'Ethiopian Jews Encounter Israel: Social, Psychological and Cultural Perspectives of the Immigrant and Refugee in Society'

Dr Gadi BenEzer, Senior lecturer of psychology and anthropology, the Department of Behavioural Sciences, College of Management, Rishon Letzion

Mon 16 - Thurs 19 May 2007, 5.15pm daily

Venue: Humanities Lime Grove Building, University of Manchester (Building 67 on Campus Map)


1. Monday 16 April, Arts Lecture Theatre: ‘Journeys in Migration and Refugee Studies: Narratives of the Ethiopian Jewish Exodus'. This will also be the 2007 Community Sherman Lecture, and will be followed by a reception.

Between 1977 and 1985, some 20,000 Ethiopian Jews left their homes in Ethiopia and – motivated by an ancient dream of returning to the land of their ancestors, “Yerussalem” – embarked on a secret and highly traumatic exodus to Israel. A fifth of the group did not survive the journey. This lecture, the first in the series, focuses on the experience of this journey, its meaning for the people who made it and its relation to the initial encounter with Israeli society. It is based on the analysis of the narratives of the journey of Ethiopian immigrants and is ground breaking since such journeys are unjustifiably ignored in migration and refugee studies as well as in traumatology. The argument in this presentation is that powerful processes occur on such migration or refugee journeys which affect the individual and community in life-changing ways. In the Ethiopian-Israeli case, the story of the journey is turning in Israel into a collective myth which has a crucial role in the process of adaptation and social integration.

2. Tuesday 17 April, Leamington Lecture Theatre (LG12):‘"Mutual Creative Space": A Principle for Cross Cultural Work and its Application to Ethiopian Immigrants in Israel'

One major condition needed for psychotherapeutic process is the existence of a “shared worldview” between client/patient and therapist. This raises a serious question: is psychotherapy or counseling possible in a cross-cultural context? Could the participants overcome the inevitable cross cultural misunderstandings and have a meaningful and effective encounter across the cultural divide? In this lecture, the second in this series, this question will be explored, focusing on cross-cultural psychotherapy with Ethiopian immigrants in Israel. A principle for solving the "problem" and rising up to the challenges of cross-cultural psychotherapy and counseling, including working with dreams in that setting, will be presented. This principle, termed by Dr. BenEzer "mutual creative space", will address the complexities and dilemmas within cross cultural encounters. Its implications for education, vocational training, police work, and other encounters with immigrants and refugees will also be discussed.

3. Wednesday 18 AprilLeamington Lecture Theatre (LG12): ‘The Psychological Processes of the Receiving Society: Encounters with the Strange and the Alien'

In 1983 an Israeli teacher refused to allow Ethiopian children in her classroom, as she was pregnant, and believed that the presence of the immigrant children would influence the skin colour of her newborn. This extreme and relatively rare example which involves a high degree of ignorance, serves as a good illustration of the profound psychological effect immigrants and refugees have on the surrounding society. In this lecture, the third in the series, these effects as well as their implications, are discussed. Based on the Ethiopian Jewish example, a model is outlined which describes the psychological processes experienced by inhabitants of any receiving society in their encounters with people of different cultural background and, at times, also different physical appearance. Possible applications of this model for training professionals and paraprofessionals who work with immigrants and refugees are then suggested.

4. Thursday 19 AprilLeamington Lecture Theatre (LG12):‘Immigration, Parents' Empowerment, and Information Technology: The Ethiopian Israeli Case'

This lecture, the fourth in the series, shows how Information Technology (IT) could be used creatively for the empowerment of immigrants and refugees. It describes a three-year project called Maba, in which computers were introduced into the homes of Ethiopian immigrants of low income, and were combined with an innovative instruction process that was culturally sensitive as well as family specific. The project successfully counteracted some of the negative effects of immigration on families, child education and social integration — in particular, the loss of parental authority in education, the negative effect of immigration and different skin color on the children's self-image, and the immigrants' sense of estrangement within Israeli society.


Dr. Gadi BenEzer is a senior lecturer of psychology and anthropology at the Department of Behavioural Sciences at the College of Management in Rishon Letzion. In the last 24 years he has worked as psychotherapist and organisational psychologist with the Ethiopian Jewish immigrants in Israel and researched varioud aspects of their integration. He was the Founding Director of the Centre for Educational Policy for Ethiopian Immigrant Children and has served as an advisor to the Minister of Education. He has written extensively on Ethiopian Jews, trauma and life stories, and cross-cultural psychotherapy. His recent publications include the ground-breaking book The Migration Journey: Narratives of the Ethiopian Jewish Exodus (Transaction, 2005) and "Psychotherapy/Counseling Across the Cultural Divide"(Transcultural Psychiatry, June 2006).