ICEJ Closing the ‘Education Gap’ for Recently Arrived Ethiopians Jews

By: David Parsons, ICEJ VP & Senior Int. Spokesman

The modern-day return of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel has often been a story of daring rescues. It also is increasingly a success story as more Ethiopians find success in Israel’s hi-tech society. This has required determination from the Ethiopian immigrants themselves, as well as much outside help to adjust to life in Israel. And the ICEJ is actively involved in both the Aliyah and absorption phases of their return.

Last year, the “Operation Rock of Israel” airlift flew 2,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, and the ICEJ sponsored flights for over 500 of them. Israel is planning anotherEthiopian Flight airlift of 3,000 more Ethiopian Jews expected to start arriving soon, and currently, the ICEJ is raising funds to bring several hundred of these immigrants. But just as important is helping them through the crucial absorption process, which usually takes longer than other immigrant communities. Thus, over the past decade the ICEJ has expanded its efforts to assist Ethiopian newcomers in integrating better into Israeli society.

Amira Ahronoviz, CEO of The Jewish Agency for Israel, recently explained some advantages the latest arrivals have over previous Ethiopian immigrants.

“For Ethiopian Jews, the dream of reaching the promised land is fulfilled once they land in Israel. They kiss the ground and burst into tears, and we share that moment with them,” said Ahronoviz. “But the real work for us begins once they arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport. They face huge gaps in language and education and lack the skills needed to compete for good positions in the Israeli job market. Because of these gaps, the Ethiopians are the only immigrant community who are given two full years for free in absorption facilities.”

JAFI CEO Amira AhronovizBut she then noted an interesting change, making her more optimistic about the current wave of Ethiopian Aliyah.

“Those families who are now being reunited—the 2,000 that we brought last year, as well as the 3,000 we are now working to bring very quickly—are ones that have spent quite a significant period of time in an urban environment,” said Ahronoviz. “They left their small farming villages more than a decade ago, so many of the children and the younger adults have … attended school or received some sort of formal education and have been exposed more to technology and modern life.”

“This means they come to Israel with a better base for us to help them acclimate into a Western society,” she continued. “And we are seeing that suddenly, we have more than 100 of them with higher academic degrees within our absorption centers. We have more than 500 of them who have completed 12 years of education, which is phenomenal because it means that it sets them on a whole different accelerated track of absorption in Israel.”

“We see that in some vocational training courses, we assumed not more than 20 would enroll in computer literacy skills, but then found 80 of them standing in line to join the courses,” added Ahronoviz. “That’s magic! We were never able to do that in the past.”

So the good news is that many new Ethiopian immigrants already have some level of computer skills. But some cannot afford a decent home computer or mustProviding Computers share an old computer with family members. In addition, many must complete their high school education before enrolling in university studies or vocational training. To help them, the ICEJ is currently sponsoring a special program for 25 recent Ethiopian immigrants who will finish high school in only 9 months. Our support includes providing them with computers to complete the course.

“Once again, the ICEJ is leading the way with an amazing cutting-edge program for Ethiopian immigrants,” said Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID & Aliyah. “These young students need computers and other assistance to close the education gap they face for successful integration.”

Help us not only sponsor their Aliyah flights but also be ready with the educational courses and computers they will need to speed up their adjustment to life in Israel.

We invite you to join us in making the return of more Ethiopian Jews a true success story.