Saturday, November 7, 2009

New Blogger, New Perspectives

My name is Sam Blake, and I'm currently studying abroad from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  I was given the opportunity to intern at the Ethiopian National Project this year, and my primary role will be writing about my experience in the youth centers and various ENP projects for this blog and other media outlets.

My first true experience with the ENP was a trip with the project's director, Grace Rodnitzki, to a youth center in Petach Tikvah, a suburb of Tel Aviv.  Grace explained there was to be an American tour group coming to learn about the project and see it in action; this was important, she went on, largely because many of these people would be connected to various American Jewish organizations which provide funding crucial to the ENP's success.  It was a great first opportunity for me to learn about the organization I would be contributing to for my time in Israel.  

Along the 45-minute-ish drive from Jerusalem, Grace explained the project's purpose and goals.  I'd known about the phenomenon of an almost-mysterious faction of Ethiopian Jews emigrating to Israel, but in my lifetime it was hardly more than that – simply a phenomenon.  Now I was learning, and would soon see, the true, human element of this phenomenon which the ENP graciously and purposefully brings to the fore.  The ENP, I discovered, had a mission.  This mission was to improve the ongoing quest of the tens-of-thousands of Ethiopians living in Israel to assimilate and integrate into the culture while still maintaining pride in their own.  But how to do this?  By reaching out primarily to the youthful 13-18 age range, offering social and educational opportunities, with the ultimate goal that such efforts won't be needed in the future.  I was indeed excited to arrive to the one-of-22 youth centers across the nation and see the project in action.  

Grace and I arrived about an hour before the tour-group did, and I took the opportunity to explore the youth center.  I first saw a playful and rowdy group of children energetically running about outside on the paved basketball court, with the refreshingly carefree aura only children playing can bring.  Moving inside the two-story building, I met the two leaders of the center, Eli Melech and Meir.  I would soon learn they had come from Ethiopia in the 1984 Operation Moses, following an epic journey from shepherd-life in Ethiopia through the dangerous Sudanese desert (please check out our website,, for a detailed account of this journey).  I saw the rooms filled with flat-screen computers, the big-screen television, the cultural music-room; I saw the walls lined with school-papers marked with high grades and group photos with smiling faces chronicling tastes of what the ENP can offer.  Soon enough, the group arrived, and the interaction to follow was touching and momentous.  

There I saw two cultures from essentially opposite ends of the spectrum collide.  The subsequent smiles on the children's faces and the keen intrigue and joy of the American guests during the Q&A (from both sides) interaction told the story.  The phenomenon of the Ethiopian plight unfolded and became real before their, as well as my own, eyes, through the endearing means of the youthful and warmhearted teens who sat with us.  It wasn't long before the older group was doing their best to keep up with the Ethiopian cultural dance that was so patiently and proudly taught by the youth.  At times what was discussed didn't evoke the most pleasant of feeling, such as Eli Melech's recount (eloquently translated from Hebrew-to-English by Grace) of his desert journey, but such moments too illuminated the cause for which the ENP stands.  The time went by quickly, and it seemed like I'd only just arrived that the group dispersed and it was time to head back to Jerusalem.  As I made my way out of the youth center, multiple Ethiopian children playfully chatted with me, as they'd seemingly gradually warmed up to the idea of my presence.  It was not only a nice opportunity to practice my Hebrew, but a touching moment, one which brought the whole notion of what the ENP seeks to do to an even more personal and true level.  I left eager to return and learn and see more about these fascinating, real, and tremendous lifestyles and stories.  

**A shout-out to the Jewish Federation of the Greater Houston area, sister-city of Petakh Tikva and integral in the running of the ENP youth center there**

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Goodbye Judy, Blog Post #8

Best part of today: meeting with and saying a sweet goodbye to Dagitu and Baush! After finishing the book, In God's Name, we answered the questions of who the characters were, what was the problem, and what was the solution. In this particular story, every character had a different name for God. They finally came together, saw each other's reflections, and called God the name One. The girls loved the illustrations and the idea that each person can think of God differently, AND that they could come together.

