Tziona, 18 years of age, is a young woman whose parents came to Israel from Ethiopia through Sudan. She is their first Israeli-born child and to show just how central this aliyah was to her parents, they named her Tziona (towards Zion).
This past year Tziona had the opportunity to meet a gentleman named Zion Moshe Tezazo, who helped many Ethiopian Jews make their journey to Israel. Tezazo has been designated as a Prisoner of Zion, a title given to those who were persecuted for their Jewish or Zionist actions before making aliyah. Hearing his story gave Tziona a new perspective on her parents, their sacrifices and their own journey to Israel. Suddenly, her heritage took on new significance.
Tziona’s introduction to Tezazo and other Prisoners of Zion only came about because of a new project begun by Atzum, a small Israeli non-profit which focuses on social justice issues and founded by Rabbi Levi Lauer. Project Abrah (meaning illumination in Amharic) is an oral history film project for high school students which focuses on bridging the generation gap in Israel’s Ethiopian community by bringing attention to the Prisoners of Zion and their brave actions, introducing the rich cultural heritage of Ethiopian Jewry, and developing community organizing skills among the Ethiopian students who take part.
It was an honor for the Good People Fund to provide significant funding for the early stages of this project and we were thrilled when we received the follow-up from Yael Rosen, Project Abrah’s coordinator:
Tziona wanted to sing at the evening (program). She chose a song called "Reaching the Dream". She explained to the audience why she chose this song and what the meeting with Prisoner of Zion Moshe Tezazo did for her. She started crying when she sang and it took her a few tries until she managed to sing. Afterwards she said that the whole experience made her think of her older sister, who died in Sudan on the way to Israel and whom she never got to meet. It was very moving.
In our summarizing conversations that we held with each of the participants, Tziona said that she didn’t used to think much of her name, but now she is proud of it.
As we are proud of having provided some of the funds to make this all possible.
Here are links to two of the films produced by Project Abrah’s students.
Prisoner of Zion Yalo Malke (English translation):
Prisoner of Zion Moshe Tezazo: