New Land, New Victory
BTJ students approach the finish line.
As 550 high school students from across Israel converged on Jerusalem for a contest of stamina, mental and physical dexterity, one of the smallest teams— 10 new Ethiopian immigrants who study at Boys Town Jerusalem—came in first place. The victory was especially sweet for these young men, marking a milestone on the long journeys they’ve travelled.
The contest, sponsored by the “Yedidim Mentoring and Leadership Organization” in cooperation with the IDF, culminated a year-long project of weekly meetings in select Israeli high schools to imbue students with the pride and ability to become better soldiers and citizens. The 44 teams’ challenges included maneuvering a makeshift minefield, building a walking (human) pyramid, assembling a puzzle in 90 seconds or less, a gunny sack race, and more. The climax was a marathon Stretcher Race in which team members ran, carrying a 175-pound stretcher, over a distance of nearly one mile.
“The Boys Town team was small in number, but they faced each test with the same determination and motivation that they apply to their everyday lives here,” said Rabbi Yigal Sibahu, who directs the Ethiopian student program at Boys Town. “When these young men first came to live and study at Boys Town four years ago, they lacked knowledge of Hebrew, Jewish tradition and basic academic studies. Many of the boys are orphans, and most come from families struggling desperately to exist in their new country. We’ve invested a great deal of effort and care into these students, building their characters and offering high-level studies and extracurricular activities. We’re already reaping the rewards!”
According to Rabbi Sibahu, the Ethiopian class began scoring national victories two years ago by clinching silver and bronze medals in national athletic meets. Last year two of the students scored 100% in their national bagrut matriculation exams in math. “Our students study from early morning till 8:30 PM,” Rabbi Sibahu noted. “The secret to their success in today’s contest was an amazing level of teamwork, combined with the dedication to give their very best to every challenge. They are champions all around---the high level of responsibility and leadership they’ve attained at Boys Town will follow them throughout their lives, I’m sure, and they’ll be an asset to the Israeli Army and society at large.”\r\n“The ‘Yedidim’ contest was quite tough,” admitted 11th grader Kanyo Wasseh. “But we worked together and just didn’t give up. We were all really surprised and excited when they announced Boys Town Jerusalem as the winner. We’ll never forget this day!”
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