At the age of 14, his father’s factory organized a tour to Israel, and Andrew went. “For me, it was like going to Turkey or Greece. I didn’t feel any connection to the country.” Andrew was impressed with the country’s beauty and spirituality and in September 2004, he decided to participate in the Jewish Agency’s Na’aleh program for youth from the FSU who come to Israel to study in high school.
“I was living on my own, learning in a new and exciting place and meeting great people,” says Andrew. “Once in Israel, I felt that I wasn’t different anymore.”
Between completing high school and joining the army, Andrew, an ardent breakdancer, opened a school for breakdancing in Hadera, with 60 young pupils. “I feel that I am a pioneer of breakdancing here in Israel.”
Recruited into an elite combat unit, Andrew receives support from the Jewish Agency’s Fund for Immigrant Soldiers and Students Alone in Israel. He is also living in a rented apartment with his friends from the Na’aleh program who are also serving in the army.
Andrew joined the Jewish Agency supported Nativ program with other fellow soldiers. He is learning about the history of the Jewish people, Zionism and the State of Israel, Jewish philosophy, and Jewish practice. “I am really strengthening my self-awareness in this program and my understanding of Israeli society. There is a unique culture in Israel and I am beginning to feel very much a part of it.”
Andrew plans to finish his army service and apply to the Technion in Haifa for computer studies. “What started out as an adventure has now become my future,” says Andrew. “Anyone who doesn’t see the wonderful things about Israel has not looked very closely.”
Written by Lisa Samin