Ethiopian traditions in modern times, challenges of integrating into Israeli society, and future opportunities were among the key topics discussed at a recent BIU conference on “Beta Israel” (Ethiopian Jewry).
The conference brought together a leading Kes (priest) and other prominent members of the community, academicians, and officials from the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, which co-sponsored the event with the Aharon and Rachel Dahan Center for Culture, Society and Education in the Sephardic Heritage. The Dahan Center is funded by the Baltimore-based Haron Dahan Foundation.
BIU lecturer and alumnus Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom, who immigrated in 1982, noted that “suspicion and fear of one another creates ill feelings between the Beta Israel and Israeli society,” stressing the importance of “viewing the world from the other person’s perspective as well.”
A Difficult Journey
Other speakers relayed that pride is very important for members of the Ethiopian community, that they have much to contribute, particularly in the area of herbal remedies, perfumes and spices, and that Israeli society should try to understand the immigrants via their own narrative and the difficulties they experienced in their journey to Israel.
The conference, which was part of the Dahan Center’s series on immigrant communities, featured performances by the contemporary Ethiopian dance troupe, Beta, and a leading actor.
Encouraging Awareness of the Cultural Richness of Jewish Communities
The Center, which promotes and preserves Jewish heritage by encouraging awareness of the cultural riches of the Jewish Sephardic communities, will be featuring another conference this fall on “The Displacement and Expulsion of Jews from Arab Countries.”
It continues to fulfill the vision of the late beloved Haron and Rachel Dahan, who established the Center through the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University. The Center annually conducts an extensive program of activities in the academic and educational spheres, as well as for the general public: seminars and international conferences, research and publication of academic papers, university courses, tours, exhibitions, cultural evenings, in-service training courses and workshops for teachers, projects for high school students, and more.