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Monday, July 20, 2015

Ethiopia has been named to be the World’s Best Tourism Destination for 2015. It was given the award by the the European Council on Tourism and Trade, who praised Ethiopia’s outstanding natural beauty, dramatic landscapes and ancient culture. Thirty-one …

Sidama’s New Year
Ethiopia has been named to be the World's Best Tourism Destination for 2015. It was given the award by the the European Council on Tourism and Trade, who praised Ethiopia's outstanding natural beauty, dramatic landscapes and ancient culture.
Thirty-one countries were considered for the illustrious award this year, with Ethiopia coming top of the pile. Ethiopia has nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, which were heralded by the commission and the aim is to boost tourist revenues to USD three billion this year - in 2013 revenues from tourism were at USD two billion. But instead of beach holidays and safaris, Ethiopia is promoting its imperial past, its natural beauty and its cultural heritage, one of which is Sidama's New year, Fitche-Cambalala, writes Henok Reta.
Ethiopia has long been known for its cultural diversity. Words such as multi-lingual, multi-cultural and a typical heterogeneous society have been used by many to express these massive contrasts. 
However, this time, the diversity includes the use of a different calendar. Visiting the land of the Southern Peoples, Nations and Nationalities at the present time would be an extraordinary experience for one who still wonders if Ethiopia uses a different calendar. Indeed, many have been surprised that the latest millennium celebration in Ethiopia  took place  nearly eight years after the rest of the world.  
In Hawassa, seemingly attracting more massive numbers of local and foreign visitors than other bigger towns in the country, an ambitious plan is taking place—a plan that would probably make it an ideal tourist destination in East Africa due to its massive potential for tourism. 
With a population of over 300,000 Hawassa is ever-working, ever-growing. The city is located 275km south of Addis Ababa, 180 km South of Ziway and 20 km south of Shashemene. It is one of the fast growing cities in the country and can be considered to be model for many other towns all over the country. Since the current political administration took power almost 25 years ago, Hawassa  has been named the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State.
Founded more than 50 years ago, Hawassa typically distinguishes itself as a home for more than 45 tribes in the southern region, which does not happen in other regional capitals. In spite of previous tribal conflicts in the regional capital, particularly between the indigenous Sidama tribe and others, nowadays Hawassa remains a capital of diversity. It draws tens of thousands of people for annual festivals and rituals.
Nevertheless nothing is as dominant as Fitche-Cambalala, the Sidama people’s New Year. According to socio-cultural heritages handed down by forefathers through generations to descendants, Sidama New Year (Fitche) has been celebrated for more than 2000 years. The basis for such unique local New Year’s Day determination and celebration is the Sidama calendar which was an outcome of unreserved and relentless innovative efforts of selected knowledgeable and highly respected group of people who were actively involved in a profound study of the solar system among which the moon, earth, sun and stars are included.
Starting from the ancient times up to the present day this selected group of people has been undertaking comprehensive study on characteristics including shape, color, volume, distance between each other, mobility, change of their position through time and related situations of the solar system. To accomplish the very tasks of such unique phenomenon in the locality, they get out of their living house at midnight and assemble outside and observe situations of the moon and stars for several hours a day for at least four to six days per month. Most of the time they perform such tasks collectively and on some occasions they carry out their study individually. When undertaking the investigation in groups each will present analyzed findings of what he has observed and thoroughly discussions on observations and findings will be conducted to arrive at plausible conclusion. If observations and related investigations are done individually, investigation findings will be presented on appointed time and place where general meeting of the group is held.
Basically, it marks the herald of spring at least by a month beforehand. According to Aklilu Adelo, chief of Sidama zonal administration, the New Year celebration is based on a traditional wisdom of astronomy. Ayantos, respected elders, are the people who declare the day on which the New Year falls on after having appraised the stars in their calm night sky. He explains that Fitche-Cambalala has long been the most exciting holiday, featuring dramatic rituals for the Sidama people. 
“Now, we have embarked on a new era to celebrate it with festivities and gatherings,” he says. 
The regional capital is decked out with the Sidama clothing, dance and culinary activities on this three-day long festivity while the countryside continues celebrating for more than a couple of weeks. 
From the very day the ayantos announce the start of the New Year, millions of Sidama people commence preparations at home. Somewhat conforming with another popular holiday—Meskel—everything, including food making, is held months ahead across the region. False bananas, locally known as enset, are the most significant source of food. A variety of Sidama’s traditional foods are made from enset. 
Dances and merrymaking, popular activities among Ethiopians, have, for some time, been an incredible identity amongst the peoples all over the country. The first day of the festival features an eve revelry. 
The eve of the New Year is popularly called Fitaari. During this event households residing nearby gather in the house of this eldest father in the neighborhood to celebrate the event. As mentioned above, preparations  made by each household to celebrate New Year had commenced several months ago and kocho or preferably bulla is prepared and mixed with butter. It will be served with milk to those who gather for the feast to welcome the New Year. Similar events take place on that very special event in each household in the communities.
Thousands of young men tour the city, dancing, chanting and carrying out the rituals that used to be made by their forefathers. The eve revelry starts at the city’s grand monument named Suduma and ends at the city’s rift valley lake. The next day, the ayantos, gather at Gudumale, a savanna venue, to announce through a series of rituals that the New Year has arrived. An intense look into the lamb cecum (a pouch considered the beginning of the large intestine) by elders is also a basic part of the rituals held at the Gudumale that determines what is good or evil. 
“We are not performing witchcraft, but we have an ancient traditional wisdom of prediction from the stars above and the pouch below,” Elder Shumumale Aluda, says. Despite a stern approach many of the youth have towards this practice, he believes they will ensure that their rituals live on. “Look at them. They are eager and willing to learn from us. They are all happy and proud of what we do.” 
In fact, this reality is made clearer as the city sees an influx of young men holding spears and sticks, and wearing animals skins like their fathers did. 
“We love our culture. We want to show Sidama’s culture is the best amongst the many Ethiopian cultures,” Teshale Fugamo, 24, says. 
Sidama’s New Year, which is primarily celebrated in the Southern Region, does not only promote the young men, but also has a spot for girls and young women to display their attractive looks as well. Hundreds of young women and girls put on their typical traditional outfits for the festivities.
“I really enjoy it. I’m extremely happy to be a part of it. That’s why I can’t miss it every year, even though I live in Addis Ababa,” Lemlem, in Miss Sidama pageant winner, says. 
Born from a traditional protestant family, Lemlem sees nothing that contrasts with her belief. 
“I understand what many of my friends think. They’re wrong. It’s just a practice regardless of belief,” she explains. 
According to the Sidama Zone Culture and Tourism Bureau, the regional government, along with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, are working hard to get United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO's) recognition for its valuable preservation in the area of traditional rituals that can be used as a basis for science. 
“We have a positive view with regard to its UNESCO registration. I hope it will be realized in a few years’ time,” Workneh Flate, the head of the bureau told The Reporter.

