More and more immigrant children, from almost every country in the world, are growing up in Israel today. The majority are Jewish, or have Jewish ancestry that is either paternal or maternal. A smaller percentage are the sons and daughters of Christian workers, in Israel to fulfill the biblical directive to comfort and bless the Jews. Some children accompany parents who are foreign workers in the Holy Land, particularly from Russia. Other children are the offspring of legal refugees.
The common factor is that all of these children need to learn Hebrew, which is the language of education and later on, of business and social life. Almost every school offers an Ulpan program, with the focus on intensive learning of the Hebrew language. General school education goes ahead at speed for native Hebrew speakers but every Hebrew-speaking child knows that at some point in modern Israel's history, their parents / grandparents, too, were foreign-speaking olim (immigrants) who attended Ulpan. And despite differences in Middle-Eastern and Western social behavior, which can lead to daily surface conflict, underlying this is the ancestral knowledge that all who love and support Israel are one big 'family', and the support comes through, one to another, at the times when it counts most – for example, under the ever-looming threat of war.
A common language leads to a common culture, and all of Israel's children also know that mastering Hebrew is the key to acceptance and success in Israeli society. Ethiopian-Israeli children especially strive to master Hebrew. They are often seen as the odd-ones-out among their peers, as they differ in appearance and ethnic culture, and have a foot in each camp when it comes to Christianity and Judaism, as the outcome of their difficult political past. A persecuted past causes Ethiopian-Israelis to arrive in the Holy Land almost penniless. No wonder it is toughest for Ethiopian-Israeli children to integrate and thrive in their adopted homeland.
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