danelia Данелия Мэхиа

In 2013 I had the privilege of meeting Professor Tudor Parfitt who gave me a book that inspired me to make the trip to Zimbabwe and live with the Lemba tribe for a month, an experience that brought many lessons to my life. copyright


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Meeting the first Lemba

It was in 2012 during my trip to New York to visit the family of my rabbi Gerald and his wife Bonita, who live in Staten Island that I got to know about the Lembas of Zimbabwe, the rabbi's wife is a member of an NGO called KULANO, who worked mostly in Africa helping emerging Jewish communities.

One of the nights that I was at home with them, Bonita invited me to attend a dinner that the members of KULANO would have in NY, I was very happy to be able to meet new people, and especially to meet a Lemba.

During my childhood I dreamed of going to Africa, and the desire intensified after watching the Tarzan series, where they showed those places, animals and tribes. While watching the series I was transported back in time and it seemed like I could be there, it was in 2014 that my dream came true.


We traveled from Staten Island to NY, it was cold, there was still some snow on the streets, and it was the first time I would see NY at night, we went through the George Washington Bridge, little by little I really discovered places that were only in my dreams, the UN building, while we traveled the rabbi was my guide, and he showed me the buildings through the window, NY at night is beautiful. We arrived at a restaurant on a central avenue, we entered the place, it looked small, the lights were dim, there were several people there, on a table next to the wall there was a reserved sign, that was our table, we sat down, and shortly after More people appeared, the president of the organization, as well as the Lemba who would give a conference about the tribe that night, his Hebrew name was Moshe, Modreick tribe name, I sat next to him. He was a tall man, with fine features like the Ethiopians, although stronger, he would be about 30 years old, he spoke English and Portuguese, he is a very educated man.


While the meeting began, I spoke with him, in English, he answered all my questions, then he asked me if I speak Portuguese, I told him I understand something, I studied Portuguese for 6 months. He told me well everyone here understands English, when I want to tell you something that only we will understand, I will do it in Portuguese, we smiled at each other and said yes, it seems to me, little by little the other people arrived, most of them were lawyers, doctors, everyone professionals, and with a good economic position, the meeting began, they introduced us, and they agreed on their plans, they said that night in a conference room in front of the restaurant, Moshe would have his first conference, it had been announced for many months, so that a full house was expected, he would be touring all over the USA. We arrived at the conference site there were many people buying tickets, the building was beautiful I don't remember the name, we sat in the back, I said goodbye to Moshe I told him if you are nervous don't look at the people look over the heads of them, everything will be fine, it was their first night and everyone was waiting to learn about the Lembas. The Lemba tribe became known thanks to the research of Professor Tudor Parfit from England, he had written a book about the ark of the covenant and said that he had found it in Zimbabwe.


The conference began with the words of the president and vice president of Kulano, then Moshe began his presentation at the beginning his voice was short something was not for less being before a number of people, there was a screen where they projected images of the Lemba tribe, everyone was well concentrated and it seemed that we were transported to Africa. I found the conference very interesting. At the end of the conference a group of people approached Moshe to ask him for more information, that was my first encounter with a Lemba.


Back in my country, I received the good news that my daughter, who was studying in Colombia, would come to visit in January. We prepared ourselves and took advantage of the opportunity that a Beit Din would visit Nicaragua to make conversions, so she would go to the Beit Din. I had already contacted my rabbi and he had given the go-ahead knowing me, and he said the mother is Jewish there is not much to do she wants to be Jewish she is welcome, my daughter studied a lot since she had made the decision.

The day of the trip to the city of Granada arrived, the Beit Din would be there. We left early in the morning for Granada. We already had a hotel ready where we stayed the night before the conversions, and early in the morning we went to the place established by the president. of the community as a meeting point, there was a mikveh, we arrived and many were already there, we were fasting, we greeted each other as usual and sat on one of the many benches, a short time later I looked at Don Gerald, he is a Jew married to a Nicaraguan Catholic lady, who live in Managua, I approached him and greeted him shortly after another man arrived, tall, thin, smiling, he wore a brown fur hat, Don Gerald introduced him to me, I was actually still sleepy, and I did not pay much attention to his name and surname I greeted him and returned to where my daughter, he was walking and taking photos.

