British and Ethiopian-Israelis celebrate their coming of age together
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British and Ethiopian-Israelis celebrate their coming of age together

UJIA’s Ethiopian Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme is the culmination of a year-long programme twinning boys and girls from different cultural backgrounds

  • British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
    British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
  • British and Ethiopian-Israeli teens together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
    British and Ethiopian-Israeli teens together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
  • British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
    British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
  • British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
    British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
  • British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
    British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
  • British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
    British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
  • British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
    British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
  • British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
    British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
  • British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
    British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
  • British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
    British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
  • British and Ethiopian-Israeli teens together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM)  (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
    British and Ethiopian-Israeli teens together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)

Ten British families travelled to Israel last week through UJIA’s Ethiopian Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) to celebrate the Bnei Mitzvot of 23 Ethiopian-Israelis.

The visit ends a year-long programme that twins a British Jewish child approaching their bar or bat mitzvah with a child their own age from the Ethiopian Israeli community of Kiryat Bialik in the Haifa district.

Participants learn about what it means to become a Jewish adult through the prism of the Ethiopian Jewish story, which cover the heroic rescue mission in Sudan in the 1980s, when Israelis set up a fake luxury beach resort to smuggle Ethiopian Jews out, to last month’s mass protests after police shot an Ethiopian Jewish teen.

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Ethiopian Jews began arriving, the town already had a 60-year history of welcoming Jewish immigrants from countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, India, Tunisia and Morocco.

The first 85 Ethiopian Jewish families arrived in Kiryat Bialik as part of Operation Moses in 1985, which brought 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel from Sudan, where they were sprung from refugee camps amid a terrible famine. In 1991 others arrived following Operation Solomon, which airlifted 14,325 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 36 hours.

British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)

During the four-day trip, participants celebrated aspects of Ethiopian Jewish culture, visiting the homes of Ethiopian families in the town of Kiryat Bialik, as well as the new Ethiopian Community Centre, recently opened with the help of UJIA donors.

“It’s been fantastic to see young British Jews bond so closely with young Ethiopian Israelis and share in their celebrations,” said Natie Shevel, UJIA’s interim chief executive.

British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)

“Whether you’re a Jewish kid from the UK or an Ethiopian kid from the north of Israel, our shared Jewish heritage is something to celebrate. The challenges facing Ethiopian Israelis have been in the spotlight recently… This programme has never been more important.”

This year’s EBBM programme is the charity’s 15th and many past British participants have kept in touch with their Ethiopian Israeli counterparts, revisiting their ‘twins’ on subsequent holidays and building links between the British Jewish and Ethiopian Israeli Jewish communities.

British and Ethiopian-Israeli participants together on the UJIA’s Bar Bat Mitzvah Programme (EBBM) (Photo credit: Neil Mercer)
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