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

  • Review
By – May 19, 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.

Eleanor Ehrenkranz received her Ph.D. from NYU and has taught at Stern Col­lege, NYU, Mer­cy Col­lege, and at Pace Uni­ver­si­ty. She has lec­tured wide­ly on Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture and recent­ly pub­lished anthol­o­gy of Jew­ish poet­ry, Explain­ing Life: The Wis­dom of Mod­ern Jew­ish Poet­ry, 1960 – 2010.

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