We shared snacks and addresses, took pictures, and wished we could continue. I gave them each a phrase book, telling them they should study it! Daily! They know English is useful and important to know, even as they devote some of their time this summer to studying Amharic and Mathematics. What touched me most was a beautiful letter they had written, which they read to me, thanking me for volunteering to help them with English. What lovely young people, who cared enough to acknowledge my work! It was, like the book we read, a reflection of what I tried to do.

The boys, alas, did not show up for their last lesson, so they missed out on the treats, lyrics, and phrase books, but as my friend Bob Carroll reminded me, "Education is the belief in the possible." I wish them well.

Thank you so much to Frayda Leibtag and Grace Rodnitzki of the ENP for making these special volunteer opportunities possible. Good luck, also, to Yisraela of the Jerusalem Gymnasia, with your study for the bagruyot.

My wish for ENP is that you can continue this critically important work. Kol tuv, perhaps we will meet again next summer!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Judy in Israel, Blog Post #7

"You Are Not Alone" was the subject of today's lesson, another song. This was more of a traditional love song. We then switched to a book called Elijah's Angel, the story of a friendship between an African-American Christian man and a Jewish boy. Avi joined us--hooray! He has an excellent command of Hebrew's nuances, so he can better understand shades of meaning in English. What a pleasure. Perhaps this is due to his schooling. He is very bright!

Something I noticed is that Elias pays attention to the names of the authors and illustrators of the books I bring in. In this particular case, the illustrator had a very long name. Avi laughed and remarked how that would be a challenging name to write on one's te'udat zehut--certificate of identification.

The book referenced American black slavery and the Underground Railroad.

Tomorrow we will finish the book and say goodbye, with the help of Stevie Wonder lyrics.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Judy in Israel, Blog Post #6

7/15 Song lyrics are powerful teaching tools. I've known this for as long as I've been a student of the Torah. And American song lyrics even have their place in education, as evidence by the great interest my students here have had in We Are The World. They have asked for other lyrics as well.

Today I was intrigued to see some new faces sitting down at the table. It seems that the English teacher (or the chance to learn English) is interesting, and the regulars bring someone new to meet me, check me out, see what the fuss is about. So I met Trngo, and Bobeh. Trngo seemed to feel that there was not much I could teach her, quickly taking a pen and writing words down faster than her friend could. Though hesitant to read out loud, she finally joined in. She seemed impatient with me, finding the story illogical. It was challenging. However, Dagitu hung in there, and was able to address the results and solutions to problems in the narrative.

The boys: Again, they were not to be found. I was so discouraged by this. But on my way out, one asked if we were to have our lesson today, and so we did! With him came Bobeh, an older fried, who is a security guard. Bobeh seemed genuinely interested in our lesson, which moved from song lyrics to belief and faith. Even Shulamit, one of the day camp staff members and non-Ethiopian, joined us. We also talked about the dangers of smoking, which they do daily.

I was so glad the day ended well (despite the cigarette smoke).

7/16 Today, Trngo did not return. Perhaps there was nothing she felt she could learn from me. But the other two girls were excited to study and write down many new words. We also discussed the importance of recycling and the dangers of littering and use of styrofoam (very topical given our study environment--they also feel bad when i wipe down a neglected table, explaining that in their culture, and adult should not have to do this. I explained that at my school in California, the teachers clean up after themselves.) They truly want to continue!

I get a kick out of their use of Amharic as their secret language.

Judy in Israel, Blog Post #5

7/9 I shared a book with Dagitu and Bayush this morning about Pesach (Passover) around the world. The section on Ethiopians was somewhat interesting to them, though it describes the world of their parents and grandparents more than theirs. They were excited to see the map yet had not idea how to read it. They were most interested in the recipe that accompanies each chapter, though the one described was nothing they had eaten. It used matza meal, which they did not understand/have a context for. Yet, they did recognize noog, an Ethiopian sesame seed paste that they love. They still enjoy some native foods, which are available here, along with the pots in which to cook them. They celebrate Pesach like more modern Israelis, complete with an egg and a Haggada. They were less knowledgeable about traditional Ethiopian ways of observing it.

