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Yeshe-Aleka Ezra Mamo

Father's name: Mamo Tega-Amlak
Mother's name: Iylanash Abatu
Year of birth: 1935
Place of birth: Abay-Mintch, Banker, Gondar
Region in Ethiopia: Gondar
Main occupation in Ethiopia: Colonel in the army and provincial leader
The language of the interview: Amharic

Yeshe-Aleka Ezra Mamo, nature, agriculture, herding sheep and cattle, officer and public figure, hunter, wedding, matchmaking, customs and traditions, hunter, racism, blood feud, violence, holy sites, ritual, miracles, murder, murderer, mediation, elders of the community, immigration to Israel, chairman of the farmers’ council, officer in the army, responsible for borders, smuggling, battles, casualties, army, colonel, Joint organization, Mengistu Haile Mariam, Derg, Emperor Haile Selassie, EHAPA, אידו, IADIG, Abay-Mintch, Banker, Gondar, Chila Mariam, Keren-Emba, Armacho, Sudan, Junanera, Addis Ababa, Duwat.

Summary of the testimony:

Ezra describes his family tree, his village, and its local history. When he was eight, he began to herd sheep and cattle, cultivate vegetable gardens and fruit trees, and hunt partridges and ducks. When he grew up, he worked in the fields. Ezra accompanied his father on pilgrimages to a holy site named Keren-Emba, where they prayed for rain. He describes the ritual and the miracles he and his father experienced there.

When he was 18, he was married through an arranged match. He describes the excitement before his wedding and the customs involved. For the first seven years of his marriage, he lived with his wife in his parents’ house. They then moved to their own home in the village of Chila Mariam, next to Ezra’s brother. He would go on hunting trips in the forests surrounding the village. A fierce land dispute between his family and their Christian neighbors was solved peacefully with the help of Ezra’s father’s prayers.

He tells of a contrasting incident, in which Ezra went on a journey of two-and-a-half years to avenge the death of his murdered cousin. He wandered from village to village searching for the murderer. He slept in safe houses, caves, and in the forest. He eventually located the murderer and settled the blood feud. On his way home, he had to hide from the murderer’s family, who wanted to retaliate. Ezra explains how the dispute was eventually resolved with the help of mediators.

After the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie and the Derg party’s rise to power, the head of the province of Wegera appointed Ezra to command the road blocks on the province’s border. His position included guarding the area from the EHAPA and EDU rebel organizations and preventing the province’s residents from leaving without the regime’s permission. His older brother was appointed as head of the regional farmers’ council. Ezra was responsible for the crops of the farmers’ council. Ezra was appointed by the Joint Distribution Committee to supervise distribution of meat and food products to the Jewish community.

During this period, the Jewish community began to immigrate to Israel via Sudan. Ezra and his brother found themselves in a conflict of interest and their lives in constant danger. Ezra secretly opened the province gates and allowed the members of the community to escape. He and his brother worked extensively to secure the release of Jewish prisoners from the Derg regime’s jail. After a while, Ezra’s family set out for Sudan, but they were caught by the authorities in the province of Armacho. Ezra set out with 30 soldiers under the guise of going on a patrol and rescued his family. He continued to help many delegations of Jews escape to Sudan, leading to him being arrested and almost executed.

He fought many battles against bandits, robbers, and rebel organizations. He was promoted up the chain of command until he reached the rank of colonel in the Derg army. In one battle, his arm was injured and he was hospitalized for two-and-a-half months, after which he returned to his village. He was recruited again and sent to fight in Junanera, Anchura, Duwat, and other places. He witnessed the executions of rebels against the regime and many casualties on both sides.

Ezra was sent as a representative of the ruling party to run for election as leader of the province. After a tumultuous election campaign, during which his life was in danger, he was elected. Ezra tightened his security and set out for a general convention in Addis Ababa. The provincial leaders met the central leadership led by the dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. When he returned to his province, Ezra implemented the resolutions made at the meeting, and worked to make the area flourish. He was often selected as a mediator to solve disputes among the local residents.

After a while, Parliament called for the heads of the provinces to return to Addis Ababa. They were informed of the failure of negotiations between the regime and the rebels. At the time, the negotiations had been mediated by US President George Bush. A general state of war was declared in the country. Ezra returned to Gondar with humanitarian aid from the Joint organization and distributed provisions to the Jewish community with his soldiers’ help. At the same time, he received information about the launching of a mission to bring the remaining Ethiopian Jews to Israel vis Addis Ababa. He was notified that the rebel organizations were soon going to capture Gondar. He obtained the necessary permits and flew to Addis Ababa, where he was reunited with his family. He hid from the regime until he boarded a flight to Italy together with his family. They travelled from Italy to Israel.

Yeshe-Aleka Ezra Mamo

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