chapter  8
23 Pages

The Struggle for Recognition

Cunningham, and from the west, from Er Roseires, by a much smaller force commanded by Colonel Orde Wingate, who was accompanied by the emperor. By one of those odd quirks of fate it seems to have been decreed that the thrust along the Blue Nile valley should be led by that brilliant and dedicated Christian Zionist who never ceased to demand the establishment of a Jewish army to join the Allied war effort. Though it is probably safe to say that he was unaware of the historical connection, as he led his column into the Agau country south of Lake Tana, Wingate was almost certainly following one of the routes by which the Jewish religion entered Ethiopia in the far-off days of the Axumite empire. It was also the ancient caravan route which carried gold from Fazugli, near Roseires, and ivory from Sennar in the days when the overland track was used to bring merchandise to Adulis on the Red Sea coast. This may have been the gold land ofHavilah of Hebrew mythology, watered by the raging Sambatyon river, 1 surely a reference to the swirling Blue Nile racing through its mile-deep gorge. When, by a series of dashing exploits, reminiscent of his distant kinsman T. E. Lawrence (whom he did not admire), Wingate secured the passage for the Emperor to regain his throne, little did he seem to have realised that his contingent, called Gideon Force after his favourite biblical hero, bore the name of the last Jewish king in Ethiopia. Nevertheless, it was perhaps as well that he was unaware of the damage which the Amharic dynasty of the line of Solomon had inflicted on the Jewish population. Although Wingate went out of his way to enlist

Palestinian Jews to serve in Gideon Force there appears to be no evidence that he was conscious of the existence of a native Jewish population in the country he was liberating. In a military sense Wingate's previous experience in Palestine proved invaluable for he applied the lessons learnt from his special night squads with devastating effect in the guerrilla war he fought against the Italians, as he did again when he led the Chindits in Burma. Politically and emotionally his service in Palestine had left an indelible mark, with the result that, as Christopher Sykes has written, 'throughout the whole of the [Ethiopian] campaign, and in the period immediately after it, Wingate never lost sight of his ultimate aim; to achieve an overwhelming personal success which he could put to the service of Zion. This did not mean that his devotion to the Ethiopian cause was qualified, but that he found himself ardently devoted to two causes which he saw as closely related'/ namely, Judea for the Jews and Ethiopia for the Ethiopians.