Since the 1980s over 100,000 Ethiopian Jews have made aliyah to Israel, enriching Israel’s diverse society through the realms of culture, science, education, politics and the IDF. For generations of Israelis, IDF service has worked as a great equalizer across demographic sectors and has acclimated new olim to both the dreams and realities of life in Israel. Immigrating to a new country and making a new life is never easy, however, and the experience of Ethiopian-Israelis is no exception. This is where CJP and Boston-Haifa Connection have stepped in to establish the Netivim program, supporting the next generation of Ethiopian-Israelis and other diverse participants from a variety of backgrounds in their pre-army years of high school, elevating their experience during army service and helping them transition to meaningful employment post-army.

Now in its third year, Netivim (Hebrew for “pathways”), works to ensure comprehensive support for young Ethiopian-Israelis in all areas surrounding their IDF experiences, by facilitating pre-army orientation sessions for youth and their parents, providing advice and guidance about enlistment opportunities and army benefits, as well as directing soldiers to vocational assistance, career counselling and social/networking opportunities available to them when they enter the working world. While many Israelis look to their parents or others in their immediate communities for guidance and role-modelling when they enter the army, young Ethiopian-Israelis often do not have these opportunities as their parents immigrated to Israel after the age of army enlistment, and so the opportunity to be connected with positive coaching and mentorship through Netivim proves invaluable.

Through Netivim, young adults learn valuable teamwork and leadership skills.

Given the holistic approach of Netivim, the program has experienced great success in providing education sessions to the parents of new recruits, helping them adjust to this pivotal change by providing ongoing communication regarding what their children can expect to experience in the IDF. By assisting parents in supporting their children as they serve the country, Netivim is ensuring the success of program participants both at home and with their IDF units. Importantly, Netivim does not stand alone in its work– rather it is complementary to the extraordinary work being done through the Shiluvim program. Originally begun by Boston-Haifa Connection in collaboration with the municipality of Haifa, Shiluvim has now successfully been transitioned to become wholly run by our partners in Haifa. Speaking of partners, Boston-Haifa Connection has been very fortunate to provide services in partnership with both the Acharai NGO– a leader in working with youth at-risk across the country, and the Israeli Ministry of Welfare, which has provided additional direct support.

Thanks to the generous ongoing stakeholder support of Boston-Haifa Connection and CJP, amazing work is being done to change lives and strengthen futures in the critical Ethiopian-Israeli sector, and our work is not done yet! Based on the very successful model that CJP has built, Acharai has set upon expansion plans in their work in the Israeli cities of Petach Tikvah, Ramle-Lod and Be’er Sheva! Many thanks go out to our fabulous stakeholders both across Greater Boston and in Haifa for helping us get to this point, and may we go from strength to strength as we work to build a better Israel for all of its citizens.