Left Ethiopian Jews

Eldad ha-Dani: His Letter to the Jews in Spain (883)

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Taken from: Jewish Travellers by Alkon Adler

 

He was a Jewish, Hebrew-writing merchant and traveler of the ninth century. He professed to be a citizen of an independent Jewish state in eastern Africa.

 

And this was my going forth from the other side of the rivers of Ethiopia.

I and a Jew of the tribe of Asher entered a small ship to trade with the shipmen and behold, at midnight, the Lord caused a great and strong wind to arise and the ship was wrecked. Now the Lord had prepared a box and I took hold of it and my companion seeing this also took hold of that box, and we went up and down with it, until the sea cast us among a people called Romranos who are black Ethiopians, tall, without garment or clothing upon them, cannibals, like unto the beasts of the field.

And when we came to their country they took hold of us and, seeing that my companion was fat and healthy and pleasing, slaughtered and ate him, and  he cried: Alas for me that I have been brought to this people and the Ethiopians will eat my flesh, but me they took, for I was sick on board ship, and they put me in chains until I should get fat and well, and they brought before me all kinds of good but forbidden food, but I ate nothing and I hid the food,  and when they asked me if I had eaten I answered, yes I had eaten.

And I was with them a long time until the Lord, blessed be He, performed a miracle with me, for a great army came upon them from another place, who took me captive, but they spoiled and killed them and took me along with the captives.

And those wicked men were fireworshippers and I dwelt with them four years, and behold, every morning they made a great fire and bowed down and worshipped it. And they brought me to the province of Azania.

And a Jew, a Merchant from the tribe of Issachar, found me and bought me for 32 gold pieces and brought me back with him to his country. They live in the mountains of the seacoast and belong to the land of the Medes and Persians. They fulfil the command: the book of this law shall not depart from thy mouth. The yoke of sovereignty is not upon them but only the yoke of the law. Among them are leaders of hosts but they fight with no man. They only dispute as to the law, and they live in peace and comfort and there is no disturber and no evil chance. ……