I was born 23 years ago. I spent most of my childhood in Ethiopia and immigrated to Israel in 2002.My first three years in Israel were at the Mevasseret Zion Absorption Centre. Immigration to Israel was a dream come true, not only for me and my family, but for generations of Ethiopian Jews, who prayed and wept entire lives for the moment to come to Israel, an end to being strangers in a foreign land that was Ethiopia, and finally return home to the Land of Israel, home of our forefathers. And I had the privilege to be part of the ingathering of the exiles, to realize an ancient dream come true.
The process of integrating into Israeli society only begins with Aliyah. The process is very difficult and challenging, and sometimes the process lasts a life time. I went to a country in which the only thing I shared with the rest of the population was our Judaism, and even then there are many differences, whether the culture, the weather, the economic development, a new language and much more. I found myself starting my life over. I was reborn at the age of twelve, and many much older than I came to start this process of integration into Israeli society. It was not easy. The change required a lot of patience and a lot of mental strength of dealing in situations that not every young child has to go through in his or her everyday life. Additionally, I the child had to be the mouth and eyes of his parents, but thank G-d and all the amazing people who opened their hearts, welcomed us and did their utmost to help and assist us in all sorts of ways, even at their own expense. Thanks to these people, I am not studying at the yeshiva, where I am able to grow both professionally and personally.
After our first three years at Mevasseret Zion, I moved to Jerusalem and studied at a religious high school. My teachers taught us love for the Land of Israel. Toward the end of my senior year, the Head of the Yeshivat Netiv Tefachot came to our high school and gave a talk. I remember asking him what the entrance requirements and he asked me to smile. When I laughed, he replied that was the requirement. I still remember this meeting as if it happened yesterday. With the help of my high school teachers and counselors I decided to find out more about the yeshiva. At the end of the school year, I transferred to the Yeshivat Netiv Tefachot.
My first year at the yeshiva was very busy and even difficult and challenging. I was exposed to many different ideas that had until then not known. I encountered a loving deep and warm Jewish world and met with people who really dedicate their lives to society and the People of Israel. The main concern of Rabbis was to help us succeed, be virtuous, connect to and believe in oneself, and develop self-confidence.
The yeshiva gave and continues to give me a lot of tools, beginning with connecting with my Jewish identity, learning Torah, worship of God. If a young man who marries at a yeshiva, the yeshiva makes sure that he and his new family have place to stay for the first few years. Once a week, we participate in volunteering projects that the yeshiva organizes and help tutor children in all the communities in the Merom Hagalil Regional Council as well as distribute household items, clothing, books, equipment, etc to the needy.
Through all the above activities, the yeshiva educates us to follow the right route to a virtuous life as adults. Furthermore, I didn’t have to pay for anything during my four years of study. What I amazed me most was how the rabbis made themselves available, be it in conversation or counseling – a personal example to all of us yeshiva students.
After a year and a half at the yeshiva I enlisted in the army for sixteen months. It was a privilege to give back to the state and its citizen. No less a privilege than my Aliyah to Israel was putting on the army uniform and serving my country – a dream of all Jews to be in their own country and defend it.
Following my military service, I have come back to the yeshiva, continuing my studies of Torah. I’ll marry and no doubt establish a devout family. I see myself pursuing education as an avocation, as I have experienced at the yeshiva.
Today it is my home, the rabbis and students, my extended family. With such a loving family and supportive family, absorption and integration problems become bearable, even pleasant. All I can say is my gratitude to our Lord of the Universe that I arrived to such a wonderful place as Yeshivat Netiv Tefachot.