Ethiopian Jews Find their Roots in Agriculture on Atachlit Farm

By KKL-JNF
March 2, 2016 08:20

3 minute read.



KKL-JNF

Ethiopian Jews Find their Roots in Agriculture on Atachlit Farm. (photo credit:KKL-JNF)

Atachlit Farm is a community project in Kiryat Gat that helps Jews from Ethiopia to integrate into Israeli life while retaining their cultural heritage. 

Atachlit Farm is a community project in Kiryat Gat that helps Jews from Ethiopia to integrate into Israeli life while retaining their cultural heritage. 


With the support of Friends of JNF Canada, the farm has embarked on two new projects entitled 'Putting Down Roots': a social club and an herb-production business. 


Atachlit means “agriculture” in Amharic, but it also sounds like the Hebrew word tachlit, which means “purpose” or “objective.” And, indeed, this traditional agriculture is helping many older people to find a purpose in life once more. 


The design of the farm was inspired by the structure of an Ethiopian village, and the huts housing the activity centers preserve the traditional lifestyle: farming, building with mud, cooking and using clay for crafts. Younger members of the community who visit the site can get in touch with their parents’ traditions, while for the general public this is an opportunity to come into contact with the marvelous culture of the Jews of Ethiopia, which has been almost completely neglected since their arrival in Israel. Guided tours of the site include lectures, craft workshops and a whole host of other activities for the entire family. 


“The farm is actually a heritage center that specializes in traditional agriculture based mainly on the skills of the older people,” said Rabbi Moshe Salomon, CEO of the Hineni Community Network, which established the farm. Hineni consists of a nationwide network of task forces that work to promote cooperation between Israel’s veteran population and Israelis of Ethiopian origin. “The farm was born out of a strong desire on the part of the community to present their rich culture to the Israeli public,” added Rabbi Salomon. 


Some seventy older members of the community, both men and women, grow a variety of vegetables and spices at the farm. Some of these crops, such as spicy Sudanese peppers and gomen, often referred to as “Ethiopian lettuce”, are unique to Ethiopian cuisine. Next year they also hope to grow teff, a type of grain known for its health-giving properties, which is used to bake injera, the fermented Ethiopian bread. 


Visitors to the farm can watch the elderly farmers working in their plots, caring for the fields and checking excitedly on the progress of their crops. The sparkle in these farmers’ eyes reveals the importance of this agricultural work to them more than any fine words could. These people, once farmers and community leaders in Ethiopia, have sometimes had difficulty finding their place in Israel’s modern urban society. For years they dreamed of the land of Israel, yet on arrival they found themselves cut off from their heritage and their profession. 


The farm gives them a reason to get up in the morning and offers them a new sense of purpose: suddenly their knowledge is in demand. The vegetables they grow have become an inseparable part of the family menu, and the younger generation regards their elders with growing respect.  


Twenty-five-year-old Pini Zawda of Kiryat Gat is a guide at the farm. “The moment you learn about your heritage, you’ve got something to be proud of,” he said. “I meet youth from all backgrounds here, and many of them are surprised when they learn about the history of the Jews of Ethiopia, who preserved their heritage for thousands of years and risked their lives to come to Israel.”



For further information, comments or permission please contact
Ahuva Bar-Lev
KKL-JNF – Information and Internet Department


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