Attendees discuss issues of identity, integration and belonging.
Fifty members of the Ethiopian Israeli Police Officer’s Forum gathered at Yemin Orde Youth Village on July 1 to discuss issues of identity and inclusion in Israeli society. The program was facilitated by Village Way Educational Initiatives.
Nearly half of those attended were Yemin Orde graduates, and almost all had some personal connection to the Village through siblings, cousins, or friends.
Chaim Peri greeted the group with an emotional welcome at Yemin Orde’s synagogue.
Following Chaim's welcome, the officers participated in active workshops on issues of identity, integration and belonging.
Ofir, a graduate of the Village who serves as a company commander in the Israel Border Police, said Yemin Orde’s community of support and kindness inspired him as a troubled youth.
“I was not a good student and did not really participate. But every morning, I would see Chaim Peri waiting for me at the entrance to the dining hall, and he would say every morning, ‘Ofir, you are ok, it’s the system that is messed up. You are good and the system will take time to see it.’ That has stuck with me. They could see me as good even when I wasn’t functioning well. I always remember that the system is not always right, even when I am a part of the system, and that leads me in my work.”
Another officer shared, “I came to the Village as a shy, quiet kid. Chaim Peri always responded to us in such a different way, and I have taken that with me over the years. For example, if he would catch you in the dining hall in the middle of the day when you should have been in class, he would not kick you out, but he would say, ‘Oh, I see you are hungry, let’s sit and eat together.’”
Chaim Peri, who served as Yemin Orde’s director for 30 years, is a friend and mentor to many attendees of the day-long program. His lifetime of advocacy on behalf of Israel’s at-risk youth, which includes many in the Ethiopian-Israeli community, is highly respected and inspirational.
Avraham, a Yemin Orde graduate, surprised Chaim with a gift of gratitude and kinds words, which he finished with a salute to him, saying, “Dr. Chaim Peri, my teacher, my rabbi."
Dotan Levi, Director, Village Way Educational Institute, addressed the different models of integration among immigrant communities, and how they see themselves and their community. He also discussed how they see their role and impact in Israel’s issues of discrimination, and the different approaches for working together in order to lead change for all of Israeli society.
Village Way leaders hope to organize future discussion programs with this dedicated group.
Words of praise from Forum attendees:
“Up until today this Forum only dealt with addressing all of the problems, but today we learned a model from which we can move forward.”
“I can take from today the insight of how much one person can have an impact on the lives of so many people. We all have the power, the question is what we use it for, what we do with our leadership role.”
“To serve in the Police requires a strong mental attitude, the question is how you deal with the challenges. We have been through things in our lives that most people our age have not been through. No one needs to teach us values, we need those who look at us to see these are people that you need to believe in. I am thinking about how I can help, where I can put my energy and have a positive impact.”
“I expect us to lead a new language in the Police, a language of equality, and not have to 'bother' anyone or wait for them to do it for us. I am leaving this day very happy.”
Many people involved in this seminar expressed the need to continue working together in order to bring these resources to more members of the Police force, whether through additional seminars or working together to develop content and training sessions.