Skip to main content

Yirga Zeysanu Arte

Father's name: Zeysanu Arte
Mother's name: Aster Yaich
Year of birth: 1944
Place of birth: Sembera-Waha Gabriel, Wegera
Region in Ethiopia: Gondar
Main occupation in Ethiopia: Eye surgeon, teacher and school principal
The language of the interview: Amharic

Yirga Zeysanu Arte, owning land, topography, agriculture, childhood, boarding school, missionaries, clerk, road construction company, car accident, eye clinic, ophthalmologist, surgeon, provides treatment, student, teacher, school, politics, principal, city, village, jail, execution, Mengistu Haile Mariam, Emperor Haile Selassie, Derg, rebels, EHAPA, Sembera-Waha Gabriel, Wegera, Gen Shlema, Dabat, Gondar, Adarkay, Tigray, Geint, Ambover, Addis Ababa.

Summary of the testimony:

Yirga describes his family tree and his special relationship with his father. When he was nine, his family moved to Gen Shlema because there, unlike in his birthplace, Jews were allowed to own land. He describes the various crops and explains in what soil and in which season each of them could be grown.

Yirga began his studies in a boarding school run by German missionaries outside the village of Dabat. He talks about his time in the boarding school, the classes, and vacations at home. He completed his studies in the boarding school when he was 19 and continued studying in the state school in the village of Dabat, where he met his wife.

They managed to get married despite opposition from his wife’s family. After the wedding, they moved to the city of Gondar. Yirga began to work as a clerk in a road construction company and was sent to work in Adarkay in the province of Tigray. When the project was completed, Yirga returned to Tigray and continued to work in various projects.

After he was involved in a car accident, he left the profession and began to work as a teacher. He taught students up to eighth grade, while completing his own education up to tenth grade. When a new school named Matsa was opened, Yirga was appointed as the principal.

At the same time, his wife began to work in a clinic of a German eye doctor. The doctor encouraged Yirga to complete his education up to twelfth grade, to study optometry, and to join the clinic. Yirga began to work in the clinic. After a while, he received a certificate from Ras Imru, Emperor Haile Selassie’s uncle, authorizing him to provide treatment. He provided treatment and worked as a surgeon. Yirga describes various operations he performed.

When the Derg party rose to power, he left his work and went to study teaching in the university in Addis Ababa. He volunteered for two years in the Gondar region in a program named “Development Through Cooperation” that the Derg party established. He taught in various villages, established farmers’ unions, and drafted plans for development.

When he completed his volunteer work, Yirga was sent to an expedited teaching course offered by the new regime and began to teach biology in the Geint area. After further training in education, he was appointed as principal of a school named Tegel. Yirga talks about the political dispute between the Derg regime and the rebels from the EHAPA organization. He was arrested and some of his teachers were executed. Yirga later managed a nearby school named Napas Naucho. The school had some 3000 pupils up to twelfth grade. He was under great pressure and had to be armed. He eventually moved to work as principal of the Jewish school in Ambover.

One day, Yirga was invited to Addis Ababa, to a conference attended by the ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam. Together with other senior officials from the province of Gondar, they drafted a district constitution. Following this convention, the attendees were called once a month to Addis Ababa for meetings.

Yirga relates how he helped the Jewish communities in the province of Gondar. People were afraid of him because of his high rank. When he was offered a promotion to head of the province, his political opponents began to harass him. He eventually requested to be transferred to Addis Ababa.

In Addis Ababa, he was principal of a school named “Advance Ethiopia”. He worked clandestinely to obtain exit visas from Ethiopia for himself and his family. They eventually immigrated to Israel.

Yirga Zeysanu Arte

Close Menu