Tamir Temesgen Zalaw grew up in a small village near Gondar, Ethiopia and made “aliyah” to Israel when he was 15 years old. He, his mother and three brothers lived in a refugee compound in Gondar for eight years before they received government permission to fly to Israel. Tamir’s father passed away when he was five years of age.
In Gondar, with humanitarian assistance from the Jewish Agency for Israel, Tamir attended classes in Hebrew and Jewish learning in preparation for his new life as an Israeli. Once in Israel, his family lived in an absorption center in Haifa.
“At first it was very hard as I did not understand anybody. I could read and write Hebrew but I could not actually speak it or understand what people were saying,” said Tamir. “I ate only biscuits for a week because I missed Ethiopian food, especially injera (Ethiopian flat bread)”
Learning the Meaning of Life and How to Dream
Yemin Orde Youth Village welcomed Tamir shortly after his arrival in Israel. There, he joined his cousin and other friends from Ethiopia. At the Village, Tamir finally felt at home.
“I learned so much at Yemin Orde. I learned how to dream and how to follow my dreams,” he said. “My teachers also taught me the meaning of life and how to be an independent youth.”
Tamir participated in the Village’s robotics program, a popular extra-curricular activity geared toward encouraging interest in computer science and mechanical and electric engineering.
In 2009, Tamir’s robotics team won first place in an Israel-wide robotics competition, which qualified them to compete in the international competition’s final round in Atlanta, Ga. His team also met Israel’s former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres z”l.
After graduating high school at Yemin Orde, Tamir served three years in the Israel Defense Forces elite paratrooper unit. “Thanks to Yemin Orde, I was taught how to be my best,” he said.
Life Beyond the Village
After completing his military service, Tamir attended Ono Academic College, near Tel Aviv, for his undergraduate degree. He is currently studying for a law degree at Ono and will graduate in the Spring of 2019. Tamir is interested in a legal career either as a prosecutor or as an attorney in the social impact field.
Tamir actively participated in the Village’s volunteer programs and regularly visited with frail seniors and Holocaust survivors. During law school, he volunteered at Tebeka, a nonprofit association that provides legal aid to Ethiopian-Israelis. Additionally, he volunteered at Ono Academic College, where he provided legal aid for underserved groups as well as the general population.
Ten years following graduation from Yemin Orde, Tamir remains in contact with Yemin Orde’s staff and returns for special programs or just to visit. He lives in Petah Tikva, Israel and is planning a May 2019 wedding.
Click here to read more Success Stories of Yemin Orde’s graduates.