Drawn from Water: An American Poet, an Ethiopian Family, an Israeli Story

BkMk Press University of Missouri-Kansas City  2015


The assimilation of the Ethiopians to Israeli society is and is a conflicted one—as was Dina Elenbogen’s experience, which she recounts with relish, examining her own motives, relationships with Israelis and Ethiopians, and her professional life in Israel.

Elenbogen shares her first encounters with young Ethiopian children in detail. She recalls the conversations she has had with each child, from four-year-old Elad to his older sister Batya, and two other sisters, Osnat and Yael, who are around the age of thirteen when Elenbogen first met them. They become the spokespersons for the injustices felt by the new immigrants. School was difficult for these children, since black Jews who could not speak Hebrew experienced significant prejudice. Their parents, who were similarly handicapped, were unable to help as they, too, were isolated from their neighbors.

Although she became attached to the children of this community, Elenbogen was obliged to return to Chicago to continue her professional life. She began teaching refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam at Truman College, but did not connect with these students the way she connected with those she left in Israel. This inner conflict caused her to go back and forth between Israel and the United States over a period of fourteen years before she married and decided to remain in Illinois.

Honest and unflinching, Drawn from Water is an interesting journal of an experience among people who are learning to fight for their rights—integration of schools, fair wages, health care, and respect—against the obstacles in their collective path.

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