Hiruy Amare with one of his saplings at the KKL-JNF Golani Nursery.
(photo credit: YOAV DEVIR KKL-JNF)
As a boy in Ethiopia, Hiruy Amare Tadesse dreamed of going up to Yerusalem. He has since become deeply rooted in the land of Israel, just like the trees he watches over from germination to planting as director of KKL-JNF’s Golani plant nursery in Lavi Forest.
Fifty-eight-year-old Amare lives with his wife in Kiryat Bialik. Together they have raised four children, the youngest of whom is twenty and currently serving in the IDF. Amare was born in the township of Huruta, in the Addis Ababa region. His father was a farmer who grew cereals and vegetables, and especially teff, Ethiopia’s national grain. “As a boy I helped the family on the farm. I used to plough with an ox, turn over the soil, pick, reap and perform all the other agricultural tasks,” he recalls.
Back in Ethiopia, Hiruy Amare attended the local school until eighth grade, and when he reached high-school age, his parents, who well understood the value of education, sent him to study in the neighboring town of Asella.
“I lived in a rented apartment together with three other students my age. It wasn’t easy for us to look after ourselves, but I learned a lot from the experience. At a young age I already had to cope with living independently,” he said.
In high school, he studied agriculture, and, after successfully completing his final exams, he continued his studies at a college in the town of Ambo. After graduation, he found work teaching agriculture at a high school in Yirga Alem, and two years later, he travelled to Ukraine to study agriculture and agronomy in Kiev.
“Students came from all over the world to attend the international program at the agricultural academy in Kiev,” he recalls. “I met people from lots of different countries and I’ve actually kept in touch with some of my fellow students. We spent the first few months just learning Russian, and only later did we begin to study agriculture, too. A month after I arrived there I saw snow for the first time in my life.”
In 1989, after five years’ study in Ukraine, he returned to Ethiopia to work as an agronomist for the ministry of agriculture in the Bale province. “Throughout all my years in Ethiopia I lived in areas where there weren’t many Jews,” he said. “But I got on with everyone and never encountered any expressions of hatred or racism.”
A new beginning in Israel
In 1991, several months after Operation Solomon, which rescued and airlifted thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, Amare and his family also immigrated.
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“Part of my family had immigrated to Israel via Sudan in the 1980s, but not everyone made it, and we lost a number of relatives along the way,” he explained. “We heard stories about Israel from the family, and as Jews we knew very well that this was where we wanted to be. We were well prepared ahead of time not to expect a bed of roses here, and knew that we would have to cope with some difficult situations.”