Monday, March 26, 2012

TribeFest continues

As day two of TribeFest comes to a close, one speaker who left a lasting impression comes to mind.

Twenty-seven year old Hadas Malada-Matsree, an Ethiopian-born medical officer in the Israeli Air Force, told her inspiring story of making aliyah with her family with Operation Moses in 1988.

Malada-Matsree was four years old when her father woke her and her five siblings to tell them they'd be embarking on a journey to the Holy Land.

“We walked for six weeks, hiding from soldiers and robbers during the day and moving only at night time."

She said when they encountered a group of Sudanese soldiers in the distance, they tried to hide and stay quiet, but one of the babies began to cry and the mother couldn’t soothe him.

The soldiers discovered them, questioned their motives, and asked if they were Jews on their way to Israel, but her father insisted that they were simply trying to escape the hunger in Ethiopia.

"The soldiers didn’t believe his story and sent him and his six children to a Sudanese Refugee camp."

The men and women were separated, with the men being forced into labour. Her father was sent to prison, charged for co-perating with the Mossad.

"Life in the refugee camp was difficult and everyday was a struggle for survival."

She said many died from hunger and disease. Malada Matsree herself contracted Malaria, measles and a skin disease that caused her to lose all her body hair.

Ten months after being held in the camps, her father was released from prison, and shortly after that, her family was rescued by and American-Israeli operation and brought to Israel.

Upon their arrival in Israel, Malada-Matsree was immediately sent to a hospital in Be’er Sheva to be treated for her illnesses. She stayed at the hospital for six months. It was during her six-month stay at the hospital that she was inspired by the medical staff to follow in their footsteps.

Today, Malada-Matsree is an Israeli, a wife, mother, doctor, volunteer and role model to other Israeli minorities who dare to dream big.

"I understood very fast that many children in my community look up to me as a role model. Understanding that, I started to lecture in elementary schools and high schools with a high concentration of Ethiopian students, sharing with them my personal story and giving them a quick view into the world of medicine."

She said the same children, who, before hearing her speak, said they didn’t have a dream, tell her “they now believe they can achieve higher education and they dare to dream farther.”

She now has ambitions to study pediatric medicine and hopes to continue inspiring members of her community to achieve more.

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