2 boys didn’t show…2 did and one did not like the lesson, which began with a discussion on racism. Elias felt that people are people, no matter where they are. He seems to have encountered some uncomfortable stuff. He insisted we speak English whenever we lapsed into Hebrew. I took out a book on MLK Jr., whom he was aware of. How did he know about him?, I asked. He says he learns everything from TV since he has no books. He asked me for books. He appreciated and agreed with the message of non-violence for bringing about change.

Later that evening, I had a brief conversation with Meir, the fruit man. After hearing about what I was doing in Jerusalem, he commented that Israelis have no compassion for the Ethiopians.

7/10 I always learn new Hebrew words from my students. But today I learned that Ethiopians have opinions about Arabs. The local, more informal “shmatte man,” I guess, was making his rounds. I learned this because I heard something being said over a loudspeaker, repeatedly. I asked what it was, and I was told, “Those Arabs…”what a sorry cycle of prejudice.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Judy in Israel, Blog Post #4

The topic of one of my sessions today was the meaning of the following song:

Title: Michael Jackson - We Are the World lyrics

There comes a time
When we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And it's time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all

We can't go on
Pretending day by day
That someone, somewhere will soon make a change
We are all a part of
God's great big family
And the truth, you know love is all we need

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

Send them your heart
So they'll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stone to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

When you're down and out
There seems no hope at all
But if you just believe
There's no way we can fall
Well, well, well, well, let us realize
That a change will only come
When we stand together as one

Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, the ideas in the song seem just as relevant. The girls were intrigued that proceeds from the sales (~$63 million dollars) were used for USA for Africa, to help with drought and famine relief there.

Themes of caring for others is really caring for ourselves, and making the changes you want to see seemed meaningful for them. Also, the idea of being part of G-d's family being created b'tzelem E-lohim, in the image of G-d, no matter who or where you are was powerful.

Thank you, Michael. Your words inspired young Ethiopians today.

Judy in Israel, Blog Post #3

Today: down to the business of figuring out a story's characters, problem, solution. Probably the challenge of every language learner to --you get the content but can't communicate well about it because you don't have the vocabulary.

One girl asked for Michael Jackson's song about feeding the hungry.. if we can read and translate it.

Our books have included Sandy Sasso's In God's Name, and a book called Stellaluna, about a bat who has to accommodate to life with birds. I chose these because of their themes of variety and tolerance, acceptance of difference and even embracing those differences, teaching each other.

A bit more...

A classroom I work in seems to be in the "school's over, what a mess" stage... a few doors down is a clean, state of the art computer lab! So I cleaned up and set up my room, and I was all set to use it and visit the computer room when I discovered a few things--

-only one student of my group of 4 had shown up and did not want to have our class alone, so he left.
-the others had left earlier.
-the building needed to be locked due to vagaries of who is in charge of the building on certain days.

The frustrations of truancy and bureaucracy were present today...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Judy in Israel, Blog Post #2

Judy's experiences in Israel continue…

7/7 Today was a day for Hop on Pop, just for me to get a sense of what I was dealing with. The girls felt successful with this! It is hard to believe coming from the States, that HS girls were finding Dr. Seuss so interesting. I was truly afraid of insulting them, but they really enjoyed it. I also showed them how I use the Internet, which was rather foreign to them. I thought it might be a great tool for furthering their English reading ability. They seem to live in a kind of bubble of poverty and ignorance in some ways. One student didn’t come simply because she hadn’t the money for bus fare that day.

7/8 The day began with Yisraela, who walked from Armon HaNatziv to German Colony to study with me, a good 40 minutes. It was wonderful to sit with her in Café Hillel, soaking up the mellow jazz, enjoying a great pastry and coffee, and working with this super-motivated young woman. The topic: CD reviews. It wasn’t all that difficult, and she stuck with it. We spent a great 1.5 hours together. She is hesitant to do this work without me, though I encourage her to.

