Honouring the Ethiopian Community in Israel


11 July 2008 Honouring the Ethiopian Community in Israel The Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert together with other ministers, community leaders and dignitaries including World ORTs Director General Robert Singer joined more than 2,500 members of the Ethiopian community in Israel in an evening of music and celebration. The event was organised jointly by the Prime Ministers Office, the Ministry of Absorption, the Ministry responsible for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Israel, World ORT, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the Yona Bogale Foundation. As part of Israels 60th birthday celebrations, the event was themed to celebrate both 60 years of Zionist activity within the Ethiopian Jewish community and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Yona Bogale, the charismatic, pioneering Ethiopian Jewish leader often referred to as the Ethiopian Theodor Herzl who worked so hard on behalf of his people and did so much to assist their Aliyah to Israel. The audience at Biyanei HaOomah were treated to a pageant of traditional and modern music and dance as well as special video presentations and speeches in Amharic and Hebrew, including an address by Prime Minister Olmert. Participating in the event were a number of members of Yona Bogales family including his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. In recognition of the years in which Yona Bogale spent in Ethiopia prior to being allowed to come to Israel, he was posthumously awarded the title of Prisoner of Zion, and a certificate marking this was presented to his family. ‘On the wings of a dove’. In his remarks to the audience, Robert Singer Director General of World ORT noted that this year also marks the 50th anniversary of ORTs involvement with the Ethiopian Jewish community, an unbroken relationship that began in 1958 when, following a request by the then President of Israel, Yitzchak Ben Zvi, World ORT sent two representatives to Ethiopia on an historic fact finding mission that included a meeting with Emperor Heile Selassie. ORTs representatives were indebted to Yona Bogale who travelled with them into the depths of the country and introduced them to the community and its leaders. This mission led eventually to ORTs ground breaking educational work among the Beta Yisrael community in the Gondar province of Ethiopia. Robert Singer reaffirmed World ORTs commitment to the Ethiopian Jewish community and pledged to continue to provide educational opportunities, helping its young members to acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable them to fully participate in all aspects of life in Modern Israel. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Robert Singer. On the organising committee for the event was Rony Kalinsky, Head of the World ORT Representative Office in Israel, who had been actively involved in absorbing Ethiopian immigrants while serving in the IDF in the early 1990s. He said: My enthusiasm for this work was re-ignited when, following a briefing on World ORT that I gave at the ministry of education, one of the senior ministry staff took me aside to tell me how her life had been changed when, as a young girl, she had attended an ORT school in Gondar. Because of her eagerness to learn, her parents took the courageous decision to allow her to continue her studies, which led to her Aliyah and a successful career. All due to ORT, she said. Mayor of Kiryat Yam and World ORT Board of Representatives member Shmuel Sisso was also an honoured guest at the event. He said This has been one of the most emotional events that I have attended relating to the Ethiopian community. It demonstrates how through the help of organisations such as World ORT, we are beginning to ensure that the community becomes recognised as an integral and significant element of Israeli society Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balili, MK Shlomo Mula, Chaimon Goldberg, Robert Singer, Deputy Director General of Ministry of Absorption, Hanoch Tzamir and Rony Kalinsky. NOTE: In the late 1970s World ORT established 19 schools for the Jewish community in Ethiopia, employing hundreds of teachers and educating thousands of students. Synagogues were built in 10 Jewish villages, and training programs were developed; to help the religious community leaders and one to train Hebrew teachers. Two health centres were opened, in Ambober and Tedda, and medical teams travelled to villages to service the needs of the more remote Jewish communities. World ORT also helped farmers to borrow funds to purchase seeds, tools, and livestock in order to help them to become self-sufficient. Following Operations Moses, Joshua and Solomon, when the Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel, World ORT provided education and training opportunities for many of the new immigrants Today, projects include a joint programme with the Ethiopian National Project that brings advanced science and technology education to scores of young people in Beer Sheva; work in the youth villages of Kadoorie and Kfar Chassidim to help youngsters at risk to improve their chances of integrating into Israeli society; investment in the education system and Ethiopian Heritage Centre in Kiryat Yam, home to 3,000 citizens of Ethiopian origin; and the Adir BaMarom programme, which helps young people both to learn about their Jewish heritage and to acquire technical skills that will help them to serve in the technical units of the IDF and subsequently to obtain well paid employment.