Mkonet ColorMkonet Gadamu, 31, graduated Yemin Orde Youth Village in 2001, a few years after immigrating to Israel with his family as part of Operation Solomon, a lifesaving airlift that transported over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

His journey was fraught with danger as he and his 10 siblings walked with his parents through the deserts of Ethiopia and Sudan to reach the airlift’s departure point. A younger brother died along the way as a result of the passage’s many hardships.

“We left everything we knew and everything we had behind…hiding our Jewish identity and struggling to survive,” Mkonet said.

In Israel, his family faced language barriers, isolation, joblessness and extreme poverty. In reality, Mkonet and his family’s challenges were shared by thousands of other new Ethiopian Jewish immigrants who were puzzled and frustrated by Israel’s modern society, its school system, its language, culture and more.

A hopeful and productive life in Israel

Mkonet arrived at Yemin Orde Youth Village as a fragile 15 year old, uncertain about his future in Israel. Yet, with Yemin Orde’s compassionate community of educators and the Village Way educational methodology, his life was transformed. Mkonet received a quality education, learned leadership skills and developed a positive and healthy attitude about life and his future. Indeed, he graduated Yemin Orde with honors and attended a gap year leadership program to better prepare himself for military service in the Israel Defense Forces.

During his army service, Mkonet grew to love nature and he developed a deep respect for the environment. He served five years active duty in the IDF – as a Commander in the Golani Brigade, and as a weapons systems officer.

Today, Mkonet holds a B.A. in Economics and Management from the University of Haifa and a Master’s degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Management.

“I try to be an inspiration and a role model for my family and my community,” he said. “I hope, in this way, to make a real change in Israeli society.”