Ephraim Tegbiya - Graduate

I was born in Ethiopia and immigrated to Israel with my family six months later. I grew up in the 6th district of Ashdod, which is considered an area with a high crime rate. From a young age I was drawn to the problems along with my friends, most of whom were older than me by two or three years. We would mostly deal with thefts, looking for how to make easy money. At the age of 12 I was arrested for the first time. During this same perios my parents separated and I decided to cut off contact with my father. My father was never a significant part of me.

At exactly this time, my mother was diagnosed with cancerous undergrowth in her uterus and underwent a hysterectomy.

By the age of 13, in 8th grade, most of my friends had already stopped going to school and I decided to drop out too, and try and make more money on my own. I would go to school from time to time just to see my friends. I had a hard time with our financial situation at home, because I would see other kids coming from better area wearing the best clothes and holding the most expensive telephones. I decided that my little brother and I would not feel worse off than anyone else, and I would make money through thievery.  Mostly there was no one to influence me during this time except for my older sister Batel. She always believed in me and was sure I could realize my potential.

During this same year, my good friend Nati and I were sitting with is brother Gideon, who was a 12th grader at Ben Shemen. He told us about the Village. about his friends, about what it has to offer, and I was immediately interested. We decided that this was what we wanted. Until then, I thought boarding programs were for orphans and poor children, and I never thought that I would consider moving to a boarding school. We came to the school to register, and I was not accepted but my friend was. I insisted and asked again, and was told from the Village that I would only be accepted if I agreed to repeat a grade. I was very eager to leave the neighborhood and embark on a new path, so I agreed.

 

The first year was a nightmare for me, countless hours, discipline issues, daily conversations with the principal, and tremendous social difficulties because I was with children younger than me, and it was terribly difficult for me to adjust. After repeated requests by the principal, it was agreed that I would be with my own age group (9th grade) in the boarding program, but in 8th grade in school.

 

The second year at Ben Shemen (9th grade) was more balances, with lots of ups and downs, but still mostly downs and suspensions. Right at the end of the year, in May, I was in a violent incident with another member of my groups and I ended up together with another friend under arrest and spend the night at the police station in Lod. A file was opened and I was sent home. Along with the interrogations, I was also in conversations with Ben Shemen because I had appealed my removal from the Village. After a drawn out fight, the supervisor decided to return my to the Village, against the Village's wishes, and this meant that the Village could send me home for the slighted infraction at any moment.

When I returned, I was amazed to discover that I was returning to the group of "little ones" then 10th graders. And I heard that I was in Zadok's group, who I head me the year before, and with whom I had a good relationship. When I got back to the Village, I saw that most of the Village was not happy to see me, to say the least (especially the staff in the Village, and the management in particular).  Already on the first day I had a one on one with Zadok who tole me very clearly: " I do not care what they say, from my point of view we are turning over to a new page. If you are good, I will take care of you". And so it was...that was how I joined the Oren groups (which was made clear to me is the Oren family) with Zadok and Hagar.

In Oren I was received with open arms and saw a united group that really sees this place as a family and the staff as parents.  At first I treated it cynically and did not really believe in it. I saw it as naivety and innocence. As time passed I got to know the team and the group and received tremendous love and  an opportunity to bring out of myself a good that I did not know existed in me.

I received from the staff complete trust and a tremendous push and daily reminders that there is no one better than me, and really without noticing it,  I made sure to take care of myself and deal with less nonsense and had less discipline issues out of commitment to the staff and group. I knew I must not disappoint people who are so good to me. I will confess here and say that at first I was very suspicious, it was hard for me to accept unconditional love , it was strange for me to get used to it and understand that these are just good people. From the world I came from there are no free gifts and only by force can things be obtained so I had a hard time believing in the good.

 

That year I was hardly involved in discipline issues except for a few incidents that did not reflect my process and the positive trend. Zadok stood by my side and fought with the management for my place and for that I owe him a lot! Even when I was at home, I stayed away from friends who were getting closer and closer to crime. I started a stable couple relationship from which I learned a lot, I saw in her a complete contrast from me, she came from a place that always seeks to love and do good for others, unlike me I always thought that to be successful you have to be elbow and step on people and always watch out for your personal interests, she changed me and I will owe her for that my whole life..

In 11th grade my process began to bear fruit and my grades went up and I led the class with a high average. Also in the group, with the help of Zadok, I became a significant factor, pushing to do good and helped friends who were confused to stay away from nonsense ... I realized that I had been privileged to work with excellent staff, and that I need to give of myself in order to continue to receive good.

During all of this time, I continued to manage the case that was opened in court hearings and had regular meetings with the probation officer.

 

In the twelfth grade the positive trend continued and the road to graduation with a full matriculation certificate was good and had results.  The case was closed and the criminal record was expunged as a result of a unique mediation process that provides youth with an opportunity to erase their criminal past. Towards the end of year, the staff awarded me the Aviv scholarship, which is awarded to the outstanding student from each group. And I graduated with a full matriculation, a crazy achievement by all accounts given my background and the fact that I have no childhood friend with a matriculation certificate, and only a few have completed 12 years of schooling. During the year I heard about pre-military preparatory programs and started getting interested, I heard about it from friends and read about it a bit and just fell in love with the idea, I felt it was what I needed to complete my process.

After  I graduated, I decided to go to a pre-military preparatory program in order to bring myself to maximum preparation for the army and in the process see the beautiful Land of Israel, travel and volunteer.

 

At the end of the preparatory year, I enlisted in the Golani and did significant service as a fighter in the 51st Battalion.

 

 

My ambition is to study at the university and later to pass on my knowledge to other people and be an inspiration, engage in education as a counselor in a preparatory or boarding program, give children opportunities and show them that it is possible just as Zadok made it for me. I have no doubt that without his unwavering support and belief I would today be committing a serious crime and I would have found myself in horrible places. I am grateful to everyone who guided me and believed in me, I was close to the edge and saw myself already at the age of 13 as a person who "missed the train" when it was clearly absurd. I can say with a full heart that I was born again and I bring a lot of pride to my family and everyone around me. Thanks to the special people who pushed my process and pushed me where I am today but with a full heart I would say if you were not for you, no one would be reading these words.

The push, the holistic outlook, the setting of boundaries, the education for values as per yesteryear and especially the people who do the work.