The Mikveh Israel boarding school and youth village has launched a funraising campaign to send 20 students of Ethiopian descent on a heritage trip to Ethiopia, as well as locate the students' relatives who remained in the African country.
"This is something I've never dared dreaming about, especially while being a high school student. This is a dream come true for me and for my family that stayed in a village in Ethiopia," enthused Samuel Almiya, a student at the boarding school.
To get the journey underway, the students and the school launched a crowdsourcing campaign on the GiveBack website in order to raise NIS 75,000, which is half of the cost of the trip, with the school funding the other half.
The donors, like in every project of this sort, will receive a humble token of gratitude in line with the amount of their donation—from a thank-you letter, to an ATV tour of the Mikve Israel Agricultural School and a souvenir from Ethiopia.
Yosef Mersha, 17, immigrated to Israel in 2007 at the age of six with his mother and brother from the city of Gondar in Ethiopia. Yosef's father remained in Gondar, and their only connection is through Facebook. "We write to each other a lot and the thought that maybe I'd get to meet him soon excites me," he said.
Eighteen-year-old Yehuda Alfa emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel when he was six, leaving behind his grandmother and uncles. "I don't have a lot of memories from that place, I only heard stories. But it's important to me to see my family again," he explained.
Yael Mekonnen, the boarding school principal, explained that before embarking on their heritage trip, the students will provide the tour guide with where their families reside in Ethiopia, and the guide will plan the trip route accordingly.
"We want to teach our students to be proud of their culture, and on the other hand make them appreciate what they have here, in Israel. Here, their school is a two-minute walking distance, while in Ethiopia students walk 8 kilometers every day to school," she elaborated.
Yael herself is married to a man of Ethiopian descent, who immigrated to Israel at the age of five and was a student at the boarding school. Yael and her husband will also join the trip to meet his relatives.
Herut Alamo and Dvir Balata, aged 17, were born and raised in Israel, and wish to see where their families came from. "It is important for me to see where my relatives were born, and how they lived. I was told they grew cows, and that everything there is green and flourishing, and not dry desert landscapes as everyone thinks," Herut said.
"My grandparents are buried there and this trip is so special to me," she went on to say.
Dvir added that even though he was born in Israel, he still has a big family in Ethiopia. "Our parents are delighted that the school is providing us with the opportunity to see and reconnect with our heritage," he said.
To donate to the high schoolers' campaign, click here .