April 21, 2006
By Ayanawo Farada Sanbetu, Haaretz Correspondent
"I was only told at nine o'clock this morning that my father murdered my mother and then killed himself. The whole week I didn't know anything about the tragedy of my family in Israel, and I received the bad news from a reporter who came to my home." Abtam Bezeh was speaking to Haaretz by phone from her home in the refugee camp in Gondar, Ethiopia on Thursday.
Last weekend Abtam Bezeh's father murdered her mother and then killed himself. Welfare authorities considered placing their seven younger children with foster families before discovering the children had an older sister, 21, living with her husband and their three-year-old daughter in a camp in Gondar. Abtam Bezeh has been waiting for eight years to immigrate. Now the Jewish Agency and the Interior Ministry have decided to accelerate her aliya.
A neighbor of Abtam's, Germay Werkenech, told Haaretz Wednesday that representatives of the Jewish Agency and the family decided not to tell Abtam and her husband about her parents' death until her arrival in Israel.
"I am so excited to see my parents and my brothers and siblings after five years," Abtam told Haaretz Tuesday.
Her statements contradict two articles written by Danny Adino Abba and published in Yedioth Ahronoth this week, in which Abtam was quoted as already knowing about the deaths.
"I am counting the minutes, I long to be with my beloved little siblings, to support them, to be a mother to them," she is quoted as saying in Tuesday's Yedioth.
"The whole week we have been debating over when to tell Abtam about her parents' deaths," said Getenet Awuka, an emissary from Shvut Ha'am, which assists Ethiopian Jews. "Danny [Abba] came to the family's home on Wednesday and wanted to tell them, but the people with him opposed the idea. And then yesterday morning he came with Werkenech and a local Jewish Agency employee and told her the news," Awuka related.
"I will try to raise the children, that is what God has given me to do," Abtam said to Haaretz after learning of the tragedy. Her husband, Abay Negato, told Haaretz Thursday that he is shocked at the way his wife was informed of the family tragedy.
"This morning a journalist from Israel told her that her father murdered her mother and committed suicide. Only yesterday we spoke to Danny Abba for the first time face-to-face - I never spoke to him by phone, while Abtam spoke to him a few days ago. I learned the news together with her. I am very hopeful that we will be able to raise the children."
Yedioth Ahronoth released the following announcement: "Adino Abba is the only Israeli journalist now in Gondar, Ethiopia. Abba visited Abtam yesterday and photographed and interviewed her, and the entire interview was recorded. Among the photographs sent to [us] are ones of ... women mourners crying and keening, that show that the sister and others knew of the murder-suicide before he arrived."
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