My next 2 students tried Cat in the Hat, a book that has a more easy to follow narrative than Hop on Pop. It was brand new to them. English is so full of idiomatic language that it can be very frustrating! The lack of consistency is maddening.

Our conversation wandered between why some people don’t’ have computer access, to the challenges of motherhood they see their moms dealing with, to their own fears about it. They seem to want to work outside the home, though have no idea in what. They are curious, lovely people who could go far, if given the tools! We also touched upon how American Jews feel about Israel, issues of support and opinion both here and abroad. They are very supportive and it is hard for them to understand why others might not always be. We also tried to define clearly what the difference is between a state and a country. The US is so large that it is hard for them to grasp relative sizes of places. Additionally, we touched upon Gush Katif and issues of upheaval. They knew about that firsthand.

They were interested in “miracle stories,” stories of heroism during military operations. They told me of the Rachel Imenu legend, which they found fascinating, and for them it is true. (

The hardest part of today with them was hearing about their parents, some of whom came here as professionals but now work as house cleaners…they are too tired by days’ end to study Hebrew, the key to their professional success. It seems like a vicious cycle.. I guess I am feeling strongly about Israel’s struggles to take care of this population—if we brought them then we surely must. But the pie seems cut into such slivers….I felt very sad for this situation. I continue to be so pleased however, that they greet me with a smile daily, and are truly trying.

Finally, today I met with 4 boys, ages 14-20. They were a lot of fun! They love and sing American music, are very curious about America, and have fine reading and comprehension skills. They want to learn CURSIVE! I explained that this is not as popular in America anymore with the advent of keyboarding, but they said it is so beautiful that they must know it. They also wanted comprehension questions on some literature. The only books I had with me were the Cat in The Hat I had used earlier in the day. These lads were familiar with it from the movie or series (?). Again, I felt awful for not having something more age-appropriate, but they jumped right in. I asked them many comprehension questions and they were strong. We decided to divide our time between conversation, reading, writing, and comprehension skills. They were so thankful, so active, and very joyful with each other. They found me pretty funny, way too ignorant about anything related to rap and hip-hop (they don’t know my music at all), and overall very entertaining! One admitted to struggling with drugs and alcohol, and missing the last 2 years of high school. He is past the army but has no money for university. He’d like to travel. They all work at a day camp, one goes to a Reform Jewish school, and one seemed Jewishly knowledgeable with strong opinions about gender roles. One knew that that were all kinds of Jews in America and Israel, and seemed fine with that. They are disappointed that my time is limited here. So am I. I feel I should do so much for these boys, who are so eager to learn and grow. They found their way into my heart very quickly.

Judy Massarano in Israel

ENP's newest volunteer in Israel is Judy Massarano, an English teacher from Berkeley, California who came to Israel for the express purpose of volunteering with ENP. Judy is volunteering in Jerusalem and sharing her vast teaching experience with ENP youth. Her blog posts are written in a free-style, stream writing format. ENP hopes that Judy will inspire you to come volunteer with us here in Israel as well!

6/28-29 Early impressions
I always wanted to volunteer and specifically, learn about this population. Earlier trips had been as a student, then 22 years later as a tourist, then as an educator with a group looking at how Israel is taught in America, then finally as a chaperone for an 8th grade school trip. it was time to give back.

I met 3 girls, Azanash, Menna, and Merdana, all in 9th grade, all wanting to become more successful English speakers. They seemed typical in some ways, but have less affect than most teenage girls, either American or Israeli that I know. They listen to music, are interested in sports, animals. I was sad to learn that they are on the outside, that is, due to their color and questioned Jewish status, it is less common for them to be seen integrating with the indigenous Israeli girls. That made me so very sad.

They struggle, less with Hebrew, of course, but with English to an advanced degree.

Today I met two more students, Dagitu and Ba(y)ush...

