At the age of 16, Liora Zenou was uneasy with fielding questions about her religious beliefs from classmates in her Toulouse, France community. She was uncomfortable explaining why she could not eat at their homes, why she could not eat the meat at school, and why she stayed home Friday nights.
In 2013, Yemin Orde Youth Village opened its program for young French immigrants due to the increase in French Jews fleeing to Israel as a result of the rise in anti-Semitism. Liora and her family were thrilled to learn about Yemin Orde’s program and its excellent school and, in 2014, the Village welcomed her.
At the start and without Hebrew skills, Liora felt alone and homesick. A group of French youth, who had arrived at the Village earlier than Liora, embraced her as a new friend and helped alleviate her fears.
“I realized that I was not alone in this situation,” Liora said.
Learning Hebrew and about the tools to succeed
Liora’s teachers supported her learning and always made time to ensure she understood the day’s lessons. She excelled in math and science and enjoyed extra-curricular activities such as running, photography, ceramics and pottery. These outlets helped her relax and work through her emotions in an expressive and therapeutic way.
“Yemin Orde helped me integrate into Israeli society and be proud of being able to live here. I learned how to be more independent and how to focus on important tools needed to grow into a mature young adult, building my self-esteem and confidence, too,” Liora said.
Her younger brother, Eitan, joined her at Yemin Orde in 2015.
Liora graduated from Yemin Orde’s high school in 2017. She decided to become an Israeli citizen, officially made Aliyah and joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Liora served as an artillery fighter and, thanks to the self-confidence she learned at Yemin Orde, Liora applied and was accepted into Israel’s prestigious officer training school.
“I know that I can always come back here. This is my home,” said Liora.
Liora’s parents and her younger sister are now making Aliyah, which means the family can be reunited in Israel.
Read other Success Stories of Yemin Orde’s graduates.
A Promise to Our Graduates
The promise that “Yemin Orde will always be there for you” is a distinguishing feature of the Village. Yemin Orde provides its graduates with:
- Scholarships (stipends for academic, vocational and gap-year programs)
- Village Liaison for Graduate-Soldiers (staff members attend IDF ceremonies and remain in contact with graduate-soldiers throughout their service.
- Networking Opportunities (the Village provides social and professional networking platform)
- Reunions (class reunions at Yemin Orde)
- Care Packages for soldiers without family in Israel
- Mentoring (Retired IDF veterans help newly-released soldiers adjust to civilian life)
- Special Events (weddings, celebrations and other life cycle events are hosted at the Village)