Friends by Nature – Community Empowerment is a non-profit Israeli organization that was established in 2005 by a group of young Israelis working in the fields of multiculturalism, education for tolerance and acceptance, at-risk youth, community renewal and informal education. The founders of “Friends by Nature” represent a diverse mix of Ethiopian-Israelis and veteran Israelis, religious and secular, all sharing in the understanding that the success of immigrant communities within Israel is dependent on a strong sense of identity, the family unit, and appreciation for their unique cultural background.
Friends by Nature – Community Empowerment runs programs mainly for at-risk Ethiopian Israeli youth, providing them and their families with a sense of belonging and purpose, with their eyes to the future. The organization seeks to build and empower communities which operate a variety of programs and make them sustainable.
Our unique “Homework – At Home!” program, youth centers, and young adult programs have managed to reduce high school drop-out rates among Ethiopian Israelis to ZERO in some cases, boost participants’ achievements, and develop young enthusiastic leadership that takes responsibility for its community.
Goals of Friends by Nature:
A great day at Chavat Shimshon with the Friends by Nature staff, families and kids from “Homework at Home” program in Shapira, and the Yahelnikim.
“Gojo (Home, in Amharic) Community Gar’in is a home to its members, from which they receive encouragement, knowledge and strength, to jointly bring tikun-olam and empowerment to the community in Beit Shemesh. The Gar’in opens its doors to anyone who believes in its goals, ideology and educational way.”
The now 25 Gar’in members, who decided to change the educational-social climate in which their community lives, have created warm relations with the English speaking community in Beit-Shemesh. The Gar’in is working simultaneously on two levels:
The Center is open 3 afternoons weekly, and its goal is to grow from 60 to 100 youth participants during 2010.
Homework – At Home!: A unique academic program that aims to boost achievements by creating a supportive learning environment at home. The program has succeeded in affording entire families with habits regarding studies during the afternoon hours and parents’ involvement in the children’s studies. The teaching staff consists of highly motivated English speaking volunteers, residents of Beit Shemesh, who maintain close connections with the parents. The program aims to grow from 20 to 40 students during 2010.
In 1884, members of the Bilu group settled near the ruins of a biblical Israelite city known as HaGdera, the fenced city. The area in which they chose to settle, they called Gedera. The Bilu group was a movement whose goal was to develop an agricultural settlement in the Land of Israel.
Gedera was built on seven hills and lies 80 meters above sea level. It has an area of 14.5 km2 and a growing population of over 25,000 people. It is famous for its pastoral countryside view. It is surrounded by agricultural lands. The coastal city of Ashdod is 14 kilometers to the southwest and the Judean Mountains and Jerusalem mountains can be seen on the east. On a clear day, the West Bank can be seen 25 kilometers northeast. It is many miles away from the suburbs of Tel Aviv and often serves as the last stop for drivers heading to the Negev Desert.
“From Hadera to Gedera” is the expression because Gedera is considered the southern edge of central Israel, while Hadera is considered the northern edge.
For the past 15 years, Ethiopian Jews have been steadily moved to Gedera and make up 16% of the population, about 3,200 people. Their economic situation is improving, as the younger generation is adapting to Israeli culture and the language, though the older immigrants have had a harder time adapting.
Gar’in in Hebrew literally means “kernel” or “seed”. The Gar’in is an intentional community that moves to and lives in a place for the purpose of establishing their lives in and being largely involved in making the community a better place.
The Gedera Gar’in includes 16 families and 15 young adults (Ethiopian- and veteran- Israelis) with similar educational values, who all live in Gedera and take social-educational responsibility in the Shapira Neighborhood in town. Every Gar’in member is involved in community action and programming, including at least two hours of volunteer work.
The Gar’in operates a Multicultural Community Beit-Midrash (Learning Group), several youth groups, and a Homework at Home Program, and a Community Gardening Program.
Since the end of 2005, the Gar’in has been working in the Shapira Neighborhood, and started a youth center, a tutorial program, and has excellent cooperation with the regional high school. After two years, school drop out rates decreased to ZERO.
