415 new immigrants, including 250 children, arrived at the Ibim Absorption Center in the south of Israel over the last month
November 18, 2012 / 4 Kislev 5773
Ibim Absorption Center is an oasis of calm in the Sha’ar HaNegev Region. The grounds are green and expertly tended. The quiet and calm belie the reality this week. On average the residents, who are new immigrants from Ethiopia, run for cover five times a day at the sound of the “Color Red” alert.
The absorption center is currently home to 415 very new immigrants from Ethiopia who are dealing with the constant threat of rockets while also learning to adapt to everyday Israeli and Western culture. On October 18th, a small plane-load of 36 immigrants arrived in Israel. The following week, on October 25th, a further 51 immigrants were also brought by The Jewish Agency. On October 29th, a charter flight of 237 new immigrants arrived, accompanied by the director of Ibim, Moshe Bahta. This last Thursday, November 16, a day after Operation Pillar of Cloud began, 91 Ethiopians made Ibim their home.
They have all come to join their family members who immigrated to Israel over the years, and who now live all over the country. One man, who arrived three years ago, has come to Ibim to be with his daughter and her family, who landed in Israel on Thursday.
Nati and Or-Tal volunteer at Ibim Absorption Center, conducting activities with the 250 children who have arrived in Israel in the past month.
During their break from school or ulpan classes, the immigrants are found outside, enjoying the grounds. Soldiers have come to volunteer at the absorption center, creating activities for the children during their free time. The presence of the soldiers also gives them an added feeling of security.
Fifteen more shin-shinim (pre-military volunteers) are due to arrive in the upcoming days to play with and provide guidance for the 250 new children currently at Ibim. There are also two full-time social workers serving the community.
The new immigrants say they are not afraid. Each apartment has its own safe-room where families seek security when alerts are sounded. Bahta, the director of Ibim, says there is no panic at these times, and that everyone remains very calm. When he visited Gondar, he explained the security situation at Ibim, which is very close to the city of Sderot. They also received booklets in Amharic with step-by-step actions. Upon their arrival, they were taught again exactly what to do in cases of emergency.
Bahta is moved by the responses so far. No one was distressed by his warnings in Gondar when he explained that since its inception, Israel has fought many wars to maintain its independence. “They are Zionists. They feel like a part of the Jewish People. I have watched them react over the last week, and they are like soldiers. Some have even said: Give us weapons so we can help defend Israel.”
Ofer Baram, The Jewish Agency Director of Absorption and Emergency Response in the Southern Region, has also been heartened by the efforts of his team at the Ibim Absorption Center. “It is a great feeling,” Baram said, to see the staff at the eight absorption centers he oversees showing the “true commander spirit” he has worked to instill in his 23 years with The Jewish Agency. “No matter what time of day, they say: What is needed? I will be there.”
The Director General of The Jewish Agency, Alan Hoffmann, Deputy Chairman of the Executive, Rany Trainin, and other senior Jewish Agency officials met with the staff at Ibim. Moshe Bahta and Ofer Baram debriefed the visitors.
Volunteer Or-Tal conducting activities with the children at Ibim Absorption Center, bringing light into the lives of the 250 children who have arrived in Israel in the past month.
Hoffmann concluded the meeting by reiterating that The Jewish Agency is partnering with the government to bring the last of the Ethiopians waiting in Gondar to Israel by the end of 2013. As part of this project, it made the Ibim Absorption Center available for the integration of immigrants that arrived during October and November 2012. “We did not expect that in the first month, they would be faced with this situation. They are lucky to have staff who, every day, leads the immigrants by their hands.” He addressed the team: “There are no words to express our respect and gratitude for the work you are doing here now.”