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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ethiopia; economic isolation versus neo-colonialism



This is a piece of a larger article I'm still working on.

It turns out that Ethiopia has two communities that claim a tie with Jewish people. I knew about the explicitly Ethiopian Jews. They once had had their own country which endured for centuries in the Ethiopian Highlands. It was their experience my wife wrote about and encouraged some of her students to do papers on, and so was involved in these embassy events to highlight. It also turns out that Ethiopian Christians also claim a relationship with Israel. Their ruling dynasty, the Kings of Aksum, claimed descent through the Queen of Sheba. Many Ethiopians claim that Ethiopians were Jewish even before they converted to Christianity. Due to lifestyle and proximity to "Beta Israel" communities over millennia this relationship goes back to when Israel and Judah were independent Kingdoms and lasted through the centuries. Ethiopia represents a syncretism between Egyptian, Arabian/Middle Eastern and African cultures. It's language is an ancient language that has evolved over centuries under influences from that syncretism. It's people's center of culture was once on the Red Sea and they once dominated trade in the region.

The Ethiopians who controlled trade along the red sea were related to the Nubians and to tribes across the Red Sea in Arabia. And their Kings seem to have ruled multi-Ethnic kingdoms as Feudal "Kings of Kings" more on the Babylonian/Persian ancient model than a centralizing hegemonic empire in the Greek or Roman Style. And as such the Christian Kingdom sheltered the followers of Mohammed when he first began preaching, which protected them, for a time, from the depredations of fanatical freebooting Arabs. Eventually that relationship failed and tribes along the coast were either converted or forced to flee into the Mountains. And that is how the Modern Kingdom of Ethiopia gradually moved it's center of power to where it is now. It's also how the historical Center of Ethiopia, Eritrea, came to be a Muslim country. There was no "reconquista" because after centuries of depredations by the Arabs and Persians (now Muslim) the Christians came back from Europe, but this time they came a privateers and colonial powers, not as friends. The Christians wanted those coastal cities as stations for their fleets. Later they wanted them as coaling stations for their fleets. Fleets of "tall" merchant and war ships with heavy cannon loaded on multiple decks could blow away most smaller lighter merchants. And European Countries preyed on each other but ganged up on Muslim sailors. Ethiopia was cutoff from the Ocean and survived in isolation in the mountains too until it broke out of its isolation in the 20th century.
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