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Gashaw Asnakew Alamo

Father's name: Asnakew Alamo
Mother's name: Asrasah Yita-Bara
Year of birth: 1955
Place of birth: Wenia-Kusta, Gondar
Region in Ethiopia: Gondar
Main occupation in Ethiopia: Officer and governmental clerk in the Derg regime
The language of the interview: Amharic

Gashaw Asnakew Alamo, nature, agriculture, shepherding, Balai Melko, Loui Berhanu, synagogue, settlement, explosion, rape, hospital, wedding, divorce, customs and traditions, festivals and special occasions, ritual purity and kashrut customs, cemetery, judge, studies, school, kidnappings, robbers, farmers’ union, rebels, fighting, war, weapons, Melko Tefera, governmental clerk, Tsago Yitzhak,  jail, police, execution, tortures, Italians, Mengistu Haile Mariam, Derg, Emperor Haile Selassie, Ambover, Gondar, Wollo, Dembia, Azezo, Weine-Kusta, Sarmella, Addis Ababa, Tigray, Aksum.

Summary of the testimony:

Gashaw explains the meaning of his name and describes his family tree. He talks about his father’s life. During the period of Italian rule, his father wandered between the provinces of Wollo, Gondar, and Dembia. He married his first wife and settled in the village of Azezo. In Azezo, the Italian soldiers bullied the village families, stole their crops and flocks, and committed acts of rape. Gashaw’s father wanted to set up a settlement in a better location. Together with Balai Melko and Loui Berhanu, he established a Jewish settlement in the village of Ambover and founded its famous synagogue. One day, while his father was working in the fields, a shell fired by the Italians exploded on his arm, which had to be amputated. When he returned from the hospital, he was informed that his wife had died. At the Kes’s advice, a marriage was arranged for him with a new wife – Gashaw’s mother. He moved to live with her in the nearby village of Weine.

Gashaw was born in the village of Weine. He describes the village and the Jewish cemetery, Jewish life there, and their relationship with their Christian neighbors. Gashaw’s family, unlike many Jewish families, was permitted to own land. He explains the governmental structure during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie. As a young child, Gashaw herded the sheep and cattle. When he grew up, he helped his father with the farming.

His father registered him at the school in Ambover. Gashaw went to school each morning and did his farming tasks when he returned. Gashaw explains the syllabus, the educational approach, and the punishments commonly used in the school.

He left school at the end of seventh grade and went back to working with his father in the fields. He was appointed as responsible for public order on behalf of the court and the local farming union. He chased away robbers and thieves with gunshots and maintained public order in his village.

When Mengistu Haile Mariam and the Derg party seized power and called for citizens to enlist in the army, Gashaw immediately presented himself at the recruitment office. He reviews the political situation of the time, including the war with Somalia, and lists the many rebel organizations that were active in the north, east, and center of the country. Gashaw describes his basic training in Addis Ababa. At the end of basic training, he was appointed as commander of 127 soldiers and sent to fight in Tigray, on the northern front. Gashaw describes the structure of command and the many battles he commanded. He talks about his life as a soldier and the horrors of war. One day, he and his troops were ambushed by rebels. During the ensuing battle, Gashaw was shot in his shoulder. He was evacuated by helicopter to the hospital in Eksom. He continued to receive medical treatment in Addis Ababa, where he was deemed no longer fit for military service and was released with a medal of honor.

When Gashaw returned home after three years of military service, he was greeted ecstatically by his family. Because he was unable to work as a farmer, Gashaw applied and was accepted to work as a governmental clerk for the ruler of the province of Gondar, Melko Tefera. In this role, Gashaw was responsible for all of the district ruler’s incoming and outgoing correspondence, security clearance of visitors who came for meetings with the ruler, and security checks of his office.

After Melko Tefera was promoted, Gashaw left his job and began to work in the district court. He was responsible for rebuilding the villages. They concentrated all the houses in one area of the village. Due to his familiarity with the area, Gashaw was sent to his village and the Jewish villages in the area and rebuilt them.

When the waves of immigration of the Jewish community to Israel via Sudan began, Gashaw found himself in a difficult position. His relatives and members of his community were realizing the dream of immigration to Israel. However, in his governmental position, he had to ensure that no one left the province without permission. When members of the community were caught and imprisoned, Gashaw secured their release from jail. At the same time, the regime was forcibly conscripting the young men of the community to prevent them from escaping. Gashaw and the Jewish police commander Tsago Yitzhak would release them from military service and tell them how to escape to Sudan without being caught.

The authorities eventually caught Gashaw. He was imprisoned and tortured extensively to force him to provide information about his activities. During his time in jail, he was appointed as the supervising prisoner in the political prisoners’ block. He was responsible for the inmates’ daily routine and for reading out the names of people summoned for questioning.

He was released after eight months. Because he had not been convicted of any crime, he returned to his governmental work. He resumed providing aid to the Jewish community.

After a year, he moved with his family to Addis Ababa. For two months, he helped the Jewish community obtain passports, until his own turn to immigrate to Israel arrived.

Gashaw Asnakew Alamo

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