የሲዳማ ተወላጅ የሆኑት ዶክተር ኣንበሴ ተፈራ በቴልኣቪቪ ዩኒቨርሲቲ የመጀመሪያው ኢትዮ_እስራኤላዊ ሲኒዬር ሌክቸሬር ሆኑ ።

የወራንቻ ኢንፎርሜሽን ኔትዎርክ በእስራኤል ኣገር የሚታተመውን ዘ ታይምስ ኦፍ እስራኤን ጠቅሶ እንደዘጋበው፤ ዶክተር ኣንበሴ የኢትዮጵያ ተወላጆ የሆነ ሰው በእስራኤል ዩንቪርስቲዎች ታሪክ የsenior lectureship ቦታ ሲያገኝ የመጀመሪያው ናቸው። ዝርዝሩ እንደምከተለው ቀርቧል፦

Dr. Anbessa Teferra, a professor of Semitic languages at Tel Aviv University, with a copy of Yedioth Negat, an Amharic newspaper. (Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel staff)

Teferra’s a soft-spoken, modest academic in his early fifties, quick to laugh and with a talent for languages. He immigrated to Israel in 1990 after completing his master’s degree in linguistics in Addis Ababa and has taught Ethiopian languages in various capacities in Israel since 1993. He earned the rank of senior lecturer, the equivalent of associate professor in the US, in June.
“This is one kind of advancement for Ethiopians” in Israel, he said in an interview with The Times of Israel, in his office overlooking the northeast corner of the campus in Ramat Aviv. “It’s really a great achievement for Ethiopian-Israelis.” He called it a “first step” for the integration of the community in Israeli society.
His appointment came during a spate of Ethiopian-Israeli protests against perceived discrimination following the beating of an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian descent by Israeli police officers. Thousands took to the streets in Tel Aviv in May to demonstrate against police brutality and were met with tear gas.
Protesters call for an end to discrimination against Israelis of Ethiopian descent at a protest in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015 (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
Dr. Anbessa Teferra, a professor of Semitic languages at Tel Aviv University, with an Amharic-Hebrew pictorial dictionary he edited. (Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel staff)
MK Avraham Neguise speaks in a committee meeting at the Israeli Knesset in 2012. (Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Protesters call for an end to discrimination against Israelis of Ethiopian descent at a protest in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015 (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
Professor Eyal Zisser, dean of the Faculty of the Humanities at Tel Aviv University, said he was “very proud of being the first faculty of the first university to have an Ethiopian on staff.” He insisted, however, that the decision “had nothing to do with the fact that he’s Ethiopian” and was entirely based on Teferra’s academic merit as an expert of Semitic languages.
Teferra teaches Ethiopian languages — Amharic, Ge’ez and Sidama, specifically — at Tel Aviv University. Most Ethiopian Israelis speak Amharic, a very distant cousin on the Semitic language family tree. Although Amharic’s structure is completely different, and the writing system antique and unique, there are some cognates, he explained: the words for blood — dam — and for eye — ayin — are identical in both Hebrew and Amharic.
The name Anbessa, Teferra explained, means lion in Amharic — the same as Assad in Arabic and Aryeh in Hebrew or Leo in Spanish.
“Swahili speakers call me Simba,” he said with a chuckle.
Dr. Anbessa Teferra, a professor of Semitic languages at Tel Aviv University, with an Amharic-Hebrew pictorial dictionary he edited. (Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel staff)
Teferra’s one of the few academics in Israel to teach Ethiopian languages at the university level. “All the Ethiopian stuff is on my small shoulders,” he said. While his language courses tend to be small, he said that there’s greater interest in his class on Ethiopian history, culture and language, which attracts between 20 and 30 students each semester.
“Mostly, I don’t have Ethiopian students,” he said, “most of them are ferenjiz… an Amharic expression for a white person.” The term, he said, derived from the Arabic term il-franj, the word denoting European Crusaders, or Franks.
