Natan is a graduate of the IAF Center Youth Leadership program, which serves more than 4,000 youths from 36 towns around Israel, to instill the principles of national service, the ideals of Zionism, and tangible skills to lead.
Natan immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia at a young age. He was raised by working parents with minimal discipline and little supervision. Often, there was nobody making sure Natan was even in school. By age 15, he had a police record.
“The miracle came,” Natan said, “when my class was accepted to the Youth Leadership Training program at the IAF Center. I saw it as the only chance for me.”
Natan’s drive to be better grew stronger every day, and he gave the training his all.
Still, at the conclusion of the training – a four-day boot camp on an IAF base – Natan found it difficult to adjust to following orders and a disciplined routine. “That’s when another miracle happened,” Natan said. “Captain Arejai, deputy IAF Corps Youth Commander, took me aside and told me in an assertive tone: ‘Don’t you dare quit and leave the program at this final stage.’”
Captain Arejai insisted that Natan stay in the program and encouraged him to continue to believe in himself. Every day, Captain Arejai had private conversations with Natan, as she understood Natan’s struggle. After all, Captain Arejai, like Natan, had immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia as a child. They both had to cope with similar difficulties like embracing a new culture, learning a new language, and adapting to a new way of life. “If I could do it, you can too,” Captain Arejai told Natan.
“Arejai,” Natan said, “not only became my Commander at the IAF Youth Leadership Training program, but also my idol and my big sister. Having found a deep connection to Arejai, I now had to prove to her that I was able to live up to her expectations.”
Through hard work and dedication, Natan did just that. He graduated with honors and received a certificate of achievement from Colonel Limor Boozaglo, head of IAF Personnel.
Today, one year before enlistment, Natan is faced with yet another challenge: to erase his criminal record completely and receive the ‘calling card’ for military service, which had always been his dream. “Even as a wild and crazy child,” said Natan, “I always aspired to complete my military service and contribute to Israel.”
“I have promised Arejai, who gave me her pledge to help recruit me to the IAF, that we will celebrate in two years, when I come to visit the IAF Center in uniform.”
The IAF Center Foundation, and all of its supporters, is behind you, Natan. You make us proud of the work we do. We salute you!