7/5/09 Today I met with 4 Ethiopian teenage girls, with beautiful names and faces. They were all eager to learn, some more shy than others to try out their English with me. We spoke for a few minutes before reviewing letters, words, numbers, colors, and body parts. I asked them various questions. i had spent Shabbat in Beit Shemesh, where I noticed that in the predominantly Ashkenazi synagogue, a good number of Ethiopian women sat together yet did not participate, due, I was told, to their inability to speak Hebrew. "They pray in their hearts," said one girl, "or even in Amharic. They listen!" This same girl wondered about America, and acceptance of Jews. She pointed out that here, she stands out as Ethiopian, there she stood out as a Jew. Where does she fit?

Another girl asked, "What is a nigger?" The others knew this meant "kooshi." I asked where she had heard such a word. She said that young children here called her that. She was not upset by it, but I was very upset. I explained how that word is usually used as a terribly insulting name--they understood that to mean a kind of curse word. They wanted some background as to my own strong reaction. I told her how wrong it was to use a word that was used in the States to belittle a person of color.

2 others, very joyful girls I saw today also asked about America, and could anyone go there-- was it free in that way? I said, mostly... They then said they miss Ethiopia sometimes and still remember it, though life here is alright. They still have some family there. Their parents miss it more than they. They asked about the driving age in the States, and why it was so young. They hope to drive some day but realize it's a big responsibility. They help their parents with English, but difficult English is beyond them, too. They asked, "Why don't you live here?," as in, isn't this the obvious choice for a Jew?

They strike me as trying to sort out their own feelings. One plans to study medicine, and knows that English is key.

This afternoon I briefly met the boys whom I hope to study with. There are 3, who seemed interested and ready to work with me. We will begin on Wednesday.

Yitzchak, my contact person, met me at Matnas Lazarus in Talpiot. I learned that he gives psychological support to teens who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse, etc. I had many questions--he said the boys felt fairly accepted, but he reflected on the Ethiopian experience in response to my questions about their absorption. he discussed the various airlifts and how each time the experience was different. Earlier groups felt welcomed though culturally there was a divide. But this generation struggles with their status as Falash Mura, so they must go through a 3 year process of conversion in order to gain equal rights. Additionally, the 'tainted blood' episode for him personally, was scandalizing and painful.

These are a brave people, in a country struggling to help so many.

7/6 Thank you, you’re welcome, and bruchim ha’ba’im…English is very confusing! I learned that in their synagogue, tefila is done twice, once in Amharic, once in Ivrit, as the generations form one community. Will they hold onto the Amharic? I met Yisraela, super-motivated, we bought bagrut practice books. She is in a modern family, who ‘left behind’ all of the traditions, she said. We worked about 2 solid hours.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"This Journey Called My Life"

ENP intern Tamara Maltiel recently attended an ENP mission at the ENP Rehovot Youth Outreach Center. Below is her account of her experience:

On a recent mission to Rehovot’s Outreach Center, I was talking to a group of teenage girls who frequent the center. I asked them what they like to study and one mentioned that she liked to sing. She told me that the girls had all made a singing group together and wrote their own songs. It didn’t take much to get the girls to agree to give us an impromptu performance. The song I heard was so much more than what I expected. Not only was it musically beautiful, but the lyrics were obviously incredibly meaningful to the girls as they sang. It was a song about trying so hard to reach your goals. One verse says, “I need to aim higher or be more certain of myself/So that I don’t give up, even if it’s hard/I’ll push myself uphill until I’ve tasted success.” The song also talks about relying on oneself to have the strength to make it through life.

High school is normally a challenging time. It’s a time of trying to define who you are, who your friends are, and what your goals are, and taking classes on top of everything. These girls have the additional challenge of trying to balance their Ethiopian and Israeli identities.

The song has a beautiful message of bringing yourself up even if you fall. It uses the sun as a metaphor; every evening it loses its strength and stops shining, but every morning it brings itself up to try again.

