An Ethiopian Miracle
For 13 young men who have known their share of nightmares, their recent high school graduation ceremony from Boys Town Jerusalem’s Ethiopian program was a dream‐come‐true. At their side were the proudest parents in Israel, as they watched their sons receive the coveted diplomas.
When they’d first arrived at Boys Town Jerusalem in 2008, each of these students carried the emotional and physical scars of his difficult childhood and journey from Ethiopia to Israel. Some were orphaned along the way, and all were struggling to adapt to the new hardships of Israeli life. Yet from the moment they began to live and study in Boys Town, a transformation was set into motion. From students who lacked the fundamental basics of education and knew no Hebrew whatsoever, they acquired knowledge through painstaking efforts by their teachers. From suffering from food deprivation, low self‐esteem and serious attention deficits, they gained good health, confidence and skills. By just their second year in Boys Town, they were fluent in Hebrew and holding their own in academic studies‐‐‐and beginning to excel.
“This was a massive project,” admits Rabbi Yigal Sibahu, who headed the program. “It demanded an extra ordinary investment of time and effort by the entire Boys Town staff.” The rewards were manifold: the Ethiopian students scored impressive victories in sports, bringing national trophies to Boys Town; they mastered the academic curriculum, including complex computer studies, and took an active part in campus activities with their Israeli‐born classmates. Most amazing: they all passed the national bagrut matriculation exams (some with flying colors),opening the door to future higher learning.
Following graduation, the Ethiopian students are headed to a host of destinations. “They will all enlist in combat units in the Israeli Army,” noted Rabbi Sibahu. “Many are joining paramilitary programs that will enable them to combine advanced Jewish studies with their military service. Three have been accepted to prestigious programs that lead to degrees in computer engineering, and one has passed the high demands of the IDF to join the specialized course at Boys Towns’ College of Applied Engineering to cultivate officers.
“Boys Town gave these students the tools to succeed, despite tremendous obstacles,” Rabbi Sibahu stressed.“They were imbued with knowledge of Jewish tradition and ethics, in addition to advanced technological skills. Of course, they still face formidable challenges—most come from single‐parent families in desperate financial straits. But I’m confident that these young men will continue their studies and make valuable contributions to the IDF and to the State of Israel. Their success is a tribute to their own sheer willpower‐‐‐and the priceless knowledge and love that Boys Town gave.”