Bereshit (Genesis) – Ethnic Pluralism in Israel


Genesis 1, 27 says „God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” But stop! We have not yet arrived with Adam and Eve! Here we are talking about Adam and Lilith. Not until Genesis 2, 7 we are reading “Then God the Lord formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils; such man became a living soul.” OK, now we have Adam as a person. But the young man got bored to stroll around paradise on his own. God understood. Genesis 2, 21 ff tells about the creation of the woman: “God the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept, He took one of his ribs and closed the place with flesh. From the rib, which God the Lord had taken from the man, He formed a woman and brought her unto the man.”

Please take note: „In His own image God created man“. As a child my world was white. No color TV, and the fantastic world of books were still strange. When I saw the first Afro-American I was shaken of the assumed “dirty skin”. The man kept his composure and laughed heartily and presented me chocolate. From now on my world was much more colored.

A glance into the dark time of last century shows, that conform to the anti-Semitic “racial ideology” the typical Jews looked like this: small and stocky, olive skin, bent nose, black hair, black eyes. That’s how he was caricatured. Since many years I live in Israel and see daily many ethnics. I have never met the caricatured Jew. God the Lord is, as we read in our Thora, much more imaginative.

The institution “Matnas” is explained best with “communal center”,

Depending where a Matnas is located, it is not always the place people like or use as the center for social life. Possibly, the more rich and the more homogenous a community is, the less a Matnas is used.

Zichron Yaacov is an example. The purpose of this Matnas is to serve the first two weeks in summer vacation to offer activities for pupils. A program offering a bit of everything for everyone. Music, theater, sport, excursions and cinema. The building is also used for Hebrew lectures for new immigrants. Otherwise, the building seems to be asleep.

Very animated was it in 2014 in the south of Israel, when all Israel suffered the constant bombardments of Hamas. The following military operation “Protective Edge” was not only blocking the south but practically the whole country. Instead of enjoying vacation, the children passed their free time near bunkers and fortified rooms. This and because of “Iron Dome” civilian casualties where relatively low.

Thanks to a generous donation, the national Matnas organization offered children and youngsters in five attacked Bedouin communities vacation activities in safe places, also in private homes. Activities included excursions to safe areas, for camping and visits to parks. A special challenge was the fact, that operation “Protective Edge” was exactly during the Islamic holiday of the Ramadan, which had to be respected.

A Matnas is financed both by the community as well as by the national organization. They receive funds from the ministry of education and culture and from private institutions. Special programs are also financed, depending of the purpose, by the corresponding ministry.

The port city Haifa has a population of about 280000. The Ethiopian and Arab number of inhabitants is about 40000, 14% each. Modern Haifa extends along the Carmel Mountains, south of the city, with a magnificent view of the Mediterranean and with perfect connections to the city. The residential areas of the Ethiopian and Arab inhabitants are near the northern suburbs of the city. From there, on clear days, the view is up to the Lebanon. Otherwise, a view of the container port and the chemical works.


Here about 100000 people are living who did not really succeed into a comfortable life. Both parents are working and have an income. That sounds good but they still don’t manage to secure enough income. The number of families living below the poverty level is increasing. Within the OECD only Turkey is in a worse situation. The number of kids which are visiting school in the mornings without a breakfast is alarmingly high. They are poor and have few perspectives. But they managed to keep and maintain their pride!

Armut Länder
Statistic OECD -Poverty and Countries (Israel = red), blue = OECD average
Armut Alter
Poverty and age

Jonathan, our friend, has been requested by the city of Haifa to take over the patronage of three Matnasim (the plural of Matnas), one for Arab, one for Ethiopian and one for European inhabitants, in these special residential areas of Haifa. The Arab Matnas only leads his own life; the other two cooperate on a regular basis. Our friend agreed with the request, knowing, that from now on he will have a tough fight. Beside the organization of the three Matnasim and its teams, to procure funds. Money which will help to change a sometimes ugly building into a home from home.

Old building



Neve Yosef new building

During a visit some weeks ago the facilities were presented. Generally the Matnas is open for all age groups. The young single mother and her child, above three months old, will find professional care and the powerful senior citizens may meet for a chorus.

The pottery atelier is the newest project, open for everyone, including residents from outside.


During the school year teachers are at disposal free of charge to help children and youngsters with learning difficulties or to prepare them for specific entry exams into continuative schools. Professors from the Technion Haifa are supporting youngsters interested in sciences. IT professionals from INTEL are running several times a month workshops for talented future IT specialists.


Single study corner

An extensive library is currently redesigned. Books may be taken home; the quota of non-returned books is practically zero. The value of a book is considered too high. For the sport facilities functionality is more important than designs.

After schools many children and youngsters visit their Matnas. For many of them it is the place to meet friends, to chill, with clear rules but not constrictive. It is a place to grow up peacefully and secure, away from the streets. The parents know it and are happy.

The purpose of our visit was the annual concert of the music groups. From the very young music pupil who just internalized how to elicit nice sounds from his instrument to the semi-professional they all presented a wonderful program. From catchy classics, Israeli folk songs, beat and pop of the 70’ies, all presented with love and engagement. The music was as multifaceted as the musicians. Solists, mixed groups, singers with accompanying trios, the already mentioned senior chorus, a Jewish-Arab group with classical Arab instruments.

IMG_0870       IMG_0853






Again the eye catcher was the Ethiopian girls. They already performed with us in Zichron Yaacov. Pure temperament and pure joie de vivre.



Currently a lot is discussed about minorities, regardless of what origin, not just to integrate them but to include them.

Unknown Kopie

The Matnasim are participating in achieving this. Our friend told us, that Israeli holydays and commemoration days are celebrated outside of the Matnas. Thus, also residents may participate. Loud and funny holidays such as Purim as well as the quiet and reflective commemoration day of our soldiers killed in action, and civil terror victims. Our Ethiopian youngsters are of the opinion that, “the holocaust was against Jews and terror victims include immigrants from Ethiopia as well. We too are Jews as everyone.”


The Israeli institution „Matnas“ is for our children and youngsters an important help for their social inclusion and a prime example for sustainability. (Beside the institution “Asher Ruach Bo”, reported under a previous article.) Therefore I am inviting my readers for financial support of the Matnas in Haifa or the national organization, thank you.



© esther scheiner, israel



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