Last weekend, several days before the celebration of the Jewish- Ethiopian Sigd festival, the Yahel Social Change Program participants, together with young adults from Friends by Nature in Gedera, spent a weekend together in Jerusalem. The theme of the weekend was the exploration of different narratives relating to the dream of Zion as well as the connection between Ethiopia and Jerusalem.
Some highlights from the weekend:
A walking tour of the old city including visits to several Ethiopian churches shedding light on the stories and traditions that have connected Ethiopia to Jerusalem for centuries. Yahel program staff, Avi Dnku spoke to some of the monks and priests in Amharic and shared their stories with all of us.
A touching pre-Shabbat activity in a beautiful spot in Yemin Moshe overlooking the old city. 13 people – North Americans, third generation Israelis, and Ethiopian-Israelis all engaged in a participant-led session relating to our connection to Jerusalem and Israel, our Jewish identity and struggles and much more… It was a special moment, to see all that connects us and to learn more about where each and every one of us is coming from.
A visit to the Israel museum and a session dealing with Jerusalem through poems and quotes as well as through the exhibits of the museum. After lunch there was some serious study as well as a lot of fun and laughter as we all shared funny cross-cultural moments. At the conclusion of Shabbat, as the Israelis got ready to leave, we did havdallah together and learned the Amharic version of “kol ha’olam kulo”.
On Sunday morning the Yahelnikim continued with a visit to the Tower of David. Leaving behind the old city, we continued to mount Herzl where we visited the memorial to the Ethiopian-Jews who died on their way to Israel, mostly in Sudan in the 1980’s. We finished with an interesting and thought provoking meeting at theIsraeli Association for Ethiopian Jews where we heard about advocacy and lobbying efforts on behalf of the 110,000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel today.
There is no doubt that one of the main highlights of this weekend was the composition of the group. As some Yahelnikim said on Sunday: “it didn’t feel like a planned ‘cross-cultural’ meeting. It felt as though we were just one group.”