This blog post is written by Sofie, a Yahel fellow living in the Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood in Rishon LeZion.
They say it takes a village to raise a child - We’ve all heard that saying before. Its origin? An African proverb from the Nigerian Igbo culture, “Oran a azu nwa”.
How many of us can say we’ve personally experienced this so-called ‘village’?
I certainly can. Hi, I’m Sofie, an Australian Jew living in Israel. I travelled here six months ago, with the intention to sink my teeth into the unknown, a new adventure! I was super eager to roll up my sleeves and get involved with a local community that was in need of a little extra support and care.
Currently, as I write this, I am sitting in my home away from home - Rishon LeZion, home to a small community called Ramat Eliyahu. Ramat Eliyahu is a small migrant minority group from various cultural backgrounds, predominantly Ethiopian Jews, otherwise known as Beta Israel.
My primary placements (responsibilities) while I’ve been here have consisted of working at two government-funded early learning centres (kindergartens), an after-school care program, and perhaps my favourite, teaching English to children between 8-14 years.
My time here has also involved spending time at the local community centre assisting youth who are training to be youth counsellors.
I came to this community expecting to make a positive impact or dare I say ‘change’, and perhaps also gain some personal growth.
Throughout my time here I have been exposed to people across a variety of age groups and backgrounds. Because of this wonderful exposure, my perception has completely transformed.
The community have been delightful and incredibly welcoming and generous, from smiling on the street, to inviting me into their home for Shabbos dinner.
I mentioned earlier that this community is a minority, however what they are lacking in material ‘things’, they make up for in family unity, collaboration, positive religious faith and overall strong community values.
When we talk about minority communities, the conversations often focus on their lack of materialistic possessions, the limited educational, housing, funding and support resources and employment opportunities available.
Something I’ve been pondering recently is why we tend to focus on what a community is lacking instead of what they do have - The people of Ramat Eliyahu are strong in various aspects, in faith, commitment, family unity, supporting one another and evidently welcoming foreign strangers into their community with ease.
They are positively rewriting their narrative and its truly a blessing to be a part of it.
I recognise the importance of identifying one’s needs in order to provide relevant support, but if we focus on what one does have and build up from there, I feel the overall narrative can change for all involved.
We spoke about that old proverb earlier on about an entire village raising a child and I think it’s also safe to say it takes an incredible community to change one’s perspective.