Putting the 'fun' into a fundraiser

Ethiopian culture and cuisine are on the menu as an NGO battles dwindling donations for projects to help the community.

In an ongoing effort to help Ethiopian youth integrate into Israeli society, the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) works through specialized programs to help these teenagers feel at home in their homeland. Created in 2003 as a joint effort between the Israeli government, world Jewry and The Ethiopian Representative Organization, the ENP provides Ethiopian-Israeli youth aged 13-18, as well as their parents, the opportunity to integrate into local society through scholastic assistance and cultural and social enrichment programs. ENP's roster includes such programs as after-school scholastic assistance; IDF army preparation; youth outreach centers, which focus on educational and cultural enrichment programs; drug and alcohol abuse programs; parent workshops; and young leadership programs. According to Tracey Amar of the ENP, "Since the foundation of ENP, thousands of Ethiopian-Israeli youth have completed a full matriculation, allowing them to enter university; school drop-out rates and crime rates have dropped dramatically; and there are far fewer cases of domestic violence in Ethiopian-Israeli homes." Successful as these programs have been over the past six years, the recent economic crisis has taken its toll. As a result of budget cuts, the ENP youth outreach centers and scholastic assistance programs are at risk of being closed down, says Amar, which translates into some 2,500 teens being excluded from these programs around the country, leaving them with no outside help to narrow the academic and social gap between them and their peers. As a creative solution to that immediate problem, the ENP is staging an entertaining fundraising event. The Ethiopian National Project Fundraiser will not only help bolster the organization's finances but will also give local audiences the opportunity to appreciate the rich ethos of the Ethiopian culture and enjoy the diverse skills and talents of the Ethiopian-Israeli community. ENP is presenting the Ethiopian National Project Fundraiser in partnership with the International Community and Cultural Center (ICCC), The Ethiopian Representative Organization and The Marrache Fine Art Gallery. The event will take place on Sunday evening, August 23 at the ICCC at 12 Emek Refaim. The three-pronged program will feature an Ethiopian buffet, a sale of handmade crafts and a stageful of live entertainment. WHERE TO begin? Let's start with the food. Commencing at 6 p.m., the buffet of Ethiopian cuisine will be prepared fresh on the spot by Bat El Shmueli (who will also be performing later in the show). The fare will include engara, the traditional Ethiopian bread in the form of a crepe, and a variety of exotic vegetable and lentil fillings and toppings. In addition, there will be a traditional Ethiopian buna coffee ceremony. In this revered ritual, the coffee is taken through its full life cycle of preparation before your eyes. The ceremony begins with a woman bringing out washed coffee beans and roasting them in a special long-handled roasting pan on a small open fire. As she begins to shake the pan back and forth so the beans won't burn, the coffee beans start to pop. When the aromatic smell of coffee fills the air, the woman puts the roasted coffee into a wooden bowl to crush it with a small stick or, in more modern traditions, in a small coffee grinder. The fresh roasted coffee powder is then put in a traditional clay pot with water and boiled on the fire. The steaming hot coffee is then poured into small cups and served to the guests. Next on the evening's agenda, or actually in tandem with the time of the buffet, is an exhibition and sale of Ethiopian art and handicrafts. Five Ethiopian sculptors from around the country will be exhibiting, including Jerusalem's Mulu Gheta, one of Israel's most renowned sculptors. Original Ethiopian handicrafts will be on sale, as well as a selection of Ethiopian Israeli photographs. As an added feature, the sculptures and some of the handicrafts and photographs will be sold through a silent auction, the proceeds of which will be divided between the artists and the ENP. After the buffet and the art exhibit and sales, it's show time. Starting at 7:30 p.m., participants will be treated to a dynamic, colorful program of traditional Ethiopian dance, theater and music, hosted by actors Tehila Adga Yeshayahu and Benny Getahoun. Featured at this unique event are well-known Ethiopian-Israeli singers, dancers, actors and musicians such as The Hologub Theatrical Group, singer Abate Berihun, and traditional musicians Adgo & Solomon playing the krar and masenqo, as well as energetic Ethiopian-Israeli youth involved in ENP teen cultural groups who will perform songs and dances they learned at the youth outreach centers. The dramatic segments of the show, such as monologues and short theatrical pieces, will be translated into English and inserted in the program brochure. For example, there will be two pieces from the Hologub Theater, which is based at the Confederation House. Hologub, which means "multifaceted" in Amharic, is an Ethiopian theater ensemble founded in 2004 on the initiative of Confederation House and the Culture Ministry with the aim of facilitating artistic expression among Ethiopian actors and theatrical artists in Israel. Another theatrical piece is the moving monodrama "Levada" (Alone) in which Tehila Yeshayahu-Adghe portrays a young woman searching for love on the Internet. In her stirring monologue, she reveals the absurd, amusing and sad elements of her life, the prejudice in Israeli society, the longing for her childhood, and the pain of her difficult and abusive marriage. On a lighter note, such performers as the ENP youth dance troupe Lev Ve Lev and the ENP singing group Tselti will set the ICCC rocking to the rafters. Ethiopian National Project Fundraiser, Sunday August 23 at the ICCC, 12 Emek Refaim. Six p.m. buffet and art exhibition; 7:30 p.m. cultural performance. NIS 150 for adults; NIS 110 for seniors and soldiers; NIS 85 for children 12 and under. To reserve, e-mail Tracey Shipley Amar at tracey_enpcontact@ujc.org.il or call 052-613-0737. Web site: www.enp.org.il