Kyrat Malachi has population of 22,000 of which 38%, (8,400) are Ethiopian Israeli Immigrants. This represents 17.3% of the total Ethiopian Israeli community, the largest percent living anywhere in Israel and the largest percent (and number) in any town in Israel. Most of the Ethiopian Israeli immigrants are located in two neighborhoods: Herzl and the Weitzman, and according to the local social service department, 85% of the Ethiopian Israel population in Kyrat Malachi are in need of social services.
This puts great strain on the local population and addressing the needs is extremely difficult due to the lack of budget, trained personnel, the need to develop culturally appropriate programs and more.
Friends by Nature began working with the Israeli Ethiopian population in Kryat Malchi 2009, recognizing the existence of local Ethiopian Israeli leadership and the desire of this leadership to build on success and help local residents. The Garin is made up of 25 residents, almost all Ethiopian, who have succeeded and are committed to remaining in Kyrat Malchi and contribute to the community. The Garin is now ready to begin running programs that will help children and youth succeed in school and ultimately integrate into the main stream of Israeli society.
Utilizing Friends by Natures successful models of the Community Garien, FBN is seeking funds to open a youth center and begin an innovative Home Work at Home Program in Kyrat Malachi. There are approximately 1,000 Ethiopian Israeli youth in the 9th to 12th grades in Kyrat Malachi and few, if any programs to address the needs of this age group. With this, the Ethiopian population is over-represented in the all frameworks for children at risk. The programs that Friends by Nature wish to initiate address the needs of this group while supporting the family.
Petach Tikva was established in 1878 by religious Jews who moved from Jerusalem’s secure walls to swamp lands East of what today is Tel Aviv. It was the first modern Jewish agricultural settlement in the Ottoman period and has grown to become one of Israel’s most populous urban centers with 210,000 residents.
Petah Tikva has the second largest industrial sector in Israel after the northern city of Haifa. Numerous high-tech companies and start-ups have moved into the industrial zones of Petah Tikva, which now house the Israeli headquarters for the Oracle Corporation, IBM, Intel, Alcatel-Lucent, ECI Telecom, and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals.
The Garin in Petach Tikva began in 2011 with a group of five young Israeli Ethiopian adults, studying for their master’s degrees, who moved into the city’s Yosef Tal neighborhood. The neighborhood is made up of the majority of the over 4,000 Ethiopian Israelis living in Petach Tikva. The Garin began meeting and planning the growth and development of the Garin, establishing a group of Ethiopian Israeli high school youth as young leaders to serve as role models and to conduct community outreach and programming.
Rishon L’Zion is 16 kilometers south of Tel Aviv and has a population of 228,200. It was founded in 1882 by European Jewish immigrants and was the second Jewish farm colony established in Israel in the century. Today there are 43,224 new immigrants that live in Rishon, representing 18.8% of the population.
Most of the Ethiopian Israeli population of Rishon lives in the Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood which has a reputation for its social problems; high unemployment, delinquency and lack of initiative on the part of its residents. In recent years the neighborhood has become representative of a “ghetto” of Ethiopian immigrants. In 2009, 3,983 Ethiopian immigrants resided in 1,594 households; in 2010, they represent 50% of the neighborhoods 13,000 residents, with 1,800 individuals aged 0-18. The neighborhood is increasingly becoming overcrowded, putting an unanswerable strain on social, educational and city services.
Friends by Nature formed its community Garin in Rishon in 2009. The Rishon community Garin consists of a core group of 12 families and 7 young singles who have succeeded in Israeli society and have chosen to live in the Ramat Eliahu neighborhood in Rishon L’Zion. As a group, they are taking responsibility for the social and educational development of the neighborhood and the residents. The Garin as a whole initiates innovative community activities aimed at developing community involvement and strengthening the local population in need.
The Garin members strongly believe in contributing to society and building an Israel for all of its citizens. The Garin provides support for its members and the community.
The Youth Center in Rishon addresses the critical needs of Ethiopian Israeli youth at risk. Today over half of the Ethiopian Israeli population is under the age of 19 and about 73% of all families of Ethiopian origin have children up to age 17. The percent of Ethiopian juvenile delinquents between the ages of 12-20 is 4.6%, over twice the number among non-Ethiopian Israelis. School drop-outs among Ethiopian Israelis show a higher percent, with a 3.4% drop out rate, versus 2.6% drop out rate in the general population. Experience in various programs has shown that Ethiopian immigrants succeed when resources are properly invested and the community is made a partner in the absorption.
