun grew up, he specialized in caring for horses. He describes in detail how he learned to raise, train, care for, and breed them. He offered his services to all the neighborhood’s residents. Desalun describes the role of horses in communal life. He reminisces about horse races he participated in. He also describes how he used to treat diseases his horses suffered from. He describes breeding horses with a certain breed of donkeys called snar, resulting in mules which he then sold to the locals as work animals, and which were also status symbols.

Desalun describes the battles the Ethiopians fought against the Italians. He also explains the traditional eulogy.

He married at the age of 19. Desalun describes the “kishra” ceremony and explains the custom of checking the bride’s virginity and the ceremony celebrating her having remained a virgin. Desalun talks about the various agricultural problems that caused him to leave and move to the village of Humera, on the Sudanese border. At the order of the leader of the Wegera province, Desalun gathered 25 men and was responsible for them during the four-day walk to Humera and while they stayed and worked in the area.

Desalun describes Humera – a working village in which large quantities of sesame were grown and processed, which were then sent to various places throughout Ethiopia. Desalun was the work manager of a team whose job was to supply containers of water to the sesame-packing factory. His father and brothers followed him to Humera and joined the workforce. Desalun, who was concerned about his mother being left alone, dropped everything and went back to her home in a village named Dabat.

After helping his mother, Desalun moved to a village named Belessa, where he worked as a nurse on behalf of the government. His main work was to eradicate illnesses transmitted by mosquitoes. He did this by taking blood samples and distributing medicines. He also used to travel from neighborhood to neighborhood and inject patients with a vaccination against hepatitis. From there, he moved to a village named Arbay. He was also responsible for the Begala area.

After suffering a robbery, he left his job and joined the police force in Gondar. Desalun reminisces about the period of his training and service. He describes the racist attitude that other recruits directed toward him because he was Jewish. After completing his training, he was sent to serve in a village named Gaynet in the Wollo province. From there, he moved between the villages of Seman Jon Amora, Telem Debarq, and the city of Gondar. At this time, the rebels against the Derg regime began to operate (the וויאנה  opposition group). As a policeman representing the regime, he feared his life was in danger. On the other hand, the cruel Derg regime began to execute his comrades, who were suspected of undermining the government. Desalun found himself trapped between a rock and a hard place.

He was eventually sent to Humera to work as a supervisor in the border police on the Sudanese border. He was appointed as commander of the team that examined merchandise being transferred between Ethiopia and Sudan. Desalun would persuade merchants to provide him with information about illegal trade, and in exchange would make the trade easier for them. At that time, the wave of immigration of the Beta Israel community to Israel began. The route of immigration to Israel passed through Sudan and traversed the border crossing for which Desalun was responsible. He helped smuggle Jews from Ethiopia to Sudan. After being suspected of treason against his country, Desalun escaped to Sudan. After many trials and tribulations, he immigrated from there to Israel.

Desalun Shetie

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