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You’re never alone with Alona

Follow me: Social worker Alona gets the day trippers organised

 One of the great benefits of volunteering is to experience things which we would not otherwise do.

Here I am on a Monday morning at eight o clock, standing in front of the Hefzibah community center. I accepted the invitation from Alona, a social worker in the neighborhood, for volunteers to join a trip to Tel Aviv - sightseeing and visiting the Ethiopian exhibition in the Eretz Israel Museum. The bus is not here yet. On the invitation it says the bus leaves at eight o clock. But everyone knows we will not leave before eight thirty.

Life in Hefzibah, a neighborhood of Ethiopians, seems to run according to a special clock. I call it the "no-hurry clock".

There I am, standing and enjoying watching the morning bustle in this extraordinary neighborhood. There are young fathers and mothers accompanying their children who are crossing the street to school, cheerfully greeting each other. Young people in their cars on the way to work shout hello. A young man is testing Alona by asking her, "Do you know who I am?" Of course Alona passes the test, calling the young man by his name. Everyone in the neighborhood knows Alona and she knows everyone. And she has a big assignment here as a social worker.

Enjoying the day’s sightseeing

At a leisurely pace, women and men arrive to join the trip. Women wear their colorful, traditional Ethiopian dresses and headcovers. People greet me in Amharic, "Dehna aderk". I smile, not understanding a word. Nevertheless, people continue to talk to me in Amharic with such a certainty that even I think I understand. I am nodding and smiling. People are exceptionally friendly. I can see they are looking forward to the excursion.

Our first stop is the Tel Aviv harbor. We admire the blue sea and sky. Alona gives us an overview in Hebrew which is translated into Amharic by a lovely young woman called Mimi. We learn that the Tel Aviv harbor was built due to the strike of the Jaffa dockworkers. In the year 1936, Tel Aviv received permission to build a modest port. During World War II, under pressure from the Arab population, the British Mandate denied entrance to the persecuted Jews of Europe. Many Jews saved their lives by entering the country illegally at the port of Tel Aviv. Today the Tel Aviv port is a major entertainment and cultural center. Restaurants, cafés, and fashion shops occupy the renovated warehouses.

Our second stop is the Yarkon Park, where we eat our picnic. We admire the beauty of the park with the Yarkon River flowing through lovely greenery. Wonderful strong trees provide us with comfortable shade and a windbreak.

Alona tells us about the history of Tel Aviv. The city of Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 on the outskirts of ancient Jaffa. All that was there was a dune at the seashore and the vision of Arieh Akiva Weiss. He talked 60 families into building new homes on the dune. A lottery took place to decide who would live where. Weiss took 60 white shells and 60 gray ones, inscribing the names of the families on the white shells and the plot numbers on the gray ones. A young boy and girl drew the shells out one by one. In 1910 the first 60 houses were standing proudly on the sand. The 60 families celebrated Moving Day and a train of camels made its way north from Jaffa, carrying the Weiss family's belongings to their new home. Today Tel Aviv has a land area of about 52 square kilometers and some 410,000 inhabitants. Tel Aviv is the financial capital of Israel, a city of culture, museums theaters, concerts, operas, many cafés, high rises, lots of trees and a beautiful seashore. It is a city that never sleeps - a wonderful exciting city. 

Another stop-off for members of the Heffziibah community

All very impressed, we climb onto the bus which drives us through Jaffa and then to our final destination, the Eretz Israel Museum.

A lovely young woman guides us through the exhibition. On the way to the exhibition hall, she stops and shows us the remains of an ancient winery. One of our group explains that back in Ethiopia, before he immigrated to Israel, he made wine in the same way.

The exhibition is very interesting and gives an insight into Ethiopia, geographically, culturally, historically and politically. Participants in our group are able to identify and give comments based on their knowledge and their own experiences.

A large part of the history of Ethiopia is based on the legend of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of Israel. I like the story because it is kind of romantic.

When the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon, she promised not to take anything from the King's house. One night, King Solomon went to sleep on one side of the chamber and the Queen on the other side. Before he fell asleep, he placed a bowl of water near the Queen of Sheba's chamber. As she was thirsty in the middle of the night, the Queen woke up and went to drink some water. The King heard a noise, got up and accused the Queen of Sheba of breaking her promise. She took water from his house.

Nevertheless, King Solomon was attracted by the beauty of the Queen of Sheba and the incident led to a relationship. As a result, a son was born in Ethiopia named Menelik, later the founder of the Solomonic Dynasty. At the age of 22 Menelik went to Jerusalem to visit his father. Menelik learned the laws of Moses. Azariah, the high priest's son had to accompany Menelik back to Ethiopia. He dreamed that he had to bring the sacred ark to Ethiopia. Then Menelik stole the original ark and put a fake one in its place. In Ethiopia, the Aksumite kingdom adopted the laws of Moses.

The Judaism of the Ethiopian Jews endured throughout the generations, based on the laws of the first Beit HaMikdash, the first holy temple.

Our trip was a great experience for all the participants. Happy and content, we sat back in the bus and returned to Hefzibah.

I want to say a special thanks to Alona who did a wonderful job making this outing such an enjoyable experience. 

 

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Monday, 20 September 2021

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