14 December 2006 / 23 Kislev 5767
On a bright July day this summer, Benjamin (Teadrous) Aklom was called up for emergency reserve duty in the second Lebanon war. His plans for the summer, which included working to earn money for his senior year in college, were destroyed. He spent an entire month on the Israel-Lebanese border, dodging deadly Katyusha rockets in an essential support unit for the IDF ground forces pouring into Lebanon. This is not the first time that Benjamin has been in a life-threatening situation.
In May, 1978 Benjamin was born in Addis Ababa as his mother and father were fleeing Ethiopia with an Israeli Mossad agent. Benjamin's father was working with the Israeli Mossad to smuggle Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the early '70's. The Communist government caught him and sentenced him to death. However, he was rescued from an Ethiopian prison by the Mossad. As they were approaching the airport in Addis Ababa, Benjamin's mother gave birth. She and new-born Benjamin returned to his mother's village and his father continued to the Sudan.
In the Sudan, Benjamin's father worked with Jewish Agency emissaries and government officials to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel. This clandestine mission was the forerunner to Operation Moses in 1984.
At the age of seven, Benjamin, his uncle and his mother, who was an English teacher, came to Israel in the very last stages of Operation Moses. Their first home in Israel was the Jewish Agency Absorption Center in Kfar Saba.
Benjamin is now in his fourth year of biology studies at Bar Ilan University. Due to his dedicated service to his country during the war he was unable to earn money to pay for his college tuition. Benjamin applied for the Jewish Agency's Scholarship for Students Called-up for Emergency Reserve Duty.
Close to 50,000 Israeli soldiers were called up to Israel's northern front to either serve in Lebanon or protect Israel's borders this summer. Many of these soldiers were student reservists like Benjamin, who were called-up for emergency reserve duty. They left homes, jobs and studies (during final exams), to fight for Israel. They put themselves in physical danger to keep the people of Israel safe, but were unable to work during the summer, thus losing the main source of their annual income for college.
The Jewish Agency is providing scholarships for these soldiers to ensure that they receive the college education they so richly deserve. Scholarship candidates apply via the Jewish Agency's website. An overwhelming 12,904 students applied for the scholarship and 8,421 were found eligible. Additional funds need to be raised to provide the remaining student reservists with scholarships.
Benjamin's dream is to do academic research on the restorative medical properties of indigenous Ethiopian plants.
"My passion is indigenous Ethiopian plants," says Benny. "I feel that my culture has much to contribute to western society. I want to integrate the natural healing powers of Ethiopian plants and herbs into Israeli natural medicine."
In addition, Benjamin's dedication to volunteerism and helping his community has led to his big brother role for an exceptionally bright Ethiopian youth involved with drugs. "I took him under my wing and support him emotionally. I listen to him and encourage him, and he is now back on the right track."