Itzik Elstein, now 20, was a resident at Emunah's Youth Village in Pardes Chana, for more than 9 years. As Itzik settled into his new "home" he started to feel secure and loved for the first time in his life, helping him to believe in a future for himself. It is there, that he first began to set goals for himself, and to reach them.
As Itzik grew up, he dreamed of being a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. With that goal in mind, he set out to make his dream a reality!
At what age did you join the children's home?
"I came to the children's home in Pardes Chana, managed by David Fridman, at the age of 9 due to financial difficulties at home", he says.
"My mother made big efforts but could not maintain our home and support me, so at the beginning of fourth grade I was sent to the children's home.The difference between my former school and the children's home was significant for me. For the first time I received warm and personal attention. A counselor was in charge of every few children and was with us 24/7. Until that time there was no one who accompanied me on such a close basis. Even if my mother had wanted to, she had to work all the time, and this did not leave her much time to be with me. The fact that in the children's home everyone understands your condition and knows you turns it into a situation where everyone only wants to help. It was a very warm and enveloping system and I received everything I had lacked. Suddenly there was someone to help me with my homework, something I had never had. I received a home and warmth, mainly a sense of being at home."
"I cried out for help
Before I came to the children's home I had a tough time socially. I was an outsider at the school I attended and I was a trouble maker. Today I understand that this was my way of crying out to everyone for help, and indeed when I reached the children's home I began to understand that this was exactly what I needed. At the children's home it was easier for me to fit in, I felt an equal among equals, I didn't feel inferior, and this gave me confidence and a foundation to grow from. In time I became an excellent student, to such a degree that I was given awards and praised before everyone, as I remember well. My first counselor during my first year is still an inseparable part of my life, at the children's home he was a type of father to me, and we have remained in touch to this day."
When did you decide to try out for the pilots' course?
"It developed gradually. I had been taken on delegations abroad to run half marathons on behalf of the children's home, so I learned how to persevere and meet challenges. When I received my call-up to the IDF I didn't know what I wanted to do, and when I was asked about my preferences I really had no idea. In addition, I'm a single child and I have no father so I could have received an exemption from combat duty. When I received the data from the first call-up, I understood that all the options were open for me, so I told myself that I have to make it to the pilots' course. It took me time to convince my mother and to receive all the approvals, but after the first selection process I decided that I'm going for it and there's no way I won't be accepted. I pulled myself together and aimed for the goal and I made it. When I reached the course I felt that I had already reached the goal, I didn't have the urge to finish the course and I decided to take a break and study in a Mechina preparatory program to better understand my goals. At the Mechina I learned a lot about myself and about the army, I understood what is really important, and after putting much thought into it I decided to apply for the armored corps, and I'm only starting out now."
Where do you live today?
"I'm in touch with my mother, but I have an adoptive family that accepted me very nicely and I live with them, something that is not to be taken for granted. Not every person is willing to open his home to a stranger, someone who is different, and they care for me as if I was their own son."
This article is a translation of the original article published by Kippa.
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