The story of Eliav Shomayev is typical of the thousands of teenagers who have passed through Youth Aliyah villages over the years. The 19 year-old graduated Ben Yakir last year and recently enlisted in a combat unit in the IDF.
Born Vadim Shomayev, he immigrated with his divorced mother, brother and sister from Ukraine in 1993. The family settled in Haifa and with his older brother and sister frequently in trouble with the police, Vadim also felt he would be headed for a life of crime and drug addiction if he didn’t leave the home environment. He enrolled at Ben Yakir six years ago.“I loved the rural atmosphere, the horses and the other animals from the start,” he said. “But at first I was very home sick and wanted to leave.By the second year I got used to the place and after that Ben Yakir became home.”
Jewish only on his father’s side, Vadim changed his name to Eliav and underwent a full orthodox halachic conversion to Judaism. “I want to feel a full part of the Jewish people,” he explained. When Eliav completed his 12th grade studies last summer he asked to remain living at Ben Yakir. “It’s the only home I have,” he said. He was given staffaccommodationand worked as a counselor and big brother prior to his induction into the army in April.