"Without the story of Ethiopian Jewry, the Jewish story and the Zionist story would not be complete ..."
(Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel after a Story of a Journey meeting)
"Story of a Journey" was initiated 4 years ago and is operated by the IACC nationwide. The program's goal is to create a connection to the Zionist story and culture of the Ethiopian Jewish community and to serve as a tool for promoting an accepting, integrating and pluralistic Israeli society.
In this program, Israelis from the Ethiopian community volunteer to open their homes and their hearts and to tell the personal story of their Journey to Jerusalem.
"Story of a Journey" - was established by members of the Ethiopian community, together with the IACC. The need for this initiative rose from an increasing sense that the Israeli public is largely ignorant of the culture and history of the Ethiopian community's 2500-years in the diaspora, and the story of their journey to Israel. It is reasonable to speculate that this lack of awareness and respect for the identity of the Ethiopian Community is one of the main causes of the prejudice, racism, social and professional exclusion, and the reluctance to integrate the Ethiopian community as an integral part of the Zionist ethos.
The program's initiators understood that integration cannot happen based only on legislation or policy, but rather it must come from the people themselves, the members of the community, the children in the classroom, the peers at the youth groups and the soldiers at the army base. "Story of a Journey" enables the story of the Ethiopian community to enter the hearts of the broader community, in an accessible and unmediated manner, thus promoting relationships and discussion between different groups within Israeli society, each group with its own uniqueness.
Thanks to the generosity of the Baron de Hirsch Fund, and the support of the Israeli Ministry of Education – the program has been able to achieve its goals in recent years.
In a short period of time 'Story of a Journey' has promoted a connection with the story and culture of the Ethiopian Jews and has emphasized their contribution to the entire community. This is an important basic tool for creating a rich pluralistic Israeli society, which includes various groups and many stories, all of which combine to create the magnificent narrative of the State of Israel.
The strength of the program is due primarily to the courage of the storytellers. They are willing to expose their life stories to a crowd of strangers - their past, their feelings and thoughts, and most importantly, their hardships as immigrants. As we see it, their
candidness, together with the willingness of the audience to embrace these stories, is the key to creating a real meaningful bridge between people and communities.
Theprogram's main objectives are:
- Learning directly from Ethiopian storytellers about the history of the Ethiopian Jewish community, the journey to Jerusalem, theirunique contribution to the Israeli society in terms of values, Zionism, culture and history and their absorption as part of the Israeli narrative.
- The initiative serves as a platform for getting to know each other and connecting between different communities in Israeli society, by way of sharing stories, creating discussion, and learning from one another to create a common fabric for life.
In the meetings the Storytellers talk about the Jewish community in Ethiopia from the perspective of their own personal story, their journey to Israel, 'Israeliness' as they
experience it, their daily challenges and other topics which arise during open discussion with the audience.
Each meeting takes place either in a volunteer's home, a Community Center, or a workplace. Generally, the host invites their friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Educators, social workers, employees of the local municipality and others are also welcome to participate in the meetings.
The IACC recruits and trains the storytellers, who are usually graduates of social organizations, representatives of Youth Movements, people from organizations promoting leadership, students and social educators.
Each session lasts approximately two hours and includes the following:
- Background on life in Ethiopia
- Judaism and Zionism in Ethiopia
- Historical points of reference in the history of Ethiopian Jews
- Story of a Journey- the story of the Ethiopians Jews dedication on their way to Jerusalem via Sudan.
- The storyteller's personal narrative- his/her journey and experience of Israel as an immigrant.
- Discussion following the story and the challenges Ethiopians face in assimilating into Israeli society
Program achievements and contribution
'Story of a Journey' strives to promote ties and bridges between people and communities, through creating a widespread national platform in Israel for meetings and storytelling which allow open and direct discussion between different parts of the community.
The program was initiated four years ago and over 50,000 people have already participated in 'Story of a Journey' meetings all over the Israel.