Bnei Akiva in Gondar, Ethiopia. .
(photo credit: BNEI AKIVA)
The World Bnei Akiva youth movement recently launched an inaugural branch in Gondar, Ethiopia, to cater to the remaining 6,000 person-large Jewish community awaiting aliya to Israel.
The 6,000 mark the last of Ethiopia's Jews, and, according to a governmental decision made late last year, are expected to make aliya within the next five years - a move which would bring about the end of a Jewish diaspora in the African country.
The Gondar-based branch of the movement was launched nearly two months ago with the intention of easing assimilation into Israeli society for the Ethiopian youth, introducing them to concepts of Zionism, Judaism, and the land of Israel, before setting out on their life-changing move.
This initial exposure to Bnei Akiva is to serve as a stepping-stone for the youth, who are expected to carry on with involvement in the movement once they make aliya and are placed in absorption centers in Israel.
"Historically, World Bnei Akiva has worked to encourage aliya in the diaspora," Roee Abekasis, head of the organization, said. "We were presented with an important and pioneering challenge to launch activities in Ethiopia...[which would serve as an introduction and] be followed with integration into a Bnei Akiva branch in Israel" post-aliya.
"We are working on building a base of activities in Gondar, and recruiting the best of emissaries for the cause," Abekasis added.
The branch is being led by emissaries from Israel who were sent on a several-week-long mission to train would-be counselors within the community, along with a local youth who has taken on a leading role.
World Bnei Akiva is working to establish a more permanent leadership base of Israeli emissaries in Gondar in order to expand the organization's activities within the greater community. Simultaneously, branches of the youth movement in Israel are preparing for the absorption of the Ethiopian olim.
"Bnei Akiva has been operating in absorption centers for olim for years now," said Danny Hirschberg, head of the movement in Israel. "The activities in Gondar are easing the transition process and allowing us to properly absorb olim from the community in our centers in Israel."