ICEJ-AID to Ethiopian immigrants

ICEJ Helping Young Ethiopian Jewish Immigrants Aim High in Israel

By: Jonathan A. Parsons, ICEJ Publications Assistant

The war ignited by Hamas on October 7 has been shocking and traumatic for everyone in Israel, and even more so for new Ethiopian Jewish immigrants already trying to overcome huge cultural differences and language barriers. This is especially true for the young students among them—ages 18 to 25—who are part of the Jewish Agency’s intensive 9-month high school graduation program, even as they are still adjusting to their new home in Israel. That is why it was so special to see the latest class of 15 Ethiopian Olim (newcomers) graduate from high school at an Aliyah center in Be’er Sheva, thanks to the ICEJ’s sponsorship of this fast-track education program. The moment was extra special, considering the unique challenges the Ethiopian Jewish community must overcome when moving to Israel.

Ethiopian Jewish immigration has been a focal point of the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts in recent years, with over 3,250 Ethiopian Jews arriving in Israel through ICEJ-funded flights. This accounts for about half of all the Ethiopian immigrants who have come to Israel since their Aliyah process was resumed in 2015.

It is both a dream come true and a life-altering experience for these Ethiopian Olim to make it to the promised land. The transition brings with it many steep challenges due to the language, education, and culture gaps between these newcomers and the rest of Israeli society. Thus, Ethiopian Jews often have difficulty assimilating into the broader Israeli culture, leaving many susceptible to falling into poverty.

That is why the ICEJ not only helps Ethiopian Jews make it to Israel, but we also seek to ensure the younger immigrants who arrive in Israel with at least 8 to 11 years of education have the opportunity to earn a full Israeli high school degree as soon as possible.

The 15 Ethiopian students we met at the Aliyah center in Be’er Sheva not only graduated successfully, but they did so despite facing great obstacles. With the outbreak of war last October, these students experienced the turmoil of being targeted by Hamas rocket barrages and the overshadowing security threat. Many also had to leave family behind to relocate near other students from different Aliyah centers around the nation. For part of the program, they could not attend classes together and had to switch to learning online.

As the graduation ceremony started, Vered, the program coordinator, addressed the graduates.

“The ICEJ enabled us to help you,” she said. “The teachers and staff were just the mediators, but the ones who made it possible in the first place are the ICEJ. They do so because they believe in you.”

Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President of AID & Aliyah, said, “It’s an honor to be able to help with your Aliyah, but we also want to help you to start building a new life here.” She then told the students, “It is only because of your hard work that you are here today. We gave you the means and tools, but it was you who put in the work to be where you are today. We wish you well and hope that this diploma will be a stepping stone for you to follow your dreams!”

We were especially thrilled to hear that these students are dreaming big! From hi-tech to medicine, dentistry, accounting, and law, each one wants to contribute and succeed. We see it as the ICEJ’s mission to bring the Jewish people back to their historic homeland but also help equip the newcomers with what they need to further themselves and build a new life in Israel, even amid the attempts by Israel’s enemies to destroy this nation.

Your support for our Aliyah efforts will enable the Christian Embassy to help more new Jewish immigrants arrive in their ancestral homeland and establish themselves back among their people.

Israel is at war, and it is imperative that we act now.