Hacham Wobasht Ayetgav

< Tammuz 5784 July 2024 >

A Short Tribute

Kess Wobasht Ayetgav was born to his father Ayetgav Tamnu and his mother Yishvat Alamo in 1906 in Gorba, Gomdar, Ethiopia. As a child, he moved with his family to Ghana, in the province Gundar and from there they moved to Skalet. In Skalet, he married Marom Yellessa and the couple had two children. They earned their living from agriculture, and Kess Wobasht Ayetgav would devote his nights and Sabbaths to learning Torah. In order to further his studies, he left his family for a period of seven years during which he was ordained as a Kess by the priests. Following his ordination, he returned to his family in Skalet and, along with his work in agriculture, served as Kess for his community.

Because of tensions with the Christians in Skalet, he left with his community to the village of Azzo, near the city of Gondar, from where they moved to the big Jewish village of Ambobar. The village, established by young Jews led by Professor Taamrat Immanuel in 1936, during the Italian occupation, served as a spiritual center for all Jews of Gondar; it was the site of the main Sigd festival gathering.

Kess Wobasht Ayetgav established and led the synagogue and children's school in Ambobar, and volunteered in developing infrastructures and in road construction, and also played an active role in establishing the settlement adjacent to the Sudanese border.

In 1972, following the intervention of an American Jew, Meir Levin and with the help of Hezi Ovadia, Kess Wobasht Ayetgav's wife and son immigrated to Israel and settled in the Beit Meir moshav. In 1973, following intense persistence with the government of Israel, Kess Wobasht Ayetgav immigrated to Israel with his family and they settled in a new immigrant center near the city of Ramla. Upon arriving to Israel, Kess Wobasht Ayetgav met with the Rishon LeZion, Maran Hacham Ovadia Yosef, who ruled that the Beta Israel are Jewish for all intents and purposes, a ruling that led to implementing the Law of Return on Ethiopian Jewry.

Kess Wobatch Ayetgav quickly learned the Hebrew language and prayed regularly in the Moroccan immigrants' Rabbi David and Moshe synagogue. His immigration paved the way for many the immigration of his community members, who followed him to Israel. He took care of their integration and served as Kess for the Beta Israel Jews in Ramla. His home was open to all and for years his home was visited by hundreds of young immigration from Ethiopia, for whom he was like a father. Kess Wobasht Ayetgav was one of the founders of the Sigd festival in Israel, the purpose of which in Israel was also to pray for his brethren that remained in Ethiopia and to raise public awareness to the fact. Kess Wobasht Ayetgav took part in the march to Israel's Knesset in order to raise public awareness to the plight of Ethiopian Jews.

Kess Wobasht Ayetgav was laid to rest in 1994. The date of the Hacham's death is unknown to us, and we commemorate it on 7 Adar, the date that our teacher Moses, within whom rest the souls of all the sages of Israel, passed away.

Having no writings of his teachings, we have written up what was said in his name by his children and pupils.


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