The Amhara Region
Updated: Oct 14, 2020
(The Blue Nile Falls)
The Amhara region, located in northwestern Ethiopia is an abundant land filled with of some of the most breathtaking natural beauty in the world. Some notable locations include the Simien Mountains just north of the city of Gondar, the Blue Nile falls, one of the main sources of the Nile River, and Raj Dejen, the highest peak in Ethiopia measuring in at 4,533 meters. The area today is mainly populated by farming and herding communities with Christianity being the dominant religion. However before Amhara became a predominantly Christian region it hosted the largest concentration of Jewish communities in Ethiopia.
Prior to the loss of their independence in the 17th century Beta Israel populated several regions of the country and enjoyed a great amount of autonomy and political say. Yet after unfortunate losses the once great Jewish community was demoted to a minority, their population declined by half after massacres, exiles, and lost wars. The remaining population became confined to the Amhara region with a small fraction of their brethren settling in the northern region of Tigre.
The first modern contact with Beta Israel occurred in the Amhara region in 1769, when a Scottish explorer by the name of James Bruce stumbled upon the community while searching for the source of the Nile River. At the time the state of community life was in disarray; the people were over taxed and impoverished. Bruce estimated that the population numbered at just 100,000, a drastic fall from the once half a million members at the height of the community's power.
Historically the two principle Jewish settlements in the Amhara and Tigre regions had very little contact with each other, and even spoke two separate languages, Amharic and Tigrinya. Over the years the Amharic language superseded Tigrinya as the dominantly known and perpetuated tongue of the Ethiopian Jewish population. Even today the everyday language of the Ethiopian community in Israel (in addition to Hebrew) is Amharic, and historically Jewish communities in the Amhara region received more attention and humanitarian aid from abroad.
Information gathered from:
Friedmann, Daniel, and Ulysses Santamaria. "IDENTITY AND CHANGE: THE EXAMPLE OF THE FALASHAS, BETWEEN ASSIMILATION IN ETHIOPIA AND INTEGRATION IN ISRAEL." Dialectical Anthropology 15, no. 1 (1990): 56-73. Accessed August 20, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/29790332.