Monday, November 15, 2010

My name is Kara Bookbinder and I'm a new intern at ENP. This Monday I went out on my first "mission" with a group of 16 people from the Jewish Federations of North America, on a program called "Mission Possible." Being my first mission, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that we would be going to a Youth Outreach Center in Beit Shemesh, and that we would meet some of the Ethiopian teens who benefit from the center, but that's all I knew. On the hour bus ride to the Center, I learned so many fascinating things about Ethiopian Jews and their struggle to make Aliyah. I had never before heard about Operation Moses or Operation Solomon which evacuated 8,000 and 14,000 Ethiopian Jews, respectively, from Ethiopia to Israel in the 1980's and 1990's. Upon hearing these stories I had a new found appreciation and curiosity about Ethiopian Jewry.

Once at the Center, we were broken into three groups, each with some participants and some Ethiopian teens, to play an ice breaker. We were all given a large playing card with a question on the back. We were to answer our question and then ask it to someone else in the group as a way to get to know each other a little better. Some questions were basic like, "Who's your favorite singer?" (to which one girl replied "Beyonce"), and some were deeper like, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" I was most struck by one teen's answer to this question. She said that she was going to be a dancer, and she said it with such confidence and pride.

As someone who comes from a comfortable lifestyle, it is easy to take "safe spaces" for granted because they are generally readily available. For these teens, however, the concept of a safe space to learn, grow, and be social, did not exist before ENP created them; and safe spaces are essential for success in life. ENP is doing great things and I'm so happy to be making a difference by working with them.

Click below to visit our facebook page and see a picture from this mission!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sigd Festival in Tapiyot 2010

Shalom all beautiful people!

It was such a wonderful day here in Israel. I am so excited to be able to share with you all my wonderful (and first) Sigd experience. For those of you who are not too familiar with Sigd, here is a link to their facebook page which gives a great overview http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sigd/138229019535354.

However here is a short sweet version of sigd:
Sigd is a Festival celebrated every year in honor of the mass pilgrimage to Jerusalem by the Ethiopian Jews. It is celebrated 50 days after Yom Kippur it is an essential part of the Ethiopian culture here Israel.
Now, to explain the beauty of it...well there are no words, but I will attempt. I was told that the festival would take place in Tapiyot, exactly the opposite of Mt Scopus (where I currently live). However exactly where in the Tapiyot I was not sure. I was certain to find out through random wondering and silly questioning and so I hopped on the bus and headed in that direction. I got off at the Ban Ilan Juntion and saw many ethiopians hanging around and walking in a certain direction. So, I did what any lost person would do, I followed the crowd. And wala, there I was in the middle of the festival with ethiopians from all over Israel enjoying the sun and taking part in the festivities of Sigd. There was singing, dancing, theatre and a lot of laughing from all who were there, and of course the traditions that also come with Sigd, praying, blessing and eating. Most were siting on the grass enjoying the surroundings and others were walking around to the varies informational tables of the ethiopian communities. It was a joyous festival with many friends present- which is always nice to see. I am so glad to be exposed to such a community and cant wait for the many more adventures that will come from them. :)