Gershon: A model of successful absorption
Gershon Barihun
Gershon Barihun could not read or write until he was 10. Living in a remote village in Daguma, in the Gondar region of Ethiopia, Gershon worked with his father, farming the land. His family remained in this isolated region because it was easier to maintain Jewish observance.
Like most Jewish Ethiopian families, the Barihuns longed to return to their ancestral homeland. "My parents spoke of aliyah for many years. My grandparents came in 1984 as part of Operation Moses, and finally, in 1991, we were able to join them."
Gershon, with his parents and six siblings, left Daguma and moved to Addis Ababa, to accelerate their immigration process. After a period of waiting, the Jewish Agency brought the Barihuns to Israel. We personally experienced what it says in the Bible - 'I carried you on the wings of eagles and brought you to me' (Exodus 19:4)," Gershon states emotionally.
The family's first residence was at the Jewish Agency Absorption Center in Ashkelon. The beginning was very difficult, especially for Gershon's parents with the language and culture barriers. "We got tremendous help from the staff and the soldier-teachers at the absorption center. This made a huge difference."
After completing 6th grade, Gershon was sent to the Jewish Agency's Ben Yakir youth village. Through a unique educational program, Gershon closed the educational gaps he had with students his age level and was accepted to study in the competitive Yeshivat Kfar Haroeh for high school. Gershon was one of only five Ethiopian students in a student body of 180. Gershon also attended the Jerusalem College of Technology -- an institution that combines Torah study with technological education.
Gershon simultaneously joined the Ethiopian Teachers' Training Program at the Hebrew University, a program that teaches Ethiopian heritage to the youth and cultivates a cadre of young Ethiopians to serve as role models for their peers.
"I want to reciprocate the dedicated help I received from soldiers," says Gershon, who wants to serve as a teacher in the army and dreams of achieving tikun olam -creating a better society.
  • Absorption centers are temporary, furnished living quarters, located throughout Israel where new immigrants enjoy a supportive framework, tailored to their specific needs. Read more