The song lyrics:

I’m dreaming about reaching there
Maybe another step, and maybe this is early
I want to see the light at the peak
Meanwhile I am alone on the ground

I always hoped that the day would arrive, always
I aspired in hope to fulfill the dream
I wanted to realize the endless desire
I didn’t ask anyone because I knew the journey was entirely mine
And I knew that if I want to succeed
I need to aim higher or promise myself
Not to give up, yes, yes, yes, even if it’s hard
To push myself upward until I’ve tasted success

I’m dreaming about reaching there
Maybe another step, and maybe this is early
I want to see the light at the peak
Meanwhile I am alone on the ground

And even if I fall I know
So get up and stand on my own two feet
I won’t close my eyes, and I’ll try again
To move forward in this journey called my life
Like a journey in the desert without water
Like the sun that loses itself in the nights
It slowly lost the strength
But every morning it brings itself up on its own two feet.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Terrie's Latest Adventures

I must say I have been very busy which I love! Last Monday, I went with Daniel from the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) to Beit Shemesh to paint apartments. We arrived and no one else was there. No supplies, and no one was home in the designated apartments. So, we waited, and waited and finally some people came and Daniel bought a weed eater and the yard was cleaned. I had to get back to Kiryat Malachi for a program that evening, so I left not having painted. I hear that the work was done later that day and the next day. That is all that mattered. (40 soldiers were supposed to lend a helping hand but had to cancel at the last minute due to a Civil Defense exercise that took place in Israel the next day. Other volunteers arrived after work.)

That evening, I had the opportunity to attend the dedication of 2 benches that the children from the Science Class had made with people who go to a club. They all have Cerebral Palsy. All 80 high schools in Israel are partnered with a club for disabled children or seniors. The purpose is to come up with a project in which all can participate. These kids and club members cleared a very weed full yard and put all of the garbage into car tires. The tires were on cinder blocks. Then, the tires were sealed with cement and painted. Voila, two beautiful benches now adorn the yard. Unbelievable. The parents, kids and even the Mayor attended the ceremony. I was very touched and think it was the most moving experience I have had in Israel. The interaction between the 9th graders and their new friends is genuine and sincere. A lot of barriers were overcome in order to make this wonderful program such a success. This is the third year that Sari, the Science teacher, and her students have done this. My hat is off to them.

I continue to work on Wednesday afternoons with the Enrichment Program for ENP. The kids are preparing for their English proficiency exam and that is the focus of our lesson. They are beginning to feel more comfortable speaking English, but writing is another thing. Their sentences tend to be very basic and repetitive. Sivan and I worked on "spicing" them up and including time words which is what the test readers will be looking for. I work with the same children during the day, so we know each other and I know what their assignment is. There is also a comfort level there and that is great! The girls are much more verbal and animated than the boys who are quite reserved.

I had a new experience last week! There was a drill with the siren all over Israel so that in case of an emergency, one would know what to do. Well, I was at the Day Care Center and 20 of us crammed into one office for ten minutes. The siren sounded like a low Shofar blast and lasted 30 seconds. I had no idea what to expect. I guess it is like a fire drill, but the women were talking about how it was a few months ago when a missile hit here and it was for real. This is taken very seriously as you can imagine!

Traveling continues to be included whenever there is time! I went with Chayim and Aliza to Eilat for Shabbat to be with their daughter, son-in-law and children. It was like being in Tucson but with a beach. It was 104 degrees and the water in the sea was cold! Oh, yes, but it is a dry heat! They live on the kibbutz on which their son-in-law grew up. His parents and 2 brothers still live there. There were 15 of us for Shabbat dinner. It was so wonderful being with so much family! I only wish my Hebrew were better so I could join in more of the conversation. The 3 brothers have been to the US numerous times so we could converse. It was a great weekend!

Shula, the high school English teacher with whom I work, took me to Ashdod Sunday evening. We walked on the beach and had coffee in a small cafe. It was really nice to be somewhere new and visit with her. Her family came to Israel in the 1930's from Iran. Yesterday, she had a meeting in Tel Aviv and I went with her. While she was in her meeting, I went to the Etzel and Jabotinski Museums and learned all about the Irgun, the Haganah, (the underground resistance fighters in Israel who helped oust the British) and Jabotinsky. From there to Shuk HaCarmel and to the Dizengoff Center's mall. It is 3 stores with 7 offshoots. It was huge!! Just nice to be somewhere new exploring.

