Absorption into Israeli society and integration into Israeli culture is trying for every immigrant, particularly for those coming from countries of distress. For thousands of Ethiopian Jews, the Jewish Agency for Israel is providing the programs and assistance that are helping them transition to their lives in Israel, enabling them to fully integrate and acclimate to their new homeland.
For Ethiopian immigrants, the gaps between life in Ethiopia and Israel present significant educational, social, and personal challenges. An estimated 75% of Ethiopian Israelis are marginalized by poverty, unemployment, and their inability to live independently. Just as alarmingly, nearly one quarter of Ethiopian-Israeli teens do not complete high school —further perpetuating the cycle of inopportunity and disadvantage.
The Jewish Agency for Israel's YESODOT program helps Ethiopian youngsters, from pre-school through 12th grade, achieve new levels of personal and academic success through education and social intervention. YESODOT’s scholastic track focuses not only on Hebrew and Israeli-culture, but prepares students for Israel's educational system through inter-disciplinary workshops, mentoring, formal and informal educational programs, and learning enhancement opportunities. Activities take place in the supportive environment of Jewish Agency absorption centers — a venue in which the immigrants feel comfortable and familiar.
There are 7,000 Ethiopian immigrants currently living in 20 absorption centers throughout Israel. Of these, some 3,000 children and youth are taking part in YESODOT programs. The period when the children live in absorption centers offers a valuable window of opportunity for their advancement. Professional teachers and instructors provide the children with daily afternoon tutoring in all subjects, focusing on Hebrew reading and writing, Math and English.
Following are the five major YESODOT programs:
Ready for First Grade (ages 5-6)
Matzophim–(Excellence and bridging gaps) - afternoon enrichment lessons, twice a week in Hebrew and Math
Tutors - Every afternoon, a team of tutors at the absorption centers assists the children with their homework, and organizes social and educational activities for them.
Bar Mitzvah Program
Summer Camps - operate for 7 weeks, 5 hours every day for children aged 4-18 living in absorption centers throughout Israel
Evaluation conducted in 16 absorption centers shows that the children's achievements in the fields of basic skills, Hebrew language reading and writing and Math improved considerably by the end of the program. The greatest advancement was observed in language acquisition.
Findings show that program components were adapted to the children's educational needs. The program eases the families' absorption process, and significantly contributes to their successful integration in the Israeli society.