Publication date: 02/07/2017
Dear Friends, Alumni and Supporters,
Have a fun & relaxing summer vacation
An Interview with Birke Danko
Throughout our conversation, Birke is sure to attribute her success to the support she received from Keren Aynor. She continually thanks the organization for standing by her side throughout her academic career and for being the main incentive for returning to her studies to complete a Masters degree.
Birke is enthusiastic and positive when she shares her life with me. It is as though she has a spring in her step when she speaks, a lyrical, flowing melody of gratitude for the good she has in her life.
Born in the village of Gourrere, Ethiopia, Birke made Aliya with her parents and younger sister with Operation Solomon in 1991 at the age of 10. Prior to her Aliya, the family had travelled to Addis Ababa in 1989 and stayed there in temporary housing for almost two years until they were eligible to come to Israel. She recalls the day they left the village as a happy one. Unlike other families at the time, they did not hide their movements, were not afraid and managed to depart during daylight hours with the assistance of a Christian man who was paid to care for them on their way.
Initially, Burke and her family were sent to an absorption centre in Michmoret, a beautiful seaside village on Israel’s coastline, stunning sunsets and crystal blue green waters made her parents feel calm, she recalls. She began school, Ulpan style Hebrew lessons with other Ethiopian newcomers and then the following school year began fifth grade with limited Hebrew, some cultural gaps and a great deal of motivation to learn and fit in with her Native Israeli peers. She describes that transition period in mixed terms. Her grandmother had taken ill and that was a challenge, however alongside that, she recalls the staff at Michmoret absorption centre as positive and helpful and remembers fondly having her Aunt ‘s assistance with “learning the culture”, as she had made Aliyah previously with other extended family members. Following the absorption centre, Birke and her family moved to Hazrot Heffer nearby and lived in a caravan housing unit for two years. Later they purchased a house with government assistance in Hadera, a larger city with a large Ethiopian Israeli population.
Birke attended a religious girls boarding school in Hadera in middle school by choice, despite the fact that many Ethiopian families were against having their children living away from home… Birke recalls it being a positive experience and began taking an interest in computers at that time. Later she attended High school at Alpunat Kedumim in the Shomron in the computers track. Birke described those years as needing to cope on her own, without the guidance of her parents and felt that the transition for her was much easier than for her parents’ generations.
Birke goes on to tell of her siblings, the one that was born in Addis and the three youngest who were born in Israel. She tells of their ease in “becoming Israelis” and the gap she perceives between them and her relationship with her parents. “I can relate to my parents having lived in Ethiopia in ways that the younger kids cannot comprehend. It’s a different mentality” she explains.
In 2000, Bike began her National service in Haifa working in education and just loved it! She felt a sense of commitment and was keen to contribute to the country. Following her service, she took what she described as the “logical next step” and began pursuing a computer information systems program for three years in Jerusalem. She fell on hard financial times and sought assistance from Keren Aynor. Birke enthusiastically describes the organization’s immense support being invaluable to her motivation and success at that time.
A short time after, she married and began raising their five children. The family moved to Ashdod on the sea and Birke began working in various positions until she found “her place” at Employment Services Department in 2007 where she has remained until the present day. Birke pauses, as though she has awoken from a dream and claims: “I knew I would return to school one day and I knew it would be because of Keren Aynor!” She is insistent that throughout those next ten years until present day, she clings to her dream of success and has Keren Aynor to thank for where she is today.
It is obvious from our conversation that she is a strong woman with guiding values and a sense of identity and purpose. Even her choice to return to her Amharic name ‘Birke” having been called Bracha by Israelis for many years… is testimony to her sense of self and convictions.
Birke was driven and in 2013 returned to school to pursue a Masters degree in Political Science, Public Policy and Human Resources.
Birke highlights the monthly phone calls and endless support from Keren Aynor as a huge motivating factor to complete two degrees and simultaneously raise a family.
“…An Ethiopian woman who makes Aliyah at age 10 and dreams big dreams and then successfully completes her Master’s degree!” she exclaims proudly and rightly so.
When she finished her degree in late 2016, Birke wrote Keren Aynor a letter expressing her heartfelt thanks and pride in what she was able to accomplish. She sustained her dream and made it happen, no matter what. Here at Keren Aynor, we couldn’t be more proud of her!
Spotlight on an Alumni
Elias Yosef is a humble and gentle soul, eloquent and passionate about his work, his family and where he is at in his life. He speaks clearly about his goals and the path he wishes to take to get there. It is clear that he views his relationship with Sarah Aynor (z”l) and one meeting in particular, as a pivotal moment, so significant and in part, responsible for the man he has become.
Elias made Aliyah in 1984 at the age of 12 and studied at the Yemin Ort Boarding school in Carmiel. He was a Hanan Aynor scholarship recipient from 1997 to 2001 when he studied visual communications at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.
Today, he is married and the father of three wonderful sons residing in Kiryat Tivon in Northern Israel. He works in the User Experience department at an American company that purchased an Israeli start up in Haifa. Elias loves his work and claims he is exactly where he wants to be in his life!
Elias goes back in time and shares his journey by telling me about the two years where he received funding from the student authority and studied a year of psychology and a year of visual communications prior to his stint at Bezalel. Following that, he had very little funds of his own and was not sure how he would continue his studies. It was at this time that he met with Sarah Aynor (z”l) in Jerusalem and it was her encouragement and support that motivated him forward.
Elias refers back to that period with fond memories. Prior to his current job, he worked in a small PR firm in Jerusalem, where he met his wife.
“If it hadn’t been for Sarah”, he thinks out loud, “I’m not sure I’d be where I am today. I’m so grateful to Keren Aynor and the Aynor family for supporting me at such an important time in my life!”