Skip to main content

Yeshayahu Ben Baruch

Father's name: Kes Barko Yilo
Mother's name: Azgech Zrubabel
Year of birth: 1944
Place of birth: Ambover, Osawa, Gondar
Region in Ethiopia: Gondar
Main occupation in Ethiopia: Pupil and son of a Kes
The language of the interview: Amharic

Yeshayahu Ben Baruch, shepherding, Kes, studies, ritual purification, Christians, school, rent, provisions, Muslim, kashrut, Debarta, test, ordination, community, Sabbath, festivals, drowning, river, agriculture, delegation, Nazirites, blessings, punishments, death, ascetism, reading, writing, city, pest control, Derg, Haile Selassie, Yonah Buagala, Ambover, Osawa, Gondar, Asmara, Israel, Addis Ababa, Torino, Italy.

Summary of the testimony:

Yeshayahu describes his family tree, his village, and its local history. Under his father’s influence, when he was six, a Kes began to teach him the “mankusa” (in Amharic: Nazirite) studies that lead to being ordained as a Kes. He describes the strict acceptance and ritual purification ceremonies. Their lifestyle included studying, while standing, until the middle of the night. The studies included learning prayers by heart and receiving blessings and punishments. As a young child, Yeshayahu ran away from the school compound several times and had to perform a purification ceremony each time in order to return. His studies came to an end after two years when the Kes who had been teaching him died. As the oldest son, he began to help herd his family’s  sheep.

As the son of a Kes, Yeshayahu had to be especially stringent about his observance of the commandments of ritual purity. He had to wash his clothes and shower before entering his house after meeting Christian children while shepherding. Once he almost drowned while immersing himself in the river, but his life was saved at the last minute. He describes other Jewish communal customs, such as the preparations for the Sabbath and festivals.

Yeshayahu talks about his father and explains how a Kes was ordained, the ordination exam, and when one advances from the status of Debarta to Kes. He describes being the son of a Kes and the special lifestyle of his father and the other Kesim who lived in Ambover.

He father was sent with other Kesim to study in Asmara. When he returned, Yeshayahu began to study in the Jewish school in Ambover. However, the school was only for the lower grades and Yeshayahu was unable to progress in his studies. He persuaded his father to allow him to study in the city of Gondar, in a school for Jews and Christians.

With a friend, Yeshayahu moved to Gondar and began studying in the school. Following his father’s instructions, he adhered to the laws of kashrut and ritual purity, eating only the provisions he brought with him every week from home. During the first year, he lived in the storeroom of a house. Subsequently, he and his friends rented an apartment, where they lived until the end of eighth grade. He completed his studies up to tenth grade in the school in Azezo. Yeshayahu talks about the difficult living conditions and how they used to do their homework under the street lights. He was appointed to be responsible for the pupils in the school and was in charge of pest control tasks in the various villages. He describes the great differences between village and city life.

When the Derg party began to take control of central positions as part of the military revolution against the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, 19-year old Yeshayahu and his friends returned to Ambover to avoid violence between the sides. In Ambover, Yeshayahu worked as a farmer. During this period, he passed Mr. Yonah Bugala’s acceptance examination and was chosen to participate in a study delegation abroad. Yeshayahu parted emotionally from his family and travelled to Addis Ababa. There he waited two months for his passport. During that time he continued his education with Mr. Yonah Bugala. As the son of a great and renowned Kes, Mr. Yonah Bugala gave him the responsibility of taking care of the delegation’s students. The delegation went to study in a yeshiva in Italy. From there, Yeshayahu immigrated to Israel.

Yeshayahu Ben Baruch

Close Menu