Ethiopia, Operation Solomon, Shabbat

Operation Solomon and a Game of Monopoly

It all started yesterday at about 2 pm. Matan got a mysterious phone call asking if we had room to sleep two boys. He answered “yes.”

Hmmm….well, ok. Since he had already answered yes, I figured we could scrounge up some sheets and welcome them in for Shabbat. “Um,” I asked Matan, “Who is this again?”

Turns out that one of the Rabbis in the Yishuv is the head of a school and he was having 30 of his students for Shabbat. There must have been a mix up or someone must have cancelled, and one of Matan’s friends called us to see what we could do.

What they didn’t tell us ahead of time, however, was that we were also feeding these kids for both meals! Which, of course, is absolutely no problems whatsoever…with a little warning…which I, of course, didn’t have.

So, when I realized that they were eating with us Friday night (two seconds before we sat down to dinner), I jumped to get two more plates and I prayed that we had enough extra food since we usually eat quite lightly on Friday night.

And then, when Yaacov and Oded, two Ethiopian-Israeli 8th graders, cheerily arrived at our door about an hour before Shabbat, all of my stress about accommodating them and feeding them melted away as it struck me just who these kids were.

Let me digress…

After college, I came to Israel on a one-year social service program. The main thing that propelled me towards the program was Operation Solomon. In 1991, Israel airlifted thousands of Ethiopians to Israel in one of the most impressive and awe-inspiring moments of our history.

And I wanted to be part of it.

So, in 1993, when I graduated from college, I headed to Israel to be part of a program that worked with Ethiopian immigrants. I actually lived in an Ethiopian absorption center in Ashdod, babysitting children in the morning and creating after-school activities with the children in the afternoons.

It was an amazing few months and I got to connect with Ethiopians and to learn about their culture, their adaptation and their struggles.

And here we were, in 2011, watching our American-born, Israeli kids talking about the parsha with two Israel-born, Ethiopian boys.

I was no longer the American coming to help immigrants in need. Now, I had become the immigrant (with much worse Hebrew than our guests had!), welcoming them into my home and sharing a meal together.

The moment was not lost on us.

And, of course, we had to enjoy the irony of watching our American-Israeli children playing the capitalistic game of Monopoly with their new-found Ethiopian-Israeli friends, in the still somewhat and sometimes socialist country of Israel.

Gotta love it.

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