The youth center, developed by the Garin in Rishon began by serving over 45 youth and is working to prevent school drop out and help these youth enter the army and mainstream of Israeli society. It works in cooperation with the local government as partners in the program. The Center focuses on youth aged 13 – 18 and activities aim at providing them with a variety of high-quality attractive activities, such as music and nature-related outings, that are positive alternatives to activities that put them at risk.
All the youth counselors live in the neighborhood, as part of the Garin group, and are always available. The fact that the center is run by young successful Ethiopians, provides tremendous power in showing that there is a possibility to succeed and there are options open to them in the future.
The Garin in Rishion is headed by Qess Sami who was born in Ethiopian and came to Israel through Sudan in 1987 at the age of seventeen. A Qess is a community religious leader or Rabbi. The Ethiopian community’s religious roots and practices date back to before the destruction of the First Temple.
Qess Sami was inspired by his father who was also a Qess, and as Sami grew up he came to appreciate the role his father played in the community and the need that he filled carrying out religious rituals and counseling those in need. After coming to Israel Qess Sami finished high school, served in the army and completed his formal studies in sociology and education earning a B.A. degree from Bar Ilan University. When Qess Sami’s father died in 2003 he felt he had to follow in his fathers footsteps in answering the religious and spiritual needs of the Ethiopian community in Israel and after years of study became the first individual in Israel to become a Qess.
Qess Sami lives in Rishon L’Zion heading up the Garin and is a strong advocate for government recognition of Qessiem as official Rabbis for the Ethiopian community. He is married with five children.
Yavne is a city of 35,000 situated 12.4 miles south of Jaffa and 4.3 miles from the shore line. It is one of the major ancient cities and the Bible refers to is as a border city between the tribes of Judah and Dan. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai moved the Sanhedrin (the supreme court of ancient Israel) to Yavne. The city houses the twelfth-century tomb of Rabbi Gamaliel of Yavne and Abu Hurairah, a Companion of Muhammad.
Yavne is a real melting pot with Israeli born Sabras and a population which came from Morocco, Tunis, Algeria, Yemen, India, Romania, the former Soviet Union, Germany and Ethiopia. There are some 2,200 Ethiopian Israeli immigrants living in Yavne.
The Garin in Yavne began in 2007 and consists of 25 members who are very active in volunteer activities to strengthen the community. Most with young children the Garin members provide a strong support network for one another. In serving the community the Yavne Garin operates a youth center, FBN’s Home Work at Home Program and a Young Adults Program integrating youth returning from the army and national service, helping them find a place in the community and choose successful career paths. The Garin looks forward to growing in the coming years and develop additional community programs.
If you live in Israel and are interested in starting a Gar’in or living in a community as a Gar’in member, volunteering, or wish to inquire about anything else, contact the Friends by Nature Office.
The Gar’in are committed to and feel a strong responsibility and obligation to the entire Shapira community.
These are the parameters that determine the success of the program:
Each Gar’in operates a number of programs, with the goal of making them become part of the regular services in the community. Each Gar’in works in cooperation with the local institutions, including: high schools, Welfare Department, and more; some of the programs operate jointly with the municipalities.
Successful Ethiopian Israelis move back to the neighborhoods, form groups of activists who are aware of their identity and strengths, and assume social-education responsibility on the community.
Ethiopian Jews began to immigrate to Israel in the late 1970′s, with the largest waves of Aliya taking place in 1984 (Operation Moses) and 1991 (Operation Solomon). Today, after the children have become adults, the Ethiopian-Israeli community as a whole is going from the stage of “absorption” to the stage of initiating and taking responsibility of its own future.
Nevertheless, globalization has greatly affected this community, causing its traditional structure of mutual caring to begin to disintegrate and resulting in economic and social polarization of the community.
With a desire to become an integral part of these positive changes promoted by this organization, in 2006 a group of families and young adults, mainly Ethiopian-Israelis, established the “Community Gar’in” in the Israeli town of Gedera. The group includes approximately 45 people; they work and volunteer with about 190 youth in the city.