Off to tutor! More adventures to follow, I am sure!

Love to you all,

ENP's work in Kiryat Malachi is supported by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and the Jewish Federation of Orange County.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Terrie in Kiryat Malachi

Terrie Sherman hails from Tucson Arizona. She is participating for the third year in the Partnership 2000 TIPS program. After meeting Grace and Nigist in Tucson, Terrie decided to volunteer with ENP in Kiryat Malachi. A teacher of English and special education for 30 years, Terrie is sharing her vast experience with ENP's students.

Where does time go? It seems to just fly away! I have been very busy and am doing some new things. I am with 7th and 8th graders at Amal 1 High School in an English class. They act the same as American 7th and 8th graders. They become very shy when I bring out my camera and do not want me to take pictures of them. We are working on past, present and future irregular verbs with 8th graders and physical attributes with the 7th graders. The kids understand and can speak much better than they write.

I am spending time each week helping Daniel, the volunteer coordinator of the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) improve his speaking in English. Daniel is working on an advanced degree and will be traveling to present the Project and needs to be more confident. We talked about his family (which is very small he says...8 children!), his education and upcoming wedding! I am very excited to be attending his wedding on June 18th. Tomorrow, I will go with Daniel to Beit Shemesh to an Ethiopian community and help paint. It should be a lot of fun!

I have begun volunteering on Wednesday afternoons as part of the ENP with enrichment. The program is from 2-5; with the boys from 2-3:30 and the girls from 3:30 - 5:00. Last week, they wanted to learn cursive. Sivan, the teacher, was very glad to have me there as I have mastered English cursive and she is challenged by it. The kids loved seeing words they knew in cursive, especially their names! We played hangman and they were very good at it. They chose categories and had to think of words that fit into the category given and spell it correctly. Quite a challenge!!

There was no work on Thursday as that evening was a holiday of the giving of the Torah. Everyone eats dairy and you know I love this holiday because I can eat everything! Aliza is wonderful chef as is her husband Chayim. We had pasta, lasagna, ravioli, tuna, lots of salads, many different kinds of cheese and when I thoughts we were finished, she brought out pizza, barakas stuffed with vegetables and stuffed mushrooms. I put a little of each food on my plate and she piles more on. You have to love her!

I have also spent time with Revaya, the 14 year old daughter of Sarah who runs the Ethiopian women's program I so dearly love. Revaya is a very bright young lady with much potential. She loves to talk in English so we do! Revaya wrote an excellent report on different cities to visit in the US and got pictures from a travel agency. She included the Grand Canyon because I live in Arizona. It is such a pleasure to talk with her. She is beyond her years.

Today, I spent some time with my dear friend Luci. I taught Luci English 2 years ago and we visited last year as well. Luci's sweet husband Rafi passed away 1 1/2 years ago, and she is now beginning to live again. Luci will begin English classes in October at the Center. I am going to help her with her English while I am here. Luci is THE BEST falafel maker in all of Israel, and I have tasted many!!

I have connected with the volunteer coordinator in Akko, Louisville's partnership community. They have a summer camp program for disabled kids in wheelchairs and I may be able to volunteer there for a week in July. Noah, the director, will get back with me. When I am there, I will be able to go to Haifa as well as Nehariya and see my family.

Love, hugs and peace,

Stay tuned for more blog posts from Terrie...
ENP's work in Kiryat Malachi is supported by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and the Jewish Federation of Orange County.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Youth of Arad

For many Americans, President Obama's inauguration was a special moment. It proved that who you are and what you strive for are far more important than race. To me, the theme "A New Birth of Freedom" was fitting and showed that everyone does have the freedom to reach his or her goals.

I watched Obama make his speech from a teen center in Arad called Tzelti. Tzelti is an afterschool center for Ethiopian teens-- a program of the Ethiopian National Project. As another American volunteer and I sat watching, completely glued to the screen, the teens came over to see what was so interesting. Although they knew of Obama and knew he had won, they didn't fully understand the importance to us.

