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Ethiopian life in Beit Shean

When people are thinking about planning their Holy Land tour, particularly first timers, 99% of the time they will ask for a tour with all the highlights. But what are these highlights?

Jerusalem, Old City, Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee?

Try Hava, an Ethiopian immigrant who lives in her very Ethiopian style home in Beit Shean. Anyone who has ever spent time in her home situated near one of the most ancient cities in Israel will tell you – she’s the highlight!

Not to take out away from the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Via Dolorosa, and all the incredible amazing sites – Masada, Jewish Quarter, Western Wall – all on the list – but meeting real Israelis and hearing their stories is what creates a truly authentic, personal and powerful experience which for many is the biggest highlight of all.

Hava preparing to host in her garden
Hava preparing to host in her garden

Hava runs an Ethiopian cultural heritage center in her Beit Shean home where she tells her personal story about the lifestyle, culture, and foods of Ethiopia. Sitting around her colorful courtyard area, sipping her specialty coffee and tasting the unique, freshly made Ethiopian breads that she prepares daily, you can’t help but be mesmerized by her daring story of escape.

The inside and outside of her home are traditionally decorated with Ethiopian household items including many colorful textiles. Guests are invited to ‘dress’ in the authentic Ethiopian costume and are then seated in her courtyard where Hava tells them all about the ancient traditions, dress codes and lifestyle of life in Ambober. She explains that her original birth name was Zina but that she later changed it to Hava once in Israel.

Her journey to Israel began as a 10 year old child who longed to come to Israel. Her parents refusal to allow her to join her older brother in his escape with many other fellow Ethiopians but she joined anyway, initially without anyones knowledge (including her brother). As a young pre- teen Hava spent spent 14 months in a camp in Sudan where she reconnected with her brother and from which she eventually made her way to from the Sudan to Israel on Operation Moses in 1984.

The story is quite powerful and is a real life reminder of how Israel is the only place in the world that is truly a safe home to the Jewish people. Tourists and Israelis alike make their way into Hava’s home to be riveted by her story of longing, escape and bravery.

Elisa and Hava inside her home.
Elisa and Hava inside her home.

Hava’s heritage center is one of the many projects promoted by the Beit Shean Regional Council and Cleveland Partnership 2000, which encourage Ethiopian Culture and Heritage in Beit Shean.

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Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah-Holy Land tours, the leading Christian travel network focused on Holy Land travel. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour on Travelujah.


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