"I want to come to Israel today and I am so excited to see my parents and my brothers and sisters, who I have not seen for five years," Beja told Haaretz by phone. "I have been in the camp in Gondar for eight years waiting for this moment," she added. "All through the years I was told I had to wait patiently, and now my turn has come and I am going to Israel with my husband and daughter."
There is one thing Beja has not been told: that tragedy has struck her family in Israel. Last week, her mother Adelu Beja was stabbed to death by her husband Ilu in their Or Yehuda home, leaving their seven children between ages 2 and 17 orphaned.
Sources in the Jewish Agency said Abtam Beja would not be arriving in Israel for about 10 days. Her request to come to Israel together with her husband and 3-year-old daughter has been in the bureaucratic pipeline, but the Jewish Agency has now decided to move her as early as Sunday to Addis Ababa, where she will receive the necessary papers and be flown to Israel.
People in Abtam Beja's village have received news of the tragedy, but have been instructed not to tell Abtam or her uncle.
"Every family that goes to Israel is surrounded by weeping relatives who are waiting their turn, and that's why she thinks everyone is crying" a neighbor, Germay Werkenech, told Haaretz in a phone interview. "She can't imagine the extent of the tragedy that caused her arrival in Israel to be sped up."
Werkenech said representatives of the Jewish Agency told the other residents of the village not to tell Abtam Beja or her uncle, Mestual Ademeh, about the murder. She is to be told only when she arrives in Israel next week.
"We have been wrestling with this since we heard Monday night about the tragedy," Werkenech said. "If we want to tell her, we have to prepare a meal according to the custom and inform all her acquaintences and relatives in Ethiopia. It is very hard for us. What can we do? On one hand, her uncle, her mother's brother, is here and we want them to receive the news together. On the other hand, should she weep the whole way to Israel? The community elders are in a very complex situation," Werkenech said.
The deceased couple's seven children are now in the care of an aunt and the Or Yehuda welfare services, the Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency. The family is to receive a special assistance package from the Absorption Ministry that will be determined shortly.
The chairman of the Ethiopian community in Or Yehuda, Breta Ayelin, has visited the family over the past few days.
"The eldest brother is very ill and has still not recovered. The other children are still in shock and I hope they get professional help before the situation gets any worse," he said.
The Social Affairs Ministry is considering placing the children together in a foster home, or in a similar framework in a residential school, among other solutions.
The Or Shalom association, which works with children at risk, maintains more than 20 such homes, known as "family homes."
The authorities placed six Ethiopian siblings in one of these houses near Jerusalem after their father murdered their mother nine years ago. They were placed there to remove them from the scene of the crime and to keep them together. The foster parents, who have children of their own, moved into the house.
The Social Affairs Ministry says that in that case, the model of the family home was successful, although the children were closer to each other in age than the Beja children. The ministry says it will be carefully evaluating the relationships between the children as well as other issues before making a decision.
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