February 11, 2010 / 27 Shvat 5770
Life in Israel for elderly Ethiopian immigrants is especially difficult.
While adjusting to a new environment is never easy, particularly for the elderly who are accustomed to a completely different culture and lifestyle, getting their bearings in their new home, often when they are unemployed, is often fraught with emotional lows. As a result, many feel lonely and like a burden to society.
"Roots – Community Agriculture for the Elderly," a joint initiative of Hinneni - one of the special garinim in the Jewish Agency's Young Communities Initiative, and the Lakhish Research and Development Agricultural Center, gives Ethiopian immigrants from the region surrounding Kiryat Gat a second chance at a meaningful life through light agricultural work.
Launched in 2009, "Roots" started with 20 elderly Israeli-Ethiopians (one is even in his 80s!) with some traditional agricultural knowledge, who were given 1.5 acres (6 dunams) of land for cultivating and planting fruits, vegetables and herbs. The products were distributed to their family and friends and for the needy in their community. Through the Lakhish research and Development Agricultural Center, the group was exposed to modern agricultural technologies. The end results were remarkable: Participants found a healthy way to contribute to their family and community and their days became filled with meaning. Their status has improved among their families since the elder returns home at the end of the day with not just fruits and vegetables, but also stories to share. And on school holidays, their grandchildren are able to join them at the field, which gives them a chance to educate the younger generation and regain their status in the family. Beyond the emotional benefits, there are health benefits from such light physical activity.
"Roots" is supported by the local community garin (in Hebrew: Seed), young families – the majority of whom are Ethiopian - who as educators and academics with advanced degrees, can live anywhere they want but because of their commitment to social change, choose to live among the periphery of the country to empower the local community from within. Every garin runs a variety of social and educational programs for children, youth and the elderly.
Hinneni is a nonprofit Israeli organization originally established in 1998 whose goal is to empower Israeli-Ethiopians in Israel. Today, "Hinneni" operates in 9 locations across the country, and is constantly widening its activity to other locations.
Hinneni supports emerging communitiesbby giving their staff professional guidance and support.
Since the "Roots" program has been so successful, the goal is to expand its activities throughout the entire region, to develop a greenhouse and to create a regional educational center for youth, which would include a science classroom, a history of agricultural techniques, and demonstrations of water saving irrigation techniques.