Interestingly, the greatest legend in Beta Israel annals, after the famous meeting between Queen Sheba and King Solomon, revolves around a woman, Queen Judith, variously known as Yodit, Gudit … Esther, Esato (=fire), Ga’wa and Tirda Gabaz. The Scottish explorer James Bruce, in his Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, describes how the beautiful queen Judith, queen [sic] of the Beta Israel, single-handedly overthrew Christianity [sic] and eliminated most of the Solomonic royal dynasty [sic] based at Aksum. In its place, she established a Jewish dynasty, which ruled for several generations (Bruce 1790 :451–453).
Researchers have pointed to the similarities and differences between the two great Beta Israel legends mirrored in Ethiopian Christian history, of the Queen of Sheba and Queen Judith (Kaplan 1992). Both women were perceived to be extremely powerful royal figures. Both were depicted as converts to Judaism. Both led the Jews against the evil Christians; both were considered to be victorious. However, while according to the Ethiopian text Kebra Negest, the Queen of Sheba established the Solomonic dynasty by having relations with King Solomon against her will, Queen Judith is depicted as the one who destroyed that same lineage. According to Salamon: “The Jewish woman leader in Ethiopia [sic] may symbolize… the potential for power castration of the dominant group at the hands of the minority” (1999:127 fn.10).