Located in the prestigious Barnea neighborhood of Ashkelon, the Barnea absorption center has been in existence for over 30 years. Known for its ancient seaport on the beautiful Mediterranean coast, the city of Ashkelon has been historically involved in absorbing immigrants. Today its population numbers over 112,000 residents. The city's growth opens many employment possibilities for residents of the absorption center. Barnea is located five minutes from the beachfront.
Dr John Ruskay Executive Vice President and CEO of the UJA Federation of New York with new immigrants from Ethiopia in the bomb shelter at the Jewish Agency for Israel`s Barnea Absorption Center in Ashkelon
Local services include banks, health clinics, schools, parks, day care and synagogues. The center strives to find the right balance between center's activities, which focus on the new immigrants, and in involving them within the Ashkelon community.
The center comprises three residential buildings with 126 apartment units of various sizes, including accommodations for larger families. Apartments have basic appliances and furnishings, including beds, closets, refrigerator, stove, chairs and tables. Upon arrival, new immigrants are welcomed with basic food provisions for their first days.
The center includes offices and clubrooms, classrooms, a synagogue, laundry room, public gardens, a sports fields and a playground. The entire complex is enclosed, allowing for the free movement of children.
Activities and Special Projects
The center’s activities include Hebrew Ulpan studies, conversion classes, seminars, trips, community activities, workshops on parenting, employment, consumerism, legal aid and trips throughout Israel.
Activities for children focus on educational reinforcement and enrichment in areas such as sports, drama, music, Jewish holidays, Israel and include parties, day camps, trips and more. The staff provides ongoing guidance and instruction, in fields such as social and cultural orientation, general health education and wellbeing.
Participants from the Winter Family Mission of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore spent a day beautifying the Jewish Agency's Beit Canada Barnea Absorption Center in Ashkelon.
Activities are geared towards the different stages of absorption and are intent on enhancing the lives of the new immigrants and assisting them in becoming familiar with their new surroundings.
Clubs and Workshops -Every afternoon the center holds creative and enrichment workshops for resident children with veteran Ethiopian mentors, that include creative thinking, dance, poetry, art, homework assistance, preparation for first grade and more.
IDF Groups - The center hosts seminars on immigration and absorption for groups of commanders and soldiers. Former soldiers from the absorption center tell their personal stories; the groups participate in activities with the center's children and receive explanations on Jewish Agency activity and Ethiopian immigration.
Visiting Groups and Delegations - The center welcomes and hosts youth and college groups, visitors from the Baltimore Community Federation, Ashkelon's sister city, and other supporters of Israel to see our activities.
Soccer - Professionally sponsored weekly training for groups of children and participation in national tournaments. Youth attend games and meet with team players. A "youth referee's" course is held for teenagers.
Melitz - "Learning through Experience" groups for children on a variety of topics are lead by trained Ethiopian students and graduates.
Bar / Bat Mitzvah - A program for Torah study preparation and Bar / Bat Mitzvah workshops with a ceremony at the Kotel at the end of the year.
Early Childhood Center - An educational center for children aged 3-6, which includes a classroom, games' room, small library, arts and crafts corner and sports, as well as guidance for parents.
Art Workshops - A certified art teacher instructs youth in drawing and sculpture, who exhibit their work at the year's end.
Yedid Association - The Yedid association operates two voluntary study groups: preparation for first grade and preparation for Junior High school.
Barnea Community Center - Immigrant families and children are integrated into the ongoing activities in the community center, which include performances, enrichment classes and holiday celebrations.
Women's Art Club - Retired Israeli women embroider, sew, work in ceramics, weave and crochet with Ethiopian immigrant women. In addition, they enjoy lectures and workshops on nutrition, hygiene, childcare and home maintenance.
Welding Course - There is a welding course for Ethiopian men, which includes assistance in finding employment at the course's finish.
Big Brother Program - Ethiopian students at the Ashkelon College mentor children at the absorption center.
The past 15 years have seen the successful absorption of hundreds of immigrant families from Ethiopia. The professional and experienced staff, predominantly veteran immigrants from Ethiopia or Amharic speakers has facilitated their success. The staff consists of a director, administrative assistant, head of education and culture, social worker, housemother, counselors and numerous volunteers.