The director of the absorption center, Moshe Hasdai, said that once the staff of the absorption center set a personal example by donating and buying equipment for the combat soldiers in the Gaza Strip, the spirit of volunteerism spread among residents of the center.
“At the end of last week, Abba Tagenia, a very precious Oleh, came into our office. He is the leader of the most recent Aliyah from Ethiopia, ‘Wings of the Dove,’ which took place last August. He asked if he could volunteer to help the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces who are fighting at the front. He told us that because of his age ─ he is eighty ─ he is unable to fight, and therefore he wants to help in whatever way he can to assist the IDF soldiers. At his own initiative, Abba Tagenia collected all of the Olim at the center, and he requested to contribute a significant sum, thousands of shekels, that would allow for the purchase of food, clothing and toiletries for the soldiers,” said Moshe.
“We got goose bumps, seeing the sense of solidarity that the Olim felt, and we blessed them and praised them for the wonderful initiative. A representative of the Olim went together with the staff to purchase the equipment in Jerusalem, and the equipment was sent in a special delivery to our soldiers in the war in Gaza.
“On the following Sunday morning, Abba Tagenia appeared again in our offices with thousands of additional shekels that the Olim contributed. Together, we made the decision to donate the money, this time, to the Hosen Center in Sderot, and to the battalion of reserve soldiers in Nablus and Hebron,” he said.
Abba Tagenia is an important personality among the Olim who are part of the most recent Aliyah from Ethiopia. Here is some additional information about him, as told by Moshe Hasdai, the director of the absorption center.
Abba Tagenia Damlau was born in 1934 in the Achpar region, in the village of Geshula. In that area, there were many people of Jewish ancestry, and many of them had already made Aliyah to Israel.
Among the non-Jewish population, the Jews in Ethiopia were different, and were also considered to be inferior. They were called insulting names, such as Fat One and Falasha. Jews were not allowed to be property owners or to hold leadership positions. The Jews were at the very bottom of the society.
Abba Tagenia worked in agriculture and spent part of his time as a blacksmith. When he got older, and especially once he became elderly, he also worked as a “Shamgala,” a communal mediator restoring peace and resolving disputes among neighbors.
He says that in his youth, there were still Jews who kept the traditions of Israel and of the Ethiopian Torah, the “Orit.” There were also well-known Qessim.
His mother’s father would tell him, “Our land is not Ethiopia. We came from the Land of Israel. There, their faith was ‘Orit,’ the Bible. Because of the many problems that they had, in order to live, the Jews converted to Christianity. However, Christianity was never their religion. Within the community there was a heritage of the Ten Commandments, and the commandment to keep the Sabbath, a day on which it was forbidden to light fire, do work, or leave one’s place.”
The community of people who had Jewish ancestry kept the Sabbath at home and did not work. They did not eat food that had been cooked on the Sabbath or eat fruits that were picked on the Sabbath. Abba Tagenia’s mother kept the laws of family purity, and during times of menstruation, she would sit outside in a separate menstruation house.
Abba Tagenia’s grandfather would tell him “about the Land of Israel, the birthplace of our fathers, and he said that a time would come when we would return to Israel. About twenty years ago, many people from Kavara made Aliyah to Israel.”
He wanted to join them, but he was not able to do so. Until about five years ago, whe Tagenia left his home in the village and traveled to the city of Gondar in order to make Aliyah. His children and their families had gone to Gondar several years earlier.
In Gondar, Abba Tagenia went to the synagogue every day. He would bless the congregation after the prayer service, and he would lead the community and keep them on the right path, in the way that he learned from the Shlichim and the Rabbis – to keep the commandments.
He is very happy that he merited reaching the Land of Israel.
He currently lives in the absorption center in Mevaseret Zion. He feels that it is a great merit to reach the Holy Land. He thanks God and everyone who helped him with his Aliyah.
There are people who are still waiting to make Aliyah, and he thinks of them and prays that they will arrive. Now, he is doing everything in his power to help the IDF soldiers.