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Yona Bogale


BOGALE, YONA (1908–1987), Ethiopian Jewish ( *Beta Israel ) personality. Bogale was born in 1908 (some sources say 1910 or 1911) in the village of Wolleqa northeast of the important Ethiopian city of Gondar. His father was a weaver, who also worked as a tenant farmer for a local Christian nobleman. In 1921 Jacques *Faitlovitch visited Ethiopia for the fourth time and spent several months in Walleqa. At the end of his stay he took Yona Bogale with him to study in Europe. Bogale studied two years at the Mizrachi Tahkemoni School in Jerusalem before continuing his education in Frankfurt, Switzerland, and France. By the time he returned to Ethiopia he had learned to speak over half a dozen languages. Until the Italian conquest of Ethiopia in 1935/6 Bogale worked as a teacher in the "Falasha" school which had been established by Faitlovitch and Taamrat Emmanuel in Addis Ababa in 1923. Following the end of the Fascist occupation in 1941 Yona worked for the Ethiopian Ministry of Education. He resigned in 1953 to devote himself to the Beta Israel community, and played a crucial role in the establishment and operation of the Jewish Agency's schools in Ethiopia. Following the closure of these schools Yona continued to work among his people and served as the major mediator for contact between Ethiopian and world Jewry. Perhaps the clearest reflection of his attempts to create a bridge between the two communities were his writings, A "Falasha" Book of Jewish Festivals, an Amharic translation of portions of Pirke Avot, and a Hebrew-Amharic dictionary. Although generally treated by outsiders as the "leader" of the Beta Israel, within the community his position was ambiguous and he often came into conflict with other important community members. In 1979, Yona immigrated to Israel where he continued his activities on behalf of the Beta Israel.

[Steven Kaplan (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.