Written by Sue Matloff

Day 3

We started the day meeting with Telem, a one-year, post-army training program for Ethiopians. Telem is not a program in which the Federation currently invests. The program empowers them to create a good productive life and help kibbutzim.The program is active in many of the 257 kibbutz movements and is growing today after these troubled times for young adults after service. Telem began 22 years for the Ethiopians with the help of the Ministry of Absorption. It is now with the Ministry of Israeli Society. There are 87 participants. The three pillars of the program include:

  • One-year employment in kibbutz;
  • Education, pre-academic or vocational course; and
  • Housing — private room in kibbutz and expected to participate in community life

We heard about their desire to expand the program after 22 years to create a two-year program. The longer program would help for placement in more upscale jobs on the Kibbutz. They want to add technology into the program, using the same program model that has been successful.Many participants of Telem (become a family) and stay in kibbutz life. We had four graduates speak to us about why this program is so important to them:

  • They finished army service with no clue of what to do.
  • They learn equal opportunity in this program, the tools to be independent.
  • They consider the kibbutz their family.
  • They learn financial responsibility and develop self-esteem. These young people are empowered to make a better life for themselves.

Next, we visited the company UniPharm, a medical manufacturing company located in the high tech area of Yokneam. The company manufactures psychological and cardiovascular medications. This family-owned business went from 35 to 300 employees in three years. The market is in Israel now but will be exporting beginning in March. CEO gives back to the Yokneam community through the Machshava Tova program.Later in the day, we met Ye Wug Mert, a young woman who informed us about Ethiopians in Israeli society. She talked about the experience of coming to Israel, and what it is like to be an Israeli Jew. Her goal is to have the Ethiopian community in Yokneam take a bigger role in the change needed to improve their position in Israel. The journey through Sudan wasn’t easy. Once in, Israel the struggle continues today and change has to come from within the Ethiopian community now.For our last stop on Yokneam we went to Kol Halev, the food pantry in Yokneam that we invest in through Leket. Federation has funded them for 11 years. Leket rescues excess food that is not wanted and also grows some up north. Last year 65,000 pounds of food came to this food pantry. Municipalities and Chabad give money to the food bank to purchase grains, eggs, and meat. The food pantry provides 30-pound packages of food weekly to 50 families including the invalid, elderly, single parents, and new immigrants. Most are referred by social services with some drop-ins. Families pay 25 shekels ($7). Average length of time to use the pantry is limited to six months. There are chronic situations that require continuous support. Twenty volunteers run Kol Halev. Some recipients also give back by being volunteers.

Finally, we met Hekama, a Druze woman who is a graduate of the Economic Empowerment for Women program, Business of One’s Own. The program out of Haifa has been in existence for 20 years. We’ve invested in the program for more than a decade. The purpose is to train women from the periphery to be able to join the workforce. The only way to economic independence is a business of their own. The program includes practical business skills and personal empowerment over seven months. Seventy percent of the businesses are still in place after five years.

Hekama’s story: 

She is a graduate of the program three years ago and is now ready to register it as an official business. She was 11th of 12 kids living in the Druze city of Daliat el Carmel. Girls only go to school through 8th grade. She was married at 22, has four children and divorced at 27. She received help from the government to build a house. She lobbied in the Knesset for help from the government for single women who want to be independent. She was an activist, taking a course at Haifa University about rights during a divorce. She cleaned homes; people asked her to make food for them. She then learned about this program, studied the culinary business, graduated, and now markets her business through social media. She does small groups in homes or a catering event for 500.

We were so lucky to be able to enjoy this fabulous dinner.

Tomorrow in JERUSALEM.