Five years after arriving in Israel under painful and somewhat frightening conditions, thirteen young men are continuing their amazing odyssey through the ranks of Boys Town Jerusalem. They understand the value of their enormous accomplishments as they enter their senior year and are bursting with pride. So are we!
“When they first arrived in Boys Town, they were in the throes of trauma,” recalled Rabbi Yigal Subahu, coordinator of the Ethiopian program. “Several were orphans on their own, and most others were from broken homes. They suffered from food deprivation and serious attention
deficiencies. They had no knowledge of Hebrew; they had no academic skills; they knew little of their Jewish heritage. But they worked hard, and we worked hard, with an intensive program of study from morning until night. Everything they have achieved is the result of their strong will-power and hard work.”
Chief among those accomplishments, the Ethiopian students have all passed their difficult national bagrut matriculation exams to date, and several have scored in the 90+ percentile. A number of students have clinched silver and bronze medals in country-wide athletic meets. All have mastered computer skills and are among the select Israeli high school students studying the CISCO Network Managing Program. Equally impressive, Rabbi Subahu points out, is that the Ethiopian students have become “more Israeli,” taking an active part in Boys Town activities and making good friends among their Israeli-born classmates.
“Looking back, I see that we made a wise decision from the start to plunge these new immigrant students into an intensive program focused on Hebrew-language studies, math, English and Jewish studies,” Rabbi Subahu said. “I stopped speaking to them in the Amharic language after their first half year–it was Hebrew only from then on. Beyond their very demanding curriculum of studies, they have also taken intensive summer courses devoted to preparing them for the bagrut matriculations.”
The upcoming senior year will be a particularly rigorous one, Rabbi Subahu notes, with additional bagrut exams and high-level academic requirements. “Soon they’ll be going out into the world, enlisting in the IDF and beginning university. We are redoubling our efforts this year to give them strong tools to succeed, and the broad knowledge of Jewish ethics and values that will sustain them. Boys Town has invested a great deal in each student, providing the best education and outstanding opportunities for growth. For the staff, it has been exciting and gratifying to be involved in such a challenging project. We will closely follow their progress, and we will be here for them when they ‘come home’ from wherever their new journeys may take them.”