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Issue 19

Arts and Letters

Wellspring of Peace

Understanding Ethiopia's Tigray War

Martin Plaut and Sarah Vaughan
Hurst, pp. 392, $34.95


In the icon I brought back from Adwa, Tekle Haymanot stands on his left leg, his arms cradling a cross and a Bible, his body flanked and canopied by wings. His right leg sits in the foreground by itself. It looks like he’s removed the leg on purpose, in order to shock us with its display, not unlike my middle-school shop teacher, who would detach his prosthesis and wave it in the air whenever we stopped paying attention.

It is said that Tekle Haymanot was so devoted to God that he spent years continuously praying while standing up. This angered Satan, and so he took Tekle Haymanot’s right leg. The monk barely noticed and went on praying on just his left leg—planning even to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from Debre Damo, an ancient Ethiopian monastery in the Tigray region. This too angered Satan, and so, when Tekle Haymanot began his descent from Debre Damo, whose high plateau is accessible only by rope, Satan cut the line.

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Daniel Luttrull

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