At age 5, Yarden Fanta left Ethiopia for Israel on foot, with her baby sister on her back, water in one hand, food in the other, along with her 100-year-old grandmother on a donkey. The audience sat spell-bound as she recounted the story on January 22 at Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody, a story of her weeks-long walk, at night, through the desert, to fulfill her family’s dream of going to Israel. The journey proved to be a difficult and deadly one for some in her family, but it is one that Yarden considers a time of personal re-birth.
There were more than 250 people in attendance on Sunday as Yarden talked about what Israel means to her to a crowd that included teens who are in 2017 Y2I, as well as their parents, and to parents who are going to Israel in April on PJ Library Parents to Israel.
The Newton resident has been an inspirational speaker for the past five years at Lappin Foundation’s Robert I. Lappin Youth to Israel Adventure (Y2I) pre-trip meeting for teens and parents. “We are honored to host Yarden, who graciously shares with the audience why her family risked everything to go to Israel,” said Robert I. Lappin, President of Lappin Foundation. “Yarden’s experience beautifully illustrates how the Jewish Family takes care of each other,” he added.
Dr. Yarden Fanta Vagenshtein made it all the way from the fields of Ethiopia to Harvard University, which is an incredible feat, considering she was 12 years old when she arrived in Israel unable to read or write. With support from the government of Israel and from Jews around the world, Yarden, and others like her, had a shot at realizing their full potential in Israel.
Lappin Foundation’s 2017 Youth to Israel Adventure plans to send 115 Jewish teens to Israel in July for a life-changing Israel experience. In preparation for their trip, teens will meet five times before their trip, sometimes with their parents, for Israel education that will enrich their Israel experience. In addition to pre-trip meetings, Y2I includes a fully-subsidized two week community teen trip to Israel and Israel advocacy training during and after the trip, which trains teens to be pro-Israel advocates and ambassadors for Israel.
Y2I is funded by Lappin Foundation, the Lappin Family, CJP and more than 900 donors to the Foundation’s Annual Campaign.