For Teferra, the road to professorship was long. He taught for years at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he did his PhD, as an external lecturer, before leaving for Tel Aviv.
“I should have been a lecturer, even a professor, a long time ago, to tell you the truth,” Teferra said, but didn’t attribute it definitively to race.
“Sometimes also I feel there is, how do you say, insensitivity,” Teferra said. Academic advancement must be based on merit and accomplishment, not because of skin color, he said, but scholars from less advantaged backgrounds should be given an opportunity so that there’s a more equitable representation of Israel’s diversity. Likewise, he said, the government should do more to assist Ethiopian-Israeli students with after-school education, and promote educational diversity in higher education.
As of the end of 2013, the country was home to 135,500 citizens of Ethiopian origin, making up 1.5% of the population, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. Only 50% of Israeli high school students of Ethiopian ancestry that year qualified to take the matriculation exams, compared to 63% among the general population. (The CBS didn’t provide statistics on passing rates.)
In the 2013 academic year, only 0.9% of Israel’s 312,000 university students were Ethiopian-Israelis. Of the 12,480 doctoral students enrolled that year, only 14 were of Ethiopian descent.
Ultimately, however, he argued the solution to the inequality in higher education, and society as a whole, must come from the bottom up. “Integration must start from the kindergarten level” and work its way up to universities, he said.
The sole Ethiopian-Israeli lawmaker in the 20th Knesset, elected earlier this year, hailed Teferra’s appointment. Likud party MK Avraham Neguise told the Times of Israel that Teferra “is a model for emulation for members of the community in order to strengthen their integration in academia and higher education.”
“This is what will advance our integration into Israeli society,” Neguise said.
MK Avraham Neguise speaks in a committee meeting at the Israeli Knesset in 2012. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
When he’s not teaching at TAU, Teferra works to keep Ethiopian language and culture alive among the community. Like Yiddish, Ladino and so many other languages spoken by first generation immigrants to Israel, the mother tongue has been supplanted by Hebrew among young Ethiopian-Israelis.
Teferra works as a supervisor for Amharic with the Israeli education system, helping develop the curriculum for the 40 high schools nationwide that teach Amharic. The education system offers an Amharic matriculation exam in the language, which he said helps many Ethiopian immigrants get high school diplomas who may have otherwise struggled with Hebrew-language examinations.
Teferra is the editor of the only newspaper in Israel catering to the Ethiopian population.Yedioth Negat, a bi-monthly paper with perhaps 20,000 readers, features articles in Amharic and Hebrew touching on subjects relevant to the community. He has also translated and edited an Amharic-Hebrew pictorial dictionary.
“From my experience, the children are losing fast their language,” Teferra said. His own daughter spoke Amharic when she first arrived in Israel at age six and now regrets having focused on Hebrew and lost it.
“Sometimes I feel that I’m fighting a lost battle concerning Amharic,” he said. “But I also want to preserve the language, the culture, although it’s very difficult.”
He said Ethiopian Israelis should embrace and preserve their language and promote Amharic education among the younger generation.
“We really encourage youngsters to learn Amharic and Ethiopian culture, because Hebrew is obligatory. You can’t run away from it,” Teferra said.
ምንጭ፦  www.timesofisrael.com