CBN Israel Helps Provide Courses to Equip Young Gypsies in Jerusalem for Success

By Nicole Jansezian

Perhaps one of the most marginalized groups in Israel is the Domari, an ethnic minority living in the Jerusalem area for approximately eight centuries.

Considered neither Israeli nor Palestinian, the members of this gypsy group are at the bottom of the socio-economic scale and are discriminated against even though they speak Arabic and live among the Arabs in East Jerusalem.

This generations-long prejudice has contributed to a drop-out rate from school of 40 percent and an illiteracy rate among the Dom women of 80 percent. That usually leads to low-paying jobs or, worse, unemployment.

Amoun Sleem knows this from personal experience. A Dom herself, Amoun was raised in poverty and dropped out of school after being severely discriminated against by one of her teachers. After pulling herself back up, returning to school, attaining higher education degrees and even becoming the first Jerusalem Dom to travel by plane, Amoun dedicated her life to improving the lot of other Jerusalem gypsies.

She founded the Domari Society for Gypsies in Jerusalem which offers all sorts of programs to help other Dom people succeed in today’s society.

One such program is a series of courses on cosmetics and hair that is intended to propel young people into a career that will help them support themselves and their families. CBN Israel has partnered with the Domari Society to fund several of these courses including the barber program, nails and eyebrow and eyelash design for women.

The women in the program will get their own kit that allows them to start working right away.

The knowledge and skillset are meant to equip these young people with the tools that will help them find work and maybe even open their own businesses in a trending market overcoming the obstacle of a low literacy level.

“Most of the women don’t read or write so we find something to fit the situation, what the market is looking for,” Amoun said.

The course results in practical knowledge, but Amoun said the ones for women are also focused on empowerment since women hold an inferior status in the Domari community.

“Not only will they do this job with respect, but they will build self-esteem, build confidence and at the same time, it’s a career they have,” Amoun said. “It’s something they can continue to work with afterwards and, if they love  it, that’s very important.”

Because most of the older generation is illiterate, the Domari center also offers tutoring to young gypsies who choose to stay in school.

“God gave me this work for a reason,” Amoun said. “Life is difficult as a gypsy.”

Nicole Jansezian is the media coordinator for CBN Israel. A long-time journalist, Nicole was previously the news editor of All Israel News and All Arab News and a journalist at The Associated Press. On her YouTube channel, Nicole gives a platform to the minority communities in Jerusalem and highlights stories of fascinating people in this intense city. Born and raised in Queens, N.Y., she lives in Jerusalem with her husband, Tony, and their three children.

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