As a result of its great success, the organization is establishing similar “Community Gar’inim” in additional cities based on the same model, aiming to create 3 new Community Gar’inim every year. Our goal is that within 2-3 years, these Gar’inim become completely independent organizations, maintaining a connection with Friends by Nature based on choice, not on need. Today, Community Gar’inim exist in Gedera, Kiryat Gat, Yavne, Be’er Sheva and Beit Shemesh. In addition, we are establishing Gar’inim in Ashkelon and Rishon Le’Tzion (Ramat Eliyahu).
Each Gar’in constructs its own program to unite itself as a group, and determines which activities and programs to incorporate into its city. The group activities for the Gar’in members include a “Multicultural Community Beit-Midrash” (Learning Groups); joint weekends; meetings; and more.
The Community Garden program brings Israeli Ethiopian and veteran Israelis together through gardening. The garden operates as an environmental educational center and provides training to the community in the fields of practical ecology-gray water systems, garbage seperation and compostation, ecology gardening, and energey efficiency (water and electricity-wise).
The Community Garden program is designed to empower the adult community and connect them to the land of Israel through work in the gardens, as well as establishing strong relationships with the community, and strengthening the bond between the children and the adults of the Shapira community.
Wajjed [a word in Amharic, the native Ethiopian language], the neighborhood renewal program, focuses on improving neighbor relations, practicing responsibility through gardening, and re-planning and changing the neighborhood’s public spaces in a sustainable way. Through the program, families assume responsibility over their health, become more environmentally aware, and receive practical tools to change their lives.
For a look at our community gardening efforts, check out our photo album.
The activity is ongoing in 5 buildings (each building contains 12 families). The tenants meet every week to nurture the gardens they planted in front their buildings, and take part in workshops regarding resource reduction and ecology.
The Community Incubator provides an opportunity for motivated students to join the Gar’inim, live in the neighborhoods where they operate, and volunteer in educational programs. It trains them to become leaders and professionals in their fields, as well as in the field of Non Governmental Organizations. Graduates go on to set up their own Community Gar’in or join existing Gar’inim armed with their experience, motivation, and social initiative training.
Main activities are:
Homework – At Home! is a unique academic assistance program that aims to boost children’s achievements by creating a supportive learning environment at home. During the 2008-2009 school year, the program includes approximately 95 students and is operated in cooperation with the high schools.
“There are no studying conditions at home”??
This is exactly the way to create them, for the present and for the long run.
Homework – At Home! has succeeded in affording entire families with habits regarding studies during the afternoon hours, doing homework, and involvement of the parents in the children’s studies. When the parents actually see their children doing homework, they realize how to enable this process happen also outside the program; they allocate the necessary time and place in the house for both the students and their siblings to do their homework. The students do not “skip” classes, since the teacher comes to their houses.
The teaching staff consists of highly motivated professional teachers and volunteers who maintain a close connection with the children’ parents. The group of teachers includes both Ethiopian- and veteran-Israelis.
Homework – at Home! has helped bring school drop-out among Ethiopian-Israelis in Gedera High School to zero (before, approximately 25 Ethiopian Israelis entered 7th grade each year, while only ~5 students completed 12th grade).
The program begins with a professional assessment of what academic subjects the students should focus on and which students are most in need of support. Individual evaluations of the children’s ages, grade levels, and educational capacity helps to divide the participants into groups of 3-5 participants. Each group receives academic support in two school subjects, two hours weekly each, in the students’ homes and teachers devote an additional 30 minutes per session to get to know the students’ parents on an informal and social level. In addition, students, parents and teachers go together on field trips, to help create friendly relations among all.
Teachers undergo training in lesson development and educational pedagogy, as well as in multiculturalism and positive interaction with the students and their families. In addition, some of our older youth participants have become involved in the program as tutors for the younger children.
The program focuses on English, Mathematics and Hebrew Grammar. The teachers build the educational curriculum together with the Youth Centers’ counselors, to make it relevant to the Jewish calendar and the other educational programs. In this way, English lessons before Passover can draw from texts about Passover in Ethiopian Judaism, and so on.
In 2009, the program is operating in Gedera, Yavne, Kiryat Gat and Be’er Sheva; with additional funds, we will also be able to expand it to other Community Gar’inim.
Each Gar’in has a “Multicultural Community Beit-Midrash” (Learning Group) that enables discussion of topics related to Ethiopian-Jewish traditions, modern and traditional Jewish customs, and how to shape communities based on these topics. For example, a discussion might draw parallels between the eight levels of Tzedakah (charity) outlined by Maimonides, Gar’in activities, and the potential influence that a community can have. Another discussion may connect Jewish-Ethiopian handiwork (such as pottery and cotton-making) and Chanukah, which wasn’t celebrated in Ethiopia.
