PROJECTS | Community Development

The Ethiopian Women's Empowerment Centre

Who you will help 

Beit Shemesh is a city which is constantly absorbing new immigrants and one of the largest cities in Israel to absorb immigrants from Ethiopia. The immigrants from Ethiopia were settled in a central neighborhood of Beit Shemesh called ‘HaNarkis.’ Here, thousands of the Ethiopian community are residing in dilapidated housing, and in great poverty. 

 As much as the acclimation of this community has met with difficulties, it is most significantly prominent among the population of women. The shoulders of these women bear the responsibilities of earning a livelihood, educating their children, and seeing to their personal development. Unfortunately, these women are very far from utilizing their potential in these areas. It is crucial that support for immigrants does not stop at simply providing a place to live, but in assisting them to actualize their abilities and strengths to become happy and contributing community members.  

Your donation will fund 

The Shaalim organization has received a piece of land to construct the “Inspiration Center” to serve the Ethiopian women of the community. The 400sqm building will house 4 central learning areas and 5 small private rooms. It will consist of:  

Vocational Training – The majority of Ethiopian immigrants in Beit Shemesh are employed as cleaning staff in schools, health clinics, and other institutions in the city. To enable these women to support themselves with better job opportunities, the Centre will bridge the gap by presenting new employment choices with higher salaries and diverse types of work. With the inspiration of brighter prospects, they will be offered various training programs in the Centre, addressing the common barriers to training success (suspicion they will not be understood, fear of failure, language barriers and lack of follow-up). The Centre will create the environment of trust and support these women need, inspiring them to choose an occupational path which is more prosperous than the one they find themselves in today.  

Computer & Communication Support – One of the main difficulties in accessing good job opportunities is low proficiency in the computer and language skills needed for job applications. It is now such that positions in the Ethiopian community, such as operating its children’s centers, are being filled by those who are not from the Ethiopian community, simply because those in the community do not understand the terms of the tender, or they think they are not suitable due to a lack of confidence in themselves or the system. Various services exist to address these needs, but none are appropriate for these Ethiopian women and therefore they don’t attend. The Inspiration Centre will provide a welcoming space and offer culturally appropriate programs for learning the Hebrew language, computer skills to apply for jobs online, and interview preparations and practice, all to lower the anxieties around job applications, strengthen self-confidence, and provide culture and language support for securing employment.  

Oct 7th Update: The Centre has also expanded to provide war-time services to help the community navigate new and changing instructions from the government and army, and how to apply for help, insurances and other urgent services.  

Parent and Family Center – This Center will emphasize the women of the Ethiopian community by honouring and upholding the traditions of the Ethiopian community, rather than implying they must assimilate to Israeli culture. One of the difficulties experienced by parents in this community is in conversations with school staff, when immigrant parents do not understand what is said to them by the school administration and they become confused. When the school administration sees that the conversations with the parents do not elicit an improvement with the child, they expel the child from the class/school, and the frustrated parents do not understand why or for what. The Inspiration Center will provide Hebrew and Amharic-speaking representatives to assist parents in understanding the school issues that arise, and convey the feelings and opinions of the parents back to teaching staff, to effectively address issues and keep children in school and on track for success. 

A Center for the Heritage and Culture of Ethiopian Jews - Support networks in the Ethiopian community have recognized that as families attempt to assimilate to Israeli culture, improve their conditions and establish a prosperous life in Israel, there is a sense of internal conflict and detachment from the place they came. This is especially the case for children of the Ethiopian community, who express harsh feelings such as “why was I born in Ethiopia?” and “why am I not a regular child?”. The Inspiration Center wants to place emphasis on the beauty of Ethiopian culture, and for their self-sacrifice over thousands of years to preserve their Judaism; for the elderly men and women and their connection to their glorious Jewish Ethiopian heritage. In this way, if someone says to them that something is not being done correctly, they need not feel guilt or low esteem, but will rather calmly adjust and feel ‘I am equal just as I am.’  

Location: Beit Shemesh, one of Israel’s 10 largest cities, is 30km west of Jerusalem.