There were entire families that would present themselves for conversion that day, my daughter was the penultimate one, the first family passed by, and they left happy, they took them to the mikvah and the entire community was happy to have new Jewish members, so time passed and little by little Shortly they went out and went to the mikveh, it was the turn of a member of a family who had already all converted, the boy was civilly married, and had two children with a girl from the community, shortly after he left and did not have a good face , the family met with him and they could not believe that he would be the only non-Jew, the reason he did not want to marry his wife, in the end they all talked with him, and the rabbis and reached an agreement that he would make the conversion and that their religious marriage was postponed, one less wedding that night, the poor wife was very sad and felt bad, she had worn her wedding dress, everything was ready for that night, and he had not wanted to get married. My daughter's turn has come, she is a very self-confident girl. She has a character somewhat similar to mine, determined, and goes for what she wants, she went by and a short time later she went straight to the mikveh, we met with the rabbis and each one of them gave her a few words indicating the way to go, we sang and while we were in that the rabbi's wife came and told me Esther I have to talk to you, Dr. Gross a doctor of great prestige and position asks for your daughter's hand in marriage, I couldn't believe what I was hearing the English man was there Next to us listening, I looked at where Dr. Gross was, and told her, I really don't think my daughter wants to get married that quickly, tell Dr. Gross that we appreciate his intentions. Professor Parfitt told me I can't believe not even 5 minutes have passed since your daughter converted, and there is already a suitor and a marriage proposal. I smiled and said, yes, incredible. I told my daughter about what happened and she asked me who Dr. Gross is. I told her he is a gastroenterologist older than me, she didn't say anything, and told me, well, let's go to the hotel, the wife of the president of the community told us offered a hotel with a discount for being from the community also take us, and food for what we could not say no, we got into the double cabin van and left for Masaya, together with Proffesor Parfitt sat down, and on the other side my daughter, he began to talk to me and asked me many questions, , but I did not ask him who he was. We stopped at the craft market then at the hammock factory where he bought a hammock, all the way to the hotel Proffesor Parfitt talked with me about Judaism in Nicaragua. We arrived at the hotel and Proffesor Parfitt. arrived at the apartment that had been assigned to us, and the truth is that I was so tired that all I wanted was to sleep, he looked towards the apartment in front, and said oh well we are neighbors, I am there pointing with the finger, the wife of the president of the community does not speak English, and we were talking when Proffesor Parfitt arrived again, he had two books in his hands, he gave one to me, and the other to the president of the community, I held the book and I began to read the title, then I leafed through, and time stopped at that moment, the night before the trip to Granada I had seen a documentary on the Indiana Jones of England on the History Channel, it was a research professor who was looking for the ark of the alliance, I couldn't believe it and I looked at the book and couldn't get over my astonishment. All that time I had been talking to the writer, and I told myself I wish I hadn't said nothing bad, I looked at him, and with great astonishment I told him you are the writer, with a smile on his face he said, yes I am, I think his smile was because of my surprised face, I told him last night I saw a documentary about you, and look what by chance today I'm talking to you I told him come in, and we continued talking, we sat in the hotel room, and while I was looking at the book I found the word chibuku I asked him what it is, he told me you don't want to try it, it's a pretty strong drink that the lembas made from fermented wheat, then I told him about the Lembas and he said do you know something about the Lembas, and then I smiled and told him yes I was just in NY, and I had dinner with the leader of the Lemba community and attended the conference that he gave, The writer could not believe that I knew about the subject, later I read that he had found the ark of the alliance, I looked at him and asked him, and do you really found the ark of the alliance, he smiled and told me you have to read the book so that you know. I promess him I'll read it, be sure of that. He retired to his room, and I couldn't believe that I had been talking to such a famous character.

