(photo credit: Yeechalal Web site)
There is little to cheer about in Rehovot’s Kiryat Moshe
Located on the outskirts of one of Israel’s first cities,
Kiryat Moshe has earned the reputation of being the country’s Harlem – the New
York City neighborhood known for its predominantly African-American population
and high crime rate.
Around 50 percent of Kiryat Moshe’s residents are of
Ethiopian origin, while a similar amount of the neighborhood’s inhabitants are
Kiryat Moshe made national headlines in recent years when
three separate murders were committed by teenagers from the neighborhood,
including a particularly horrendous act in May 2005, when 15-year-old Ma’ayan
Sapir was raped, sodomized and murdered near her Rehovot home by a juvenile
With one of the highest crime rates among teenagers in Israel,
the future looks to be especially bleak for those hailing from Kiryat
However, one initiative is aiming to bring hope to the youth of
The Yeechalal Community Association of Ethiopian
Immigrants for Advancement in Sport was founded in 2000 with the ambition of
empowering and strengthening Ethiopian children and teenagers in Israel, and has
done a world of good since.
“I was trying to find teams for some of the
neighborhood’s talented youngsters, but the clubs I came to said that they are
welcome only if they can pay the NIS 300 monthly fee,” Yeechalal co-founder and
chairman Abay Zauda told me when recalling the founding of the non-profit
“We decided to set-up an organization that would also allow
the underprivileged kids, whose parents can’t afford to pay, to take part in
organized sports and look for some good people to help us out
There are over 350 children currently participating in
Yeechalal’s different programs, which include soccer, basketball and
The senior Bnei Yeechalal Rehovot soccer club was set up in
2007 as a contender in Israel’s lowest amateur league, Liga Gimel. Earlier this
year, the side was promoted to Liga Bet – the country’s fourth
Bnei Yeechalal, which is almost entirely comprised of players
of Ethiopian origin, began its first Liga Bet campaign with a 0-0 draw at Ironi
Ramle on Saturday, and has already advanced to the fourth round of the State
Cup, beating Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem along the way.
Zauda, however, has
set much loftier goals for the team, which is entirely made up of volunteer
players and staff.
“We started in the lowest division, but we want to
become the team of the country,” he said. “We want to slowly climb up the ranks
and eventually even play in European competition.
That is our
More importantly, Zauda, who volunteers every spare minute of his
time with the organization, hopes that one day Yeechalal can branch out to other
neighborhoods and help as many children as possible.
“If we find the
right people to help us and donate the resources we need, we would like to help
more neighborhoods like Ramat Eliyahu in Rishon Lezion,” he said. “At the moment
we don’t have enough resources to do so.”
Words truly fail to do Zauda’s
incredible project justice.
Yeechalal is an Amharic word which roughly
translates to “nothing stands in the way of willpower.”
Zauda and his
team certainly have the will, and hopefully they will be given the power to
continue their wonderful work for years to come.[email protected]