Dr. Esther Kalnisky is a lecturer and researcher at Achva Academic College. Since 2001 she serves as the head of the first program for Ethiopian students in education colleges in Israel . In the past, she has coordinated the National program for training Ethiopian immigrants in teaching. Dr Kalnisky conducts research and publishes articles in scientific journals on the topics: multiculturalism, minorities, higher education of immigrants and immigrant identities.
She presently acts as editor-in-chief of the international portal for professional development of teachers and lecturers at MOFET International (in the Spanish language)
Dr. Esther Kalnisky of Achva College and the MOFET Institute introduces the newly published book: Journeys of Hope: Ethiopian Jews in the Paths of Education, Academic Studies, and Success by Esther Kalnisky, Shosh Millet, and Nahum Cohen all of whom have been involved in teacher education for many years, particularly in the training of students who either immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia or were born in Israel to native Ethiopian parents. The book tells the moving story of the Ethiopian Jews' journey to Israel – a journey fraught with hardships – as well as their encounter with everyday life in the new land with its dual elements of spiritual elation and disappointment.
The Ethiopian Jews who immigrated to Israel during the mass migrations, particularly in 1984 and 1991, left their homeland as a result of their religious beliefs in pursuit of a dream of a better and more spiritual life. They did not fantasize about materialistic elements such as improving their standard of living; rather, they dreamed about living as observant Jews in the Promised Land and as the equals of the local population. However, the personal experience of most Ethiopian Jews attests to the painful and disappointing nature of the encounter due to a lack of sensitivity as regards their motives for making Aliya and their desire to integrate into Israeli society on an equal footing. The cultural gaps and the absence of mutual understanding distanced the immigrant absorbers from the immigrants themselves.
Clear signs of the encounter were also evident on the level of the general population, in the migrants' socio-economic status, and in their opportunities to acquire appropriate education and employment. Occasionally, the inequity engendered extreme phenomena that are common in immigration situations. These include unemployment, domestic violence, and juvenile delinquency – behaviors that differ radically from the tranquil, rural society that was familiar to the immigrants in Ethiopia. The dream was shattered.
The book is organized around three focal points: The first section discusses the characteristics of Ethiopian Jewry, deals with the identity-related, social, and cultural aspects that are unique to this population both in Ethiopia and in Israel, and emphasizes the educational prism.
The second section describes how higher education was made accessible to Ethiopian immigrants in an Israeli college of education that opened its gates to them in the belief that the teachers, some of whom were themselves immigrants or the offspring of immigrants, could contribute to bridging the gaps in Israeli society. This section presents the theoretical principles and the research findings regarding the program and its participants as well as some of the proven successes demonstrated by the research.
The third section combines a description of actual trips to Ethiopia undertaken by program graduates and the teacher education process as a metaphor of personal development and of bridging the gap between past and future. The uniqueness of the trips to Ethiopia of the novice teachers – graduates of the above-mentioned program – resides in the intercultural perception that is one of its theoretical mainstays and constitutes one of its learning foundations. This perception relates to difference as an advantage and channels it into paths of personal development.
The principal message of the book stresses the belief that it is possible to bridge the cultural and educational gaps that exist among immigrants by affording a genuine opportunity for development and learning from an egalitarian standpoint. A program of this kind necessitates a profound understanding of the personal and cultural patterns of each group, respect for differences, use of the latter in order to leverage development, a theoretical and research basis, and, in parallel, ideals of social equality and justice.
In addition, the book presents the authors' personal viewpoints with regard to immigration processes and integration into a new society via higher education. These are the aspects that link the authors to the new teachers who are graduates of the program.
While the book addresses mainly those who are involved in the higher education of migrants in general and in teacher education in particular, it will interest anyone who deals with teacher education programs for multicultural empowerment, migration , and processes of integration into society.