• Dalalin Destau. Photo: Courtesy


Ethiopian immigrant is helping his fellow Israeli orphans realize their dreams

Dalalin Destau became an orphan at age 2 in Ethiopia. Today, he is considered one of the 20 most influential people under 20 years old in Israel. Dalalin, a high school senior, is one of the thousands of Ethiopian immigrants supported at Jewish Agency absorption centers. Now, he hopes to help Israel’s 40,000 orphaned children through a program he founded.

Dalalin Destau became an orphan at age 2 in Ethiopia. Today, he is one of the 20 most influential people under 20 years old in Israel, according to a list that was recently released by Israel’s Channel 2.

Now 17, Dalalin, a 12th-grader at the Amit Yehuda School in Afula, is one of the thousands of Ethiopian immigrants who has received a lifeline at a Jewish Agency absorption center.

Absorption centers offer a “soft landing” and transitional housing for new immigrant families and adults at the beginning of their acculturation process in Israel. The Jewish Agency’s 21 absorption centers include classrooms for lessons in Hebrew, preparation for life and employment in Israel, events, activities, and cultural presentations, and served 6,600 olim (immigrants) in 2017.

The 10 absorption centers for Ethiopians provide subsidized housing dedicated to the specific cultural needs of Ethiopian olim. Additionally, four Jewish Agency absorption centers for olim from around the world include immigrants from Ethiopia. In 2017, absorption centers served 2,989 Ethiopian olim.

Dalalin is a graduate of The Jewish Agency’s absorption center in Ayelet HaShahar.

“The Jewish Agency helped me in my first days in Israel—helping me get absorbed, paying for my studies,” Dalalin recalls. “The organization, its people, and its employees were there for me.”

Now, Dalalin hopes to be there in the same way for orphaned children through the program he founded, Mishpaha.

“The only happiness I will ever have in my life is when I can help other people like myself realize their dream,” he says. “My dream is to help them realize their dream.”

After Dalalin’s parents died in Ethiopia, he lived with his maternal grandmother until she also passed away about a year and a half later. He moved in with his aunt, who raised him in Gondar. She proceeded to immigrate to Israel, and “since then, I had the dream that I would soon go to Jerusalem, the holy city of the Jewish people,” Dalalin says. “At age 12, I fulfilled my dream and went to Israel with my uncle.”

“Now that I have become a citizen of the State of Israel,” he adds, “I have to do everything in my power to succeed, change my life, and help others, out of an inner desire to be part of Israeli society and to be fully integrated into every field.”

Dalalin says his Mishpaha initiative, which he founded about a year ago, hopes to reach the 40,000 orphaned children throughout Israel, including those who never knew their parents. The program has teams in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa.

“The number of orphaned children around the country is growing, especially because of traffic accidents and other disasters,” says Dalalin.

For Channel 2’s list of Israel’s top 20 influencers under 20, Dalalin was chosen from among a pool of 6,000 young people. He is a member of the country’s National Youth Council and served as chairman of his high school’s student council in Afula.

Moving forward, he sees himself serving in the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, completing academic degrees in political science and public administration, and trying to become the mayor of Afula.
He says, “I intend to establish a movement that will improve the lives of the fellow members of my community.”

Learn more about absorption centers >


This story was originally produced in Hebrew by Nathan Roi for The Jewish Agency for Israel
24 Dec 2018 / 16 Tevet 5779 0
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