We were so tired that we decided to take a nap, more night they knocked on my door, was one of the hotel workers, they asked me to come to the restaurant to have dinner with them. Professor Parfit asked me to go he was writing a book and apparently wanted to talk to me. I arrived at the hotel restaurant, the professor was sitting at the head of the table, I was on his right and in front of Bonita the rabbi's wife and the other people, we started the conversation, he was interested in knowing my story, and the story of a group that wanted or claimed to be called Jews.

After dinner we went to the weddings, there would be 4 weddings, we got ready and arrived at the house of the president of the community who is right there in the hotel, they had arranged the jupa, and there were many seats, inside the room there was a table where the ketubas will be signed, the brides were waiting in a hotel room, one by one they arrived, the guests began to arrive, a very happy atmosphere was felt, it was a blessing to have so many weddings, most of those who accompanied the wedding were not Jews and they were curious to see a Jewish wedding, Dr. Gross appeared in a very elegant suit. I was sitting with my daughter, and one of the members of the community came and told me, Dr.Gross, comes prepared in case someone dares to get married. with him, we smiled.

The ceremonies began with the call of the first couple, it began with the 7 laps around the groom after the blessings, and ended with the cup that is broken in memory of the sacred temple, one by one the brides were brought to the room from the room for Verónica the wife of the president of the community.

At the end of the ceremonies, a buffet dinner began. It was very interesting 4 weddings, during the whole ceremony Professor Tudor Parfitt took photos and took notes, the professor would have a lot to write about.

That night we went to bed super tired, the next day we got up very early in the morning my daughter was dressed in white she looked very pretty we went to the hotel restaurant, there the other people were waiting for us, while we had breakfast we talked with each other, we finished breakfast, and Professor Parfitt invited us to accompany him on a tour of the city of Granada and Masaya, it was an honor to be with such a famous character, we were accompanied by a translator and guide. Our first stop was at the Jewish cemetery in Granada, it is a small space inside the city cemetery, there are a few Jewish graves, after that we went to the tobacco house at the entrance there were photos of famous people that had visited it, in the interior part of the colonial house where the cigar factory operated, there was a large mural of the exodus, which caught our attention, they explained to us how cigars are made, they gave us the opportunity to try making them, I remember my grandmother, she bought tobacco and made her own cigars, in the patio of the cigar factory there was a large macaw or scarlet macaw, it spoke very loudly, they told us it was very friendly, and they placed it in our arms and we took pictures, it was An interesting tour, the teacher bought a box of cigars, from there we went to the sale of leather handbags that the president of the community has, there the teacher bought another leather hat, my daughter bought something.

Our next stop was the guitar factory, we arrived and they told us that the owner was an American who married a Nicaraguan, they showed several guitars so he ended up buying one for 300 dls. We left for Masaya, the car the one in which we were transported was a very old taxi, I think it was the worst you could get in Nicaragua, the seats were broken, the doors no longer had their linings, the driver was a thin man but very kind, we arrived in Masaya at the market of handicrafts, there we made the first stop, we bought some souvenirs, and we went to the Masaya volcano, it was a difficult stop to miss, before going up to the volcanoWe went to the museum of the volcano, they warned us that due to the emanation of toxic gases we could not stay more than 10 minutes on the edge of the crater, this volcano is known as the door to hell, you can see the crater and the lava. This was the second time that I visited it, and I told my daughter that the first time I went was in high school, I remember that I almost fell into the crater, at that time the only protection was chains I held on to the chain, and they gave way, but my friends managed to grab me and I saved from falling into the crater. I always told this story as a lesson so that they don't get too close to the crater.

We took many photos next to the crater, profesor Parfitt was very surprised and said it was one of the places he liked the most.

Back in Granada before returning to the hotel we went to the great lake of Nicaragua.

It was an honor to have been with Professor Parffit in Granada, especially reading his book left me a great task, and that for me would be the beginning of a great adventure.

11 Avril 2023 18:16 0 Rapport Incorporer Suivre l’histoire
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