February 14, 2012 / 21 Shvat 5772
A delegation comprised of members of the New York City Council visited the Jewish Agency immigrant absorption center in the northern Israel city of Safed (Tzfat) earlier this week.
The new immigrants housed at the absorption center were excited to welcome the City Council members, at least one of whom had already visited the site on multiple occasions.
The guests were greeted warmly and a new immigrant couple who have only been in Israel for three weeks welcomed with a traditional ceremony including the presentation of Ethiopian coffee, known in Amharic as bunna. The husband, who had worked at the Israeli embassy in Ethiopia and awaited aliyah to Israel for twelve years, told the guests about his anticipation ahead of the move to Israel, speaking a mixture of English and Amharic. His wife prepared the coffee.
During the course of their visit, the visitors heard an explanation of absorption procedures, watched a film on the arrival of immigrants, heard about the personal experiences of both recent and veteran immigrants, and asked questions about the absorption process.
The highlight of the visit was a joint activity with local immigrant children – the creation of handcrafted hamsa plaques bearing the Blessing for the Home.
“Their connection with the children was warm and gracious. Using hand motions and smiles, everyone managed to create the Blessing for the Home and help one another,” said cultural coordinator Rafi Trabelsi. “Toward the end of their visit, the guests went outside to play with the children and have their picture taken with them.”
“They were wonderful to the children, hugging and kissing them, and clearly connecting to them. These were truly people who love being with other people. I identified one who had visited the center a number of times before. The light in the eyes of both the children and the guests throughout the visit made the visitors’ departure difficult for all,” said Trabelsi.
Left: The immigrant couple who shared their aliyah story with the members of the delegation, along with the absorption center matron, a veteran immigrant from Ethiopia. Photo credit: Leon Levitas.
Photo credit: Rafi Trabelsi