Yemin Orde graduate Erez Hakiki arrived in Israel at the age of 16 from Tehran, Iran with little more than a dream for a Jewish life as a proud and productive Israeli.

With no Hebrew language skills or family to help and encourage him, Erez was welcomed at Yemin Orde Youth Village where he received the emotional and academic support he needed to learn, gain confidence and thrive.

Erez studied hard at Yemin Orde and became involved in many of the Village’s extra-curricular activities. He learned to play the drums in its music program and was an active volunteer throughout the year. Even during the summer months when most students would leave the Village, Erez remained at Yemin Orde to assist disabled youth who attended a unique recreational program.

“Yemin Orde connected me to my Judaism and to Israel. I also appreciate how the Village helped me connect to my cultural heritage,” Erez said. “I received the greatest gift that could be – an education. I learned to not give up on my dreams – to go for it!”

Following high school graduation, Erez attended the Jerusalem College of Technology where he received a B.A. in Engineering and Education. His college degree enabled Erez to enter Israel’s Navy as an officer, where he continues to serve, full-time, as an ammunitions expert. Today, Erez is fluent in Hebrew and Farsi and holds the rank of Major in the IDF’s Naval forces.

A graduate with a moral and value-laden life

Erez is a frequent visitor at Yemin Orde and remains in close contact with staff. He often returns to speak with its youth and, as a graduate, reminds them to study hard and remain hopeful for a bright future. While attending college, Erez received financial assistance from Yemin Orde at the its Graduates Day ceremony, an important annual program that provides academic scholarships and financial assistance to alumni in times of need.

“Yemin Orde helped me build the moral and value-laden life I wanted. I am honored to share this vision with other youth,” he said.

Erez said, even today, he must often work twice as hard as his Israel-born counterparts in writing reports. He is grateful for the strength of character he developed at Yemin Orde and enjoys sharing his experiences with the next generation.

“For me, Yemin Orde is special because its support doesn’t stop after you finish high school. The Village continues to support all of its graduates who have a dream,” said Erez. “It is important to share my experiences with other Persian Jewish communities so they can learn about Yemin Orde and feel connected to the Land of Israel.”

Erez, 34, lives in Jerusalem and is married. He has two daughters.

Click here to read about Yemin Orde’s Graduates Day scholarship program.