First Steps: Ethiopian Archives in Jerusalem (S. Ancel)

by Stéphane Ancel

Between the 8th and the 18th of February 2015, Open Jerusalem team member Stéphane Ancel visited members of the Ethiopian Orthodox community in Jerusalem. His initiative aimed at establishing contact between the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Open Jerusalem Project and at evaluating possibilities for studying Ethiopian Orthodox documents in Jerusalem.

Historical sources attest the very early presence of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Jerusalem. However the Ethiopian Orthodox community has known a great revival during the 19th and 20th century. Several sites in the town bear witness to Ethiopian Orthodox activities:

– the famous monastery Dar as-Sultan, located on the roof of Helena’s chapel, and its two associated chapels dedicated to Michael and to the Four Living Creatures, which are served by Ethiopian monks.

Photo 1 Dar AsSultan

– the so-called Archbishop’s residence: located in the Old City (Ethiopian Monastery Street, near the 8th Station of the Via Dolorosa), this house was given to the Ethiopians in 1876 but used as such only from 1891. It accommodates today the Ethiopian Orthodox Church administration and a chapel dedicated to St. Phillip.

Photo 2 Residence 1Photo 3 Residence 2

– The monastery of Däbrä Gännät Kidanä Mehrät, located in West Jerusalem, Ethiopia Street, was commissioned by King of Kings Yohannes IV (1872-1889) but was finished in 1896 by Menilek II (1889-1913).

Photo 4 Debre Gannat 1Photo 5 Debre Gannat 2

– A large building in Hanivim Street, commissioned by Empress Zäwditu in 1928 was used for Ethiopian consulate administration and also for accommodating Ethiopians who worked and settled in Jerusalem.

Photo 6 Consulate 1Photo 7 Consulate 2

– Some buildings are not  occupied by Ethiopians anymore but still bear witness to the important Ethiopian Orthodox activities during the 20th century. A house commissioned by Queen Taytu (wife of Menilek II) in 1903, located at the crossroad of Heleni Mamalka and Shivtei Israel streets is now occupied by the Israel Broadcasting Authority. Some other houses built or bought by Ethiopians at the beginning of the 20th century and formally given to the Ethiopian monastic community, are still visible in the Ethiopian compound, even if they are nowadays occupied  by other institutions.

Stéphane Ancel visited these sites, met elders of the community and obtained information concerning the community, its organization and its history. He was also warmly received by His Grace Abune Enbaqom, Ethiopian archbishop in the Holy Land, and other officials of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Jerusalem to whom he presented the aims and issues of Open Jerusalem Project. His Grace Archbishop Abune Enbaqom and all members of the Ethiopian Orthodox community have welcomed the Open Jerusalem project initiative. However, they legitimately asked the project to officially demand the authorization to the Patriarchate of Addis Ababa to analyze the documents preserved in the archives of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Holy Land. For that purpose, Vincent Lemire, director of the project and Julien Loiseau, director of the French Research Centre in Jerusalem, officially contacted the headquarter of Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate in Addis Abeba. This is the beginning of the process… to be followed….