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December 20, 1985 - Image 19

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-12-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS Friday, December 20, 1985

Ethiopians In
Youth Aliyah

In a sense, it has all hap-
pened before. The clock has
spun back 50 years, and once
again Youth Aliyah is reach-
ing out to children who come
to Israel hungry, disoriented
and often sick. Again, as in
the Holocaust, these are
children who have no parents
in Israel, and often don't
know if their families are
even alive.
"Today there are 2,000
Ethiopian teenagers study-
ing in a dozen Youth Aliyah
villages all over Israel," says
Eli Amir, Director-General of
the Jewish Agency's Youth
ALiyah Department, which
operates mainly with funds
from the United Jewish
Appeal/Federation Cam-
paign. "Within the year, we

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several hundred from Ethi-
opian Jews now in absorption
centers."
Youth Aliyah has returned,
as Amir puts it, to its "clas-
sical role" of home and
school, parent, teacher and
refuge to immigrating child-,
ren. But there are gaping dif-
ferences between the young-
sters fleeing Nazi Europe in
the 1930's and 1940's, and
the Ethiopian children of the
1980's.
"Almost everything the
Ethiopians see in Israel is
new and bewildering to
them," says Amir. "Quite
apart from the technological
wonders of the 20th century,
it's the first time in their lives
that these youngsters are see-
ing white Jews."
Paradoxically, a key pro-
blem in helping Ethiopians
settle down, according to
Amir, is their fierce desire to
fit into Israel as fast as
possible.
"We're trying to slow them
down," he says, "and stop
them from trying to run
before they can walk. We
refuse to repeat the errors of
the 1950's and allow the
Ethiopians to forget their
roots and traditions. We
must be wise enough this
time around to help them
maintain their pride in who
they are; to build on what
they have, not to destroy; to
ensure they're not dazzled by
Western culture to the point
of abandoning their own."
Youth Aliyah is well qual-
ified to help the Ethiopian
youngsters, says Amir. "It's
the best residential school
system in Israel, and among
the best in the world. It has
knowledge, background,
know-how, and methods. And
— as important — it has the
will and the flexibility to ad-
just to its students."
The teaching of these
an
est teenager immigrants
newest
(
is a new experience for Youth
Aliyah, and so teams of
educators, psychologists and
sociologists are helping to
rip establish signposts along the
route.

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