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Faces of The Fellowship: Asubalu and Fantanish

“I am 51 years old and recently made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from Ethiopia with my wife, Fantanish, and our eight children, who range in age from 1 to 23.I am very privileged to have finished eighth grade. In the Gojam region of Ethiopia, where I grew up, most children leave school after sixth grade. For my last two years of school, my parents had to send me outside the village so I could continue my education. I did not take this for granted, and knew I wanted my children to grow up in a place where they had access to more education.After I finished school, I worked as a farmer, but knew I wanted to get involved with politics. Eventually, I ran for mayor. Because I’m Jewish, it was difficult to win the election, even though the village was populated heavily by Jews. The Ethiopian authorities don’t want Jews to have positions of leadership. But my education and perseverance helped me to win, and I became the mayor of 25,000 people. My responsibilities included overseeing the allotment of land to farmers, collecting taxes, and mediating conflicts.But despite my success, I never felt that Ethiopia was truly my home. It was always my dream to come to Jerusalem. I wanted to live as a Jew in the land of Israel.Over time, more and more Jews from my village moved to Israel, and it became harder and harder to stay behind in Ethiopia, because there was so much prejudice against Jews there. When the Jewish community would organize a communal event, or even a funeral, we feared we would face anti-Semitic hatred.As part of the process of making aliyah, my family and I moved to the city of Gondar. There, I was recruited to help supervise the organization of Jewish life in Gondar, which I was happy to do during the years that I was planning my own move to Israel.I am grateful to have finally made aliyah. Here in Israel, we receive housing, Hebrew lessons, and a sense of community at the Fellowship-funded absorption center in Arad. They have provided us with an apartment big enough for all 10 of us to live in until we are ready to move into our own home. They even provide us with medical checkups – in Ethiopia I had never seen a doctor in my life. Here, if you are sick, the next day you see a doctor.In addition to studying Hebrew, I do what I can to help the other immigrants from Ethiopia. They still come to me to mediate their conflicts, and since I read well, I got a paying job at the local library running a story hour for the children. When we move out of the absorption center, I plan to pursue a government job so I can continue to help the community.Here, my children have opportunities to surpass me. In Ethiopia, I would have made sure they finished eighth grade, but here they will go much further, and will attend high school and university. The Fellowship makes sure that my children have all the school supplies they need, and even gave a computer to my oldest child. All of our needs are taken care of, so we can focus on learning the language and assimilating into society.But the best part of our lives here is the spiritual aspect. We have always lived as Jews, and we studied Judaism while in Ethiopia, but in Israel, the whole atmosphere is different. It’s special here, and Judaism is more meaningful. It is incredible to welcome the Sabbath in the Holy Land.We are grateful to be able to live freely as Jews. Thank you to The Fellowship for all you have done for us.”

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The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) funds humanitarian aid to the needy in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world, promotes prayer and advocacy on behalf of the Jewish state, and provides resources that help build bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews.

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