Jewish National Fund-USA and the Yerusalem Forum Partner in a Celebration of Ethiopian History and Culture

Rolene Marks


The dream of Jerusalem sustained them through the centuries. The hope of one day returning home to Jerusalem has been the song in the heart of Ethiopian Jews - and home they have come. On wings of eagles, through daring rescue flights, and from long, arduous treks through treacherous terrain, generations of Ethiopian Jews have returned home to Zion after 2,000 years.


The story of Israel’s Ethiopian community is extraordinary. It is a story of hardship, tragedy, and loss – yet it is also a story of incredible hope, survival, and fortitude. Theirs is a story of surviving insurmountable odds, courage, and resilience.


Israel’s Ethiopian community has brought a rich cultural heritage and unique life experiences that enrich Israeli society’s diverse mosaic. There are inspirational leaders, spiritual Kesim, and elders who carry with them the community’s oral history and stories passed down from generation to generation.


Assimilating into Israeli society has not been easy for the Ethiopian community. Cultural differences and unacceptable incidents of racism from some people have presented significant challenges.


The Yerusalem Forum, launched in January 2016, is a coalition of nonprofit organizations that work together to breathe new life into the story of the Ethiopian-Jewish community in Israel; and to find a unique, positive, authentic, and significant place for it in the broader Israeli Zionist narrative.



The Yerusalem Forum hopes to create a platform for a robust, diverse network of local leaders who will work to help combat the feelings of alienation and racism that many feel, while creating a more tolerant and unified society.


Each year, the Yerusalem Forum hosts an annual conference centered on the legacy of a pioneering Ethiopian Jewish leader. The conference, which can attract up to 400 participants, welcomes a cross-section of Israeli change-makers, educators, journalists, decision-makers, activists, and religious and community leaders. The conference will be supported and promoted across all major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more.


This year, the focus of the upcoming conference, which will be held on the 30th of November at the Cinemateque in Tel Aviv, will be on the power of social activists. The conference will specifically feature the alliance between the Beta Israel community and the American activists who helped open the gates of aliyah to Israel between1969 between 1993.


Jewish National Fund-USA has consistently recognized the Ethiopian community’s enormous contribution to the State of Israel, their unique story and vibrant culture – and the importance of preserving and teaching Ethiopian history.


The organization has a long and proud history of promoting Zionism and supporting the Ethiopian community. Recently, they donated a Sefer Torah written on Masada from their Be Inscribed campaign to an Ethiopian group in Be’er Sheva. Therefore, Jewish National Fund-USA is a natural partner and one of the conference’s lead sponsors.



Speaking at a previous event where Yerusalem Forum CEO and founder Naftali Aklum was honored for his activism work, Jewish National Fund-USA-CEO Russell Robinson said, “How is it that Jewish National Fund-USA…always forms excellent relationships with immigrant groups in Israel? Our relationships, our work, and our people are not dealing in the hallways of the Knesset. Rather, they are dealing with [the people] on the streets of Beer Sheva, Kiryat Shmona, Akko, Sderot, and the Arava. Now, why does that mean anything? Because it shows that it is a relationship between the Diaspora and Israel. Let’s face it; a relationship started when Avraham said, ‘lech lecha’ – go forward to a new land. No one else, no other people have land as part of their existence except for the Jewish People.” When you meet and get to know the Israelis on the street in the cities of Israel, and you get to help a nation still under creation, you are part of 4,000 years of ‘lech lecha’ continuing.”


“We deeply appreciate Jewish National Fund-USA’s support of the Ethiopian Israeli community and their interest in becoming a conference sponsor.   We are very proud and appreciative to have such a respected Zionist organization at the Conference.   After all, the story of Ethiopian Jews is - in the beginning, and the end - the story of Zionism, the story of Jews returning home to Zion after 2,000 years,” says Yerusalem Forum CEO and founder Naftali Aklum.


“I believe that the greatness of a people is not in how much wealth they acquire, but in their integrity and ability to affect those around them positively. I hope that participants at the conference take this philosophy with them,” he continues.


The Ethiopian community has returned home to Israel. With the support and creative encouragement of the Yerusalem Forum and a partner in Jewish National Fund-USA, the future is bright and filled with opportunity – while remembering the story and journey that brought them home.

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