To celebrate our core value of Respect, the Data Team visited a Women’s Refugee Center, where asylum seekers from African countries turn to receive practical and emotional support as they attempt to build a life in Israel. The center is open three days a week, during which all asylum-seeking women are welcome to come and share the space as a community. The children play, the women cook, eat, crochet baskets, and talk. If a woman has a problem that she needs logistical assistance with, one of the staff members addresses the issue. The baskets that the women make are sold, and the proceeds go to the women who made them. This communal approach to problem-solving models the collectivist societies that most of the women came from and greatly increases their emotional and physical well-being in Israel.
At the center, we had the pleasure of participating in a Buna ceremony – a coffee drinking ritual performed in Eritrea and Ethiopia when hosting guests. A woman roasted fresh coffee beans over a small stove, passed them around for us to smell, then ground and brewed them into spiced coffee. While we drank many tiny cups of coffee, we listened to the stories of the women and their children – their escape from war-torn and dictatorship-ridden countries, and their lives in Israel where neither they nor their children are offered a pathway to citizenship, where they rely on civil society to meet their basic needs of food, shelter, and healthcare.
The stories were emotional and hard to listen to. We left the center humbled, with crochet baskets, and a greater sense of urgency to help this and other vulnerable populations.