Identity Shrouded in Mystery, Princess and Expert at Odds
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Identity Shrouded in Mystery, Princess and Expert at Odds

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Her Royal Highness, Rassari Heshla Tamanya, by her own admission, is an Ethiopian princess, a first counsin of Emperor Haile Selassie and a Falasha, that is, an Abyssinian Hebrew.

After interviewing her (as who isn’t doing these days), we compared notes with an Ethiopian expert of the American Pro-Falasha Committee. A number of discrepancies appeared.

Of course, we have implicit faith that Her Royal Highness is telling the truth. Certainly, we wouldn’t believe that the splurge of publicity she is getting has anything to do with her aspirations to be a singer. But we would like her, if possible, to clear up the following mysteries and show that our expert, who spent thirty years in Ethiopia, doesn’t know what he is talking about:

Her Royal Highness says there is no uniform language of the Falashas, that some tribes speak Hebrew, others Arabic. Our expert said that none speak Arabic and that a handful of people have a smattering of Hebrew.

The Princess asserts there is a great synagogue in Addis Ababa, the capital of Abyssinia. Our expert says there is no such thing.

The Falashas use the ritual philacteries (tfilin), according to Her Highness. Our expert laughs at that idea.

In Ethiopia, we learned, one gets his name by using the first name of his father preceded by a given name. Thus, if the name of the princess’s father was Yokob, as she claims, his daughter’s name should be Heshla Yokob. But it isn’t.


While being interviewed, Her Highness remarked, “Colly horib,” which she explained was Abyssinian for “Everybody will go to war.” The expert, who has written a number of books in Abyssinian, said that the quotation was not in that language. It sounded more like Arabic to him.

Her Royal Highness called her father Ras Yokob Hyllu, her mother Fatma Hyllu and her brother Ras Hammid Hyllu. First off, our expert said the brother’s name should be Hammid Yokob, after his father. Besides, he said, Yokob, Fatma and Hammid are not Ethiopian names and that the latter two are distinctly Arabic.

Ras is an Ethiopian office equivalent to cabinet minister. Our expert declared he knows of every ras in recent years and that there never were any named Yokob Hyllu and Hammid Hyllu.

He also maintained Her Royal Highness’s features were distinctly un-Falasha after examining a number of good close-up photos of her.

The Princess said the religion of Ethiopia is predominantly Mohammedan. Our expert (and he was backed by the Encyclopedia Britannica) that Ethiopia adheres to the Coptic religion, a form of Christianity.

On our own account, we discovered a few things that would bear explaining:


When we entered the reception room to interview Her Royal Highness, we found her closeted in apparently friendly conversation with Sufi Abdul Hamid, the “black Hitler of Harlem,” who last year led a campaign against the Jews. And the Princess a Hebrew? Tut, tut.

One of her counselors represented himself as the Moorish consul here. As a matter of fact, we learned, Morocco has no consul here.

Chappie Gardner, the manager and press agent of the princess (who told one reporter he heads the Ethiopian Press Association and another that he heads the Ethiopian Press Syndicate), refused to show any credentials for Her Royal Highness. He became highly indignant when asked for them.

Of course, all this should be construed as casting no reflection on Her Serene Highness. They are just little things which we are sure she can explain away with ease, squelching any foolish disbelievers.

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