We explained that history was being made. We told them that Obama's father had been an immigrant to the US. Obama had grown up a black man in a predominantly white nation. During his years living in Indonesia, he learned what it was like to feel different from the community around him. Despite the challenges, Obama succeeded and won the highest position in the nation.

We could see that what we said had an impact on the teenagers. They also were either immigrants themselves or their parents were immigrants to Israel and are growing up black in a predominantly white nation. In many cities, the Ethiopian community is detached from the outside community. The purpose of Tzelti is to provide an outlet for the teenagers to keep them out of trouble and help them succeed. As we all watched to speech together, I watched them understand the similarities between themselves and Obama. I saw them realize just how high they could reach.

The ENP Tzelti Youth Outreach Center in Arad is supported by the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ethiopian Youth in Gedera and Ramla

Everyday, Ethiopian students in Gedera get out of class in the early afternoon, and face the task of occupying themselves. At a loss for productive programming, some have chosen the less respectable road. However, thanks to ENP, there's the מרכז נוער, Youth Center, that opens at 4pm, and offers a spacious gaming room with a pool table and lounge chairs, a computer room where children can play computer games and browse, as well as athletic programs. The Center gets 100-130 students each day. I had conversations with a ninth grader and a twelfth grader, who described the social situation in the area, and the success of the Youth Center in keeping children off the streets. Also, twice a week Scholastic Assistance classed are offered to help students with homework. They also discussed a youth leadership program where some of the children can develop programming ideas and then apply for funding and make their dreams realities.

The ENP Field Coordinator was very helpful in introducing me to the students and helping me get a feel for the programming provided, as well as the impact it's had on the community. After Gedera, we traveled to the ENP Student Center in Ramla. There were only a few students there when I arrived, and they said that the larger crowds come a little later in the evening. Nevertheless, they also expressed the sense of belonging they had to the place, since it was a wonderful and safe location where they could relax and enjoy time with friends.

The Ethiopian-Israeli Community of Gedera is supported by the UJA-Federation of New York.

The Ethiopian-Israeli Community of Ramla is supported by the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bri'ut in Beit Shemesh בריאות בבית שמש

This was my first experience in an Ethiopian-Israeli community. I arranged to meet the ENP Field Coordinator at the local Community Center in Beit Shemesh, and once I arrived I discovered that there was going to be a meeting with the parents in the community. Seeing the parents reflected just how distinctive this culture is from others in Israel. Tattoos on the forehead and jaw were common, and many men and woman had traditional garb, such as intricately designed shawls. All the women had covered heads, and the men either wore Jewish kippot or sports caps.

Amharic was spoken language in the circles of adults prior to the event, but I had a short conversation with one mother in Hebrew. She had moved to Israel three years ago, and had learned Hebrew from her son, who was now fifteen years old and studying at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem. She did not know how to write Hebrew, though, and relied on her children for help.

The ceremony itself was a meeting with the leaders of the community, who discussed the children's programs that are offered and funded by the Ethiopian National Project. Following this, there was a special lecture by an Ethiopian-Israeli doctor on health concerns and hygiene. The entire event was in Amharic, but some of the coordinators translated for me. I learned that there were about 330 children under the age of six, in a community of about 650 families. The leaders explained how the cost of each child is very high, and the money raised by ENP is all non-profit and applied to programs, such as scholastic assistance, and aid for the residents. As for the Doctor's lecture, I found it refreshing to sit through a Powerpoint presentation in an foreign language. There were even diagrams of lice on the slides, with details in Amharic. Through the entirety of the ceremony and lecture, I learned only one word in Amharic: "gasha," the equivalent of "Mister."

This was only my first experience visiting the communities, but it really opened my eyes to the challenges that facing the community, from the perspectives of economy and safety. The leaders make due with what they have, but they can certainly use more aid, to occupy the children and provide activities for the children and families.

The Ethiopian-Israeli Community in Bet Shemesh is supported by the Jewish Federation of Washington, and its United Jewish Endowment Fund.