Israel Journal: A glimpse into an immigrant absorption center

Lisa Zehner

Of that 1,200 Ethiopian immigrants at the center, a little more than 50 percent are children.

JERUSALEM—Israel is home to more than 31 immigration absorption centers. What is an absorption center you might ask? Good question.

An Ethiopian girl plays a game Sunday at the absorption center that will help her learn Hebrew.

The centers help immigrants transition into Israeli culture by providing them with various supportive services. The goal is to create more Israeli citizens by providing them with affordable housing and teaching them Hebrew and other needed skills.

I was able to tour the Mevaseret Absorption Center Sunday, which is home to more than 1,200 Ethiopian immigrants. Most of the Ethiopian immigrants are not used to the Israeli culture because they come from small villages in Ethiopia. The director of the center said that it takes time for them to get adjusted to the conveniences that the western world expects, such as using refrigerators to preserve food and more.

A family walks along the street Sunday at the Mevaseret Absorption Center.

I spent a short time at the center, but learned a lot about the diverse people that come to live in Israel. I was able to hear the success story of Rudy, an Ethiopian immigrant whose parents came to Israel 24 years ago. Her mom was pregnant with her when she made the journey to come to Israel. They stayed at the absorption center for two years and it helped them transition into the culture like many of the people living there now. The center in some ways felt a lot like an Ethiopian village might be, with wall murals scattered around the buildings and some of the back yards had huts that the people likely lived in back home. Many of the centers are a part of the Jewish Agency.