Gonder: Passover and the Jewish Community

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Gonder
Amhara Region
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
April 20, 2011

Gary Metzger
Administrative Director
NACOEJ – North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry
New York, New York
USA

Dear Mr. Metzger,

cc: Family and Friends

Thank you for providing me with the contacts at the Jewish Community in Ethiopia.  Asher and Rabbi Waldman from Israel were generous hosts.

The Ethiopians in the Jewish Community were welcoming and kind.  Despite the difficulty of their lives, everyone was smiling and eager to meet me – especially the children.

As I mentioned to you, I chose to travel to Ethiopia in April so that I could celebrate the Jewish Festival of Passover at Gonder.  And celebrate I did, with a large group of enthusiastic participants. 

Whenever I view my photos of the event, I feel quite moved.   My heart goes out to my handsome and beautiful brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.

Here is a letter I received from my friend Larry Benowitz in Boston:
 
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Hi Jan,

You and my son Isaac have something in common - you both celebrated Passover in East Africa.
 
In Isaac's case, it was in Kampala, Uganda, where he is doing a medical rotation. He managed to find a friend of a friend who is living there, and had a full Seder, complete with gefilte fish and Matzo, with seventeen other people.
 
Ethiopia sounds like a "must see" destination.

I'd also like to see what a Seder with 3000 people is like.
 
Chag sameach.

Larry

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Larry needs to wait no longer.  I have posted my photos and videos of the Jewish Community and the Passover celebration on my website.

Gary, thank you again for your help.  Perhaps I will return to East Africa next spring to once again celebrate with my new friends in Ethiopia.  Or perhaps, I will go instead to West Africa, to celebrate Passover with the Jewish Community in Ghana!

Or perhaps I will go to Israel to visit my Ethiopian friends who were fortunate to emigrate and make Aliya.*

Sincerely,

Jan Polatschek

In addition to the photographs, please follow this link to the videos:

Don't miss the videos from Ethiopia.

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I encourage my family and friends to visit the NACOEJ website.   I know they will be supportive of the assistance provided to the more than seven thousand Jews in Gonder.

http://www.nacoej.org/index.html

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*In 1984, Operation Moses was a secret evacuation of Ethiopian Jews from Sudan, where they had fled during a famine in Ethiopia. The Israeli Defense Forces, along with the US CIA and others, conducted an airlift that brought 8000 Ethiopian Jews directly to Israel. 

In 1991, Operation Solomon took more than 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Moses

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The Taye Hotel is the best hotel in Gonder.  Michael Hailu is a gracious host and manager.  

 http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g317059-d1933254-Reviews-Taye_Hotel-Gonder.html

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Jews of Ethiopia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEONave1Tqo&NR=1       

Location

Gonder
Ethiopia
12° 35' 50.838" N, 37° 26' 29.0616" E