ESRA was thrilled to learn that a group of young Ethiopian girls, part of ESRA’s Ethiopian Dance Group project in Netanya, had been invited by the President of Israel to perform at his official residence. This was in honor of the Ethiopian festival of Sigd.
Some three years ago the ESRA dance project was inaugurated. Today there are two groups, based in the Heftzibah and Kiryat Nordau neighborhoods of Netanya, attracting some 70 pupils in all. Their teacher is Almaz Mamoya, a professional Ethiopian dancer, who not only creates a wonderful atmosphere in which the girls enjoy their dance lessons, but is also an outstanding role model.
Being put in touch with their Ethiopian traditions through dance, these youngsters gather pride in their ancient heritage. How significant this is as a bridge-builder between the parents and the children, who adjust more readily to their Israeli surroundings whilst not always valuing their heritage.
This was the fourth year that Israel’s President had hosted a gathering for the festival of Sigd. As Nina Zuck, (ESRA’s project chairperson) and I arrived many leaders of the Ethiopian community had gathered in the garden of the residence looking resplendent in their attractive ethnic robes. Our nine dancers, aged between nine and twelve, and their teacher had arrived much earlier in order to prepare for their performance. Excitement was running high.
Soon it was time to enter the hall in which the performances were to take place. After a warm welcome to the leaders and members of the Ethiopian community the event began. ESRA’s girls were introduced as the third presentation. They came onto the stage, and the audience was immediately riveted by their movements, interpretation of the music and happy faces. At the conclusion, to rousing applause, the President, seated in the front row, left his place, rushed to the platform and gave each girl a big hug. There is no doubt that our group was the star turn of the day. How proud we were to witness this and how proud ESRA can be of its successful program in Netanya which led us to the President.