The ethos of World ORT Kadima Mada (WOKM) includes a commitment to strengthening the future of Israel by educating the next generation, and imparting Jewish values of care and compassion for others in its educational programs. These aspects can be seen in the inspiring story of an alumnus of Hodayot youth village who is serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and will receive an award for his excellent performance.
Daniel Gavra, 22, is currently deployed at the IDF Nitzanim base in the south. A native of Ethiopia, Daniel made aliyah in 2011 at age 15 with his grandmother and older brother, joining his parents in Israel and becoming a ninth grade student at the Hodayot boarding school, part of the WOKM educational network. Hebrew was unfamiliar to him, and he had to begin with the alphabet. It was hard for him to immerse himself in the language, but the little English he knew helped him along, as well as school staff, who translated for him into English. It took Daniel a while to acclimate, and he credits the Hodayot staff for helping him adapt.
“When I first got there, it felt impossible. The school staff were very helpful and translated for me. Our Hebrew teacher translated everything into English, so we could understand. It was hard but in the end, we made it.”
At Hodayot Daniel majored in computer science, graduating in less than three years, after which he worked to support his family, deferring military service. Two years ago Daniel joined the IDF and serves as a cook. His commanders recently nominated him for the Israeli presidential award for outstanding soldiers, saying, “Sergeant Gavra is a dedicated soldier who performs his duties professionally, with great modesty, and infinite responsibility. His contribution to the kitchen work is remarkable.” Daniel will receive the award on Independence Day at the annual ceremony held by the president of Israel.
Grateful for the kindness and care he received at Hodayot, Daniel reflects on his start in Israel, sharing, “Hodayot is like home for me. Although I’m in the army now, I miss Hodayot. It opened my eyes to new opportunities for my future, and the people opened their hearts. They were so caring – and that was what helped soften the hard time of being a new immigrant. They helped us fit in. And one of the tutors, Uri Ben-Baruch, used to translate things into the Amharic language.”
He appreciates life in Israel, the concept of supporting others that was nurtured in Hodayot, and its environment. “Everyone here helps one another. The facilities in Israel give you the opportunity to study better, and the teachers are very responsive. As a student in Ethiopia, if you want to search something on the computer or over the internet, you simply can’t.” Daniel has eight more months of service in the IDF and is thinking about his future and the prospect of majoring in engineering at Lev Academic Center. Kol hakavod on his accomplishment!