A Very Special Connection...

The warm embrace we have felt from day one continued with our arrival at the Beit Alfa Absorption Center, which was marked with the Buna Coffee Ceremony, the traditional way Ethiopians welcome guests to their home. Back in Ethiopian Jewish villages, where there are no televisions or radios for entertainment, Buna plays a special role, encouraging villagers to gather and share gossip and news of the day. As we sipped our hot coffee, Yasharog, an Ethiopian Jew, shared the harrowing tale of her family’s journey from their small village in Ethiopia to the Beit Alfa Absorption Center in Afula. She was eleven years old in 1985 when her family left their village, traveling by foot at night through the country for three months. Along the way, they were attacked by robbers, who stole their valuables, along with their Jewish prayer books. When the group arrived at the Sudan refugee camp, their ordeal was far from over, with disease rampant. Finally, when they were transported one night to the airplane that would take them to Israel, Yasharog thought the lights of the plane were multiple fires, and she along with the other villagers were terrified. It was clear as we listened, that the journey for Ethiopian Jews to their Jewish homeland is filled with hardships that require a special understanding. At Beit Alfa Absorption Center, Ethiopian families are welcomed to Israel. They are given temporary homes, as well as counseling and support as they set up a new life and learn the customs of a completely different culture. With the news that the Israeli Government has just approved the absorption of 1300 new Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, Beit Alfa is gearing up to welcome some of these new olim. After our coffee, we had the privilege to prepare a traditional lunch with our new Ethiopian friends, and we dined together over a delicious meal featuring Teff, an Ethiopian flatbread, and a feast that included chicken and egg stew, lentils, an array of vegetables, and spreads that we scooped up with our Teff. Even though I don’t speak Amharic or much Hebrew, the connection that I felt with these women was profound, and their stories will stay with me.

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