The fact that each Multicultural Beit-Midrash includes Ethiopian-Israelis and native Israelis – both religious and secular – has become possible due to each Gar’in member’s common goal of community involvement and high standard programming as a way to change the Ethiopian-Israeli community in Israel.
Participants: The Learning Groups are open to Gar’in members, working staff, and volunteer staff (teachers, counselors, program coordinators, etc.). These groups are used as training for successful work with the community. Naturally, some of the volunteers and workers are Gar’in members themselves; as mentioned, participants include native Israelis and Ethiopian-Israelis, both religious and secular.
Experienced instructors, usually Gar’in members themselves, guide the Beit-Midrash. Some of them work in this field in different frameworks, such as the Hartman Institute.
Training: Each Gar’in conducts Multicultural Training seminars to educators and community workers in its city, who work with the Ethiopian Israeli community. The seminars focus on the community’s strengths, and include content such as the history of Ethiopian Jewry, the Ethiopian-Jewish calendar, and so on. The training provides practical tools and so deals with issues such as identity, how to plan culturally sensitive lessons and activities, and more, according to the local needs.
Each community Gar’in has its own multicultural instructor who is responsible both for training the Gar’in’s staff and other educational staffs in the community.
Open Space is a program designed as a safe unstructured hangout center where youth from the ages of 14 and up can come and be with their friends. The idea of the program was to establish a “cool” place where the teenagers in the neighborhood come to and spend their evenings in a safer environment, rather than engaging in at-risk activites. The Open Space program is held at the Kat Gan in the Shapira community and opens up several nights a week.
Friends by Nature works in collaboration with Yahel Israel on the project. Yahel Israel has spent time building trust and working together with Friends by Nature to understand the needs of the youth in the community.
In order to attract the youth to Open Space, the Yahelnikim and the Gar’in members walked around the neighborhood and invited teens to come. Word would soon get around about the games, friends, and the great atmosphere. A number of new faces show up weekly. The Yahelnikim brought in a borrowed Wii, and started to think of other projects.
In order to make Open Space attractive to more teens, the Yahelnikim were looking to upgrade the “space” part of Open Space. They have added more games and equipment — chess, checkers, backgammon, cards, board games, a Wii station controllers, a ping pong table, and a pool table.
We at Friends by Nature are very excited by the success of the Open Space Program!
Yahel is an educational organization that offers service learning and social action programs in Israel. We are passionate about getting people to work side by side in order to bring about personal and social change.
Yahel works hand in hand with partners in Israel and abroad who share our vision. We offer tailored programs for non-Israeli groups who seek to experience Israel beyond the tour bus and make a real contribution to Israeli society. Our goal is to offer high-quality immersion programs that are community based and unique in their depth and sustainability.
The program presents young adult Ethiopian Israelis aged 18-26 with a unique opportunity: to be on the giving rather than the receiving side, where most immigrants find themselves from the day they arrive in Israel.
While many of the young adults in the neighborhoods where Ethiopian Israelis live, are considered “at risk”, others have become more successful, having joined the army, found occupation and are considering or joining university. Unfortunately, the younger population is usually mostly exposed to the less successful young adults. Those who are more successful prefer to stay at home, away from negative influences.
This program enables these young and motivated adults to assume responsibility as positive role models for the younger children and youth: It provides them both with the opportunity and the tools to do so.
Ethiopian Israeli young adults encounter difficulties that cut them off from the center of Israeli society. For example, the Adva Center’s data from 2005 showed that among 21-24 year old young Ethiopian Israeli adults, 58% are unemployed. These young adults are forced to live off of temporary jobs and low salaries. While most of them are aware of the option of higher education, they are not available to this possibility. Therefore, the program includes ways of exposing the participants to the options of higher education or professional advancement, as well as ways to integrate into these programs.
Five Community Gar’inim now implement the program; in Gedera, a third of the participants enrolled in institutions of higher education, and, despite the tempting offers to live in the dormitories, chose to continue to live in the neighborhood and volunteer with the community, without any stipend.
