Shmouel and Betel Asmara, Afikim graduates, visit American Jewish Day schools on a whirlwind speaking tour.

For the start of this academic year, Shmouel Asmara, an Afikim graduate together with his sister Betel, were invited to speak to students of different schools in the USA about their experiences and the difficulties they faced when making Aliya from Ethiopia and how they managed to successfully integrate into Israeli society. Moshe Lefkovitz, director of Afikim and Binyamina Sherman, Afikim volunteer and activist, accompanied the two on this trip.

The American school children were greatly inspired by the stories Shmouel and Betel recounted and were fascinated to hear these stories first hand from two immigrants. They were exposed to new, recent Jewish history that is not commonly heard of, first hand.

Shmouel talked about his experiences when he made Aliyah 14 years ago from Ethiopia. He explained that the Jews living in Ethiopia were very strictly religious and proud of their Judaism. They kept all the laws that they had at the time although there were certain laws and festivals that they did not have such as Purim and Hanukah. Ethiopian Jewry had a strong desire to return to Zion and be in G-d’s presence once again and did not know that the Temple in fact was no longer standing. He discussed the level of determination the Jews of Ethiopia had to return to Israel and many died whilst trying to do so, many walked into the sea with intense belief that it would split for them and when it didn’t, many drowned and the remaining ones who survived fled and settled together even stronger.

When they did eventually get to the land of Israel, they were shocked to discover that the Temple was no longer standing and all that was left was just a wall that used to surround it – the Kotel. As the people for many years had a strong belief that they would return to Israel and once again be united with the Temple, this was obviously very shocking for them and they found it very difficult to adjust to the facts.

When they landed they were shocked to see that there were white Jews in the world too, however over time they began to feel almost like second class citizens just because of their skin color. Shmouel was soon placed in one of Afikim’s after-school groups where he was given a chance to excel and was instilled with a sense of self worth and confidence.

Shmouel is an inspiring young adult who is determined to do well in the world and make the best of himself, he spent a year volunteering with underprivileged Ethiopian youth who he is able to relate to and really strongly believes in them as he started off in a similar situation and is doing all he can to become successful. He is about to join an elite commando unit in the army.

Shmouel and his sister Betel appreciate their father’s strong efforts and hard work in order to provide for his children in the most efficient way that he possibly can and his children are able to recognize this and attribute their success to their father. Shmouel fought for his father’s right to be able to continue to study by bringing his views to the social media where he messaged Shai Piron, the Minister of Education, requesting to extend his father’s status as a new immigrant pointing out how committed his father is that even when he returns home after a long day at work, rather than resting, he will sit down and learn. When messaging Shai, he stated, “My father denied himself so that his children would not miss out on anything, and now it is time that I pay him back”. He was successful with his plea and with the help of Afikim, his father was able to continue his studies and looks forward to finishing his exams. Shmouel continues to be an inspiration to all of us at Afikim and we wisah him luck in all of his endeavors.

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