Avata’s journeys to Ethiopia and Poland and home
Avata came to Shfeyah almost 3 years ago in the 10th grade when, after living at home in Tel Aviv and not going to school for more than a year, he decided it was time to make a change in his life and to get an education. He was referred to the Hadassah / Meir Shfeyah Youth Village where he is finishing the 12th grade and graduating in June. He is now in the midst of his last semester, preparing for Bagrut ( matriculation ) exams and hoping to be in an elite military unit in the IDF after he graduates.
Avata’s father died when he was 4 years old and his mother made the arduous journey from Addis Ababa to Israel on her own, with her 6 children , aged 4-13 , thirteen years ago. He had few memories of his life in Ethiopia until March 2014 when he was chosen to be part of the first Shfeyah delegation to Ethiopia. For several months before and after the journey the members of the delegation volunteered weekly in an after school program for young Ethiopian children in Hadera and after their return, they hosted the children in the Ethiopian Village at Meir Shfeyah, sharing with them the music, food and culture they have experienced during their trip. During the weeklong journey, funded with help from Hadassah, the group located the village where Avata’s family lived and after threats and bribing the guard of the Jewish cemetery in Addis Ababa, Avata found the grave of his father where he finally was able to say Kadish and say goodbye.
Avata told me that he was first shocked by the living conditions in Ethiopia and then impressed and moved by the people he met who despite their dire poverty, were hospitable, generous, proud and dignified. Avata, who is modest and quiet, has successfully integrated the culture and values of his parents and their heritage as well as adopting the hopefulness and resourcefulness of native Israelis. The journey contributed to his sense of pride in his past and towards the people he met in Ethiopia as well as a greater appreciation of the challenges his mother overcame in order to make a life for her family in Israel. He feels appreciative of the opportunities he has been given and is determined to succeed and contribute.
This year , Avata was again chosen, this time to participate in Shfeyah’s delegation to the Hadassah mission to Poland which took place in February 2015. He was deeply moved by what he learned during the 6 month preparation before the trip and by what he experienced in Poland. He felt that coming from Ethiopia no way diminished his identity with the European Jews who sufferred , died and survived during the Holocaust and that the trip to Poland strengthened his resolve to defend his country and to serve in the IDF.
“ Israel and Shfeyah are my home. I owe everything to them and I have no other home or country. I will miss everything about the 3 years I spent here (at Shfeyah ) when I leave this summer and begin the rest of my life.”
Link to youtube clip of Shfeyah’s mission to Ethiopia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE6Om2vBFlU