The Community Gar’inim invite young adults to become members, and take part in all the activities: Multicultural Community Beit-Midrash, seminars, joint weekends, etc.
The Gar’inim Youth Centers are open up to five times a week and employ male and female Ethiopian-Israeli youth workers, usually neighborhood residents. These people become role models for the youth with whom they work. The Gedera Gar’in’s success prompted a nearby high school to hire Gar’in workers in the morning; through this work, we create an important educational continuity. Today, about 150 youth in 5th-12th grades participate in the Youth Center’s various activities; their parents join for specific events. Other Gar’inim have 30-120 youth participants in their Youth Centers.
The Youth Centers include a number of programs that develop over time, with an emphasis on:
Ethiopian-Israeli-Jewish identity as an empowerment and leadership tool: The program is based on the Jewish calendar and holidays; it includes trips throughout Israel and “Youth Movement” activities, with an emphasis on Jewish-Ethiopian components. For example, a tour through a city neighborhood may spark the question of how Succot was celebrated in Ethiopia, causing youth to turn to their parents for answers; a special evening celebrating the Ethiopian Sigd holiday connects participants to their Ethiopian-Jewish identity; Chanukah parent-child activities can include a Jewish-Ethiopian facet by making ceramic candles and cotton wicks, which are traditional Ethiopian handiworks; certain archeological ruins in the Golan can be compared to the structure of Ethiopian-Jewish villages; discussions can compare Jewish heroes in Israel and Ethiopia; and more.
“Maslul” – Leadership and Volunteerism: This program encourages young leadership, beginning with community volunteerism in areas that youth can experience success and fulfillment. Volunteering and taking responsibility at a young age encourage youth to adopt a positive outlook towards pre-army programs and enlistment. In addition to identity and tradition, the educational topics include Israeli Society and other areas of interest chosen by the group. In grades 11-12, participants are introduced to quality volunteer programs, such as pre-military Service Year (“shnat sheirut”), Nachal, pre-army preparation, and voluntary National or military service. The purpose is to making thought-out, responsible decisions for their futures, based on sound information.
After high school: Their connection to the Community Gar’inim enables youth to remain in touch as they go on different paths. Graduates of the program are often invited to join the Gar’in. The strong feeling of belonging is conducive to success and personal development.
Strengthening the Family Unit by offering leadership opportunity to parents: Parents take part in leading joint parents-children activities on holidays; in other activities, children ask their parents questions connected to Ethiopian-Jewish tradition; parents and children go on trips together, which involve parents telling Ethiopian folktales. These activities improve relations at home and enable members to fulfill personal potential.
Connection to Israel: Ethiopian immigration to Israel was a result of Zionistic zeal, but many Ethiopian-Israelis have not seen much of their longed-for country. The Youth Centers conduct trips throughout Israel that teach participants how to face challenges in life, take responsibility, and give aid. The staff draws parallels between Israeli and Ethiopian history, geography, and cultures, and creates a medium to identify both with the Ethiopian tradition at home, and with the modern Israel (a discussion on Jewish heroism in Israel and in Ethiopia, while travelling to Bar-Kochba sites; preparing an Ethiopian Matza on a Pesach hike; etc.).
The Counselors in the Youth Centers are chosen by each individual Gar’in and work with one or two age levels: 15-20 participants on a regular group basis; he/she integrates additional 10-15 participants into different programs and follows up on them; and evaluates another 10 participants every three months, introducing them to various programs. There are altogether 40-50 participants per half-time counselor.
Their job includes:
Independent research on Friends by Nature’s programs conducted by “Shatil” in 2009 shows:
Yuvi made Aliya to Israel from Ethiopia with her extended family in 1984, as part of Operation Moses through the Sudan, when she was five years old.
When Yuvi completed her military service in the IDF Education Corps in 1998, she was recruited to work as a summer camp counselor at Camp Ramah in New York - which she did for two sequent years. Upon her return to Israel, she joined a special Multicultural Orienteering Program for Ethiopian Israeli youth, and worked as a youth counselor and regional director for 7 years, directing dozens of staff members and developing culturally sensitive educational programs.
Yuvi, mother to Shaked, completed her Bachelor Degree in Israel Studies and Education, and is continuing her studies as a Parents Group Counselor in the Adler Institute. In 2005 Yuvi initiated the Community Gar’in in the Israeli town of Gedera, and is directing it.
