Investing in Israel’s Youth

When Tariku Mucheye, 24, emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel in 2004, he realized the dream of many Ethiopian Jews for generations before him. But when he became the first in his family to attend university, he was realizing a personal dream.

Tariku is a third-year student in Emergency Medicine at Ben-Gurion University, where he is the only Ethiopian Jew in his class. He works with the intensive care unit at Magen David Adom Israeli emergency paramedic service and volunteers at Sheba Medical Center, as well as in his own community whenever he can.

None of this would be possible, he says, if it weren’t for his scholarship from HIAS.

For more than three decades, HIAS has been awarding scholarships for advanced education to students who have immigrated to Israel as olim—an investment not only in Israel’s youth, but in the very future of the Jewish state. The scholarships are awarded based on financial need, academic excellence, and involvement in community service.

Last year HIAS awarded 79 scholarships. Over a third went to Ethiopian students; the remainder went to students from the former Soviet Union, Europe, and Latin America, as well as the U.S., Singapore, and Iran.

“This scholarship means a lot,” Tariku says, because his school is far from where his family lives, and he needs the funds to cover rent and other expenses. “I love what I study, and the scholarship gives me the courage to continue. It tells me there are other people out there who want me to succeed.”

To Tariku, being a student affords the opportunity to study more than medicine. “I learn about the community, life in this country, and how to be a leader. Investing in students is investing in many parts of society,” he adds. “Not long ago, I brought my little brothers and sisters to my campus to show them the library and classes. I told them I want to see them go to university, too.”

After graduating, Tariku is eager to join the army where he will serve as a regimental medical officer for six years.

This year, HIAS will award 65 scholarships to olim like Tariku, as well as first-ever scholarships to aid asylum seekers in Israel. Each awardee has a story of survival and aspiration.

Take Maxim, 27, who came to Israel from Kazakhstan at age 14. “It was my parents’ decision. It was the only way they could give my brother and me a better life.” The boys came as part of Na’aleh, a program that helps unaccompanied teenagers make aliyah.

At first they lived on a kibbutz, and Maxim learned Hebrew. After three years, he went into the army, where he became an officer and stayed for six years.

Today, with support from HIAS’ scholarship fund, Maxim is pursuing a double degree in Mechanical Engineering and Physics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

“What my brother and I were able to accomplish here in Israel, we could never have accomplished in Kazakhstan on our own,” he says.

Maxim credits Na’aleh with getting him on his feet, and HIAS with helping him fulfill his educational goals: “I want to say a huge thanks to HIAS for the scholarship award. It is an enormous help that has enabled me to continue my studies uninterrupted. If it weren’t for this scholarship, I would have needed to stop going to school to go to work and save money instead of finishing my last year. I couldn’t continue to study without it.”

In addition to his schooling, Maxim is able to continue volunteering with other soldiers who are in Israel without families. As a mentor, he helps them become part of the country’s fabric.

“I feel I owe this country a lot for giving me the opportunities it has given me, here alone without parents,” he says. “I look forward to continuing to serve Israel, which I’m happy to call my home.”