Operation Atzmaut (“Independence”) – A Comprehensive, System-Wide Program for Ethiopian-Israeli Families in Cultural Transition: Evaluation Study

Upon arrival in Israel, immigrants from Ethiopia have to face complex difficulties of adjustment, particularly due to the transition from a traditional, rural society to a modern, urban society. One of the important attempts to help with the complex process of integration is Operation Atzmaut. Implementation of the program began in 2002, in 11 localities, and in most of them it was gradually phased out between 2008 and 2011. The program has two distinctive governing principles:

  • The family is the key factor in successful integration.
  • Concurrent intervention in all areas of life.

The program emphasized personal support of every family by family coordinators – specially trained Ethiopian Israelis. The families were referred to projects and workshops to enhance their skills in the intervention areas chosen. Some of the projects and workshops were already being implemented in the locality prior to the program and some were developed specially to meet the needs of the families. The report presents the findings of the program evaluation in Rishon Leziyyon, Sederot and Yokneam, and the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Neve Yaakov and Ir Ganim. It examines program outcomes in various areas for the 155 families who participated in the program from 2006-2009.

 The findings show:

  • The families made progress mainly in the areas of parental functioning, family relationships, knowledge of Hebrew, daily life skills and integration into the community. Some parents also experienced an improvement in their terms of employment and their satisfaction with their jobs.
  • Three years after graduating from the program, the families continued to maintain their achievements.
  • The program contributed to the development of services in the localities where it was implemented for the entire Ethiopian-Israeli community, and not only for participants.

The study findings were discussed every year with the program directors and provided the basis for program improvement throughout its duration.

Concurrently with implementation of the program, in 2010, the municipal Social Service Departments in 7 localities began a pilot to integrate the program principles into their work, in the framework of the interministerial Five-Year Plan for Improving the Integration of the Ethiopian Israeli Community.

The study was initiated and funded by the Immigrant Integration Division at JDC-Israel and TEVET, with the support of Jewish Federations of North America.