The Gar’in includes a group of families and young adults, whom Yuvi joined around common vision and goals, through community action and discussion on personal and Jewish identity. The Community Gar’in Yuvi directs works with approximately 200 youth and young adults – most of whom are Ethiopian Israelis.
A native Israeli, Nir happened to reach the remote Quara region in Ethiopia in 1997, while travelling in the country, and meet its forgotten amazing Jewish community. He then continued to advocate for their Aliya until it became a reality in 1999.
As a result of this unique encounter, Nir founded and directed a special Multicultural Youth Orienteering Program, which worked annually with over 1,000 Ethiopian- and FSU-Israeli youth-at-risk, giving them pride in their diverse Jewish heritage and in the Land of Israel (1998-2005).
Nir trained dozens of youth volunteers as well as dozens of Amharic speaking counselors, as part of the program, and developed a whole new approach to working with parents.
In 2005 Nir founded with a group of friends the Israeli NGO Friends By Nature – Community Empowerment, and became part of the Gedera Community Gar’in – a group of families and young adults, who chose to live in the impoverished neighborhood in this town, unite as a group with common vision and educational goals, and take responsibility for the community.
For Nir, father to Itamar, Friends by Nature – Community Empowerment is a direct development of his work with the community since his visit to Ethiopia in 1997. He is the director of Friends By Nature, and copies the model to more locations.
In 1983, when Moshe was 8 years old, he made Aliya to Israel from Ethiopia throughSudan. Ten years later, he began the Yeshivat Hesder program which combines military service and religious studies. He studied at Etziyon Hesder Yeshiva and became an officer (Company Commander) in the Paratroopers.
Moshe initiated the Community Gar’in in Kiryat Gat, which includes families (mostly Ethiopian Israelis) who moved to Kiryat Gat out of a feeling of community commitment. As part of his job, he works on developing new Community Garinim.
For two years, Moshe directed the Multicultural Program, and there were approximately 50 counselors and 1,000 immigrant Israeli youth under his supervision. Consequently, he directed the Bnei Akiva youth movement’s Community and Absorption Department, where he led approximately 200 coordinators and counselors and 4,000 youth.
Moshe also coordinates a program for Ethiopian Israeli students at the NCJW Research Institute for Innovation in Education (at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem).
Samay made Aliya to Israel from Ethiopia with his family in 1987 throughSudan when he was 16 years old. On their way to Israel, the family stopped for three years in a remote area in Ethiopia, and Samay’s father served as Qess (Ethiopian Rabbi) of the Jewish community there. “My father’s self sacrifice made a great impact on me”, says Samay, who himself became a Qess in 2004 – one of the very few Ethiopian Israeli immigrants who became Qesses in Israel.
Samay, who completed a Bachelor degree in Sociology and Education, works at Atzma’ut Program in Rishon LeZion (a joint venture of JDC and Metro West, New Jersey Federation) and volunteers as Qess.
For many parents and youth he represents a successful integration between Ethiopian Jewish tradition and Israeli life.
Your contribution helps Friends by Nature (FBN) promote and empower Ethiopian Israelis. Together we can help thousands of Ethiopian Israelis find solutions to the problems they face. Donations are fully tax deductible in the U.S. and Israel. If you are donating in honor of a special occasion or in memory of someone, enter the contact information of the honoree in the form and we’ll be happy to send a letter of acknowledgement to your recipient of choice by email or postal mail.
Online secure donations can be made through our United States partner, Friends of Ethiopian Jews.
Donations in the United States for Friends by Nature – Community Empowerment can be made through FEJ. Checks (made payable to “Friends of Ethiopian Jews”) should be mailed to the following address:
Please write “FBN” on the memo line on your check. Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. FEJ’s Tax ID is EIN 06-1512486.
Your donation will help make a big difference in Israel! Thank you for supporting Friends by Nature (FBN).
Alternative ways to donate by volunteering your time
If you are between the ages of 21-27 and are looking for a service-learning opportunity and a chance to live in Israel for 5 months or more, you can join us by visiting Yahel Israel.
If you are a student at a University, Yahel Israel is now offering an alternative Spring Break option to come volunteer in Israel for up to 10 days in an Ethiopian community. Email email@example.com for more information.