Almost nine years ago I met Jean-Marc Liling. Little did I realize then that I had made a friend for life.
I had just arrived — in a flight from terror, not a flight from overseas — in Israel. I asked him if he could help me become part of the Jewish people. At first, he ignored my request. Every time we spoke, I made the same request. I asked him over and again to help me become a Jew. I didn’t stop. Every time he phoned me, or I phoned him, the first words out of my mouth were that I wanted to be Jewish.
Because I had fallen in love with the IDF soldiers who saved my life after I was shot by Egyptian soldiers while I was crossing the border into Israel.
Because I fell in love with the host families who took me in.
Because I fell in love with the people who enabled me to go to high school with other refugees from Sudan.
I am grateful to the entire Jewish people because so many have helped me to have a better life: from the IDF soldiers who saved my life to those who supported my efforts to become part of the Jewish people.
I fell in love with my rabbi’s family.
The photo shows you my Rabbi’s lovely children. Whenever I visit with them they always give me a warm welcome and do their best to make me happy, and to help me forget the past.
Last Shabbat, my Rabbi invited me to his home in Efrat. After Shabbat ended, I put the newborn baby girl on my shoulders and moved towards the couch. Her brothers soon joined us and started to do tricks upside down. When they saw that I was about to leave, they laughingly said good-bye from their upside-down position. My life had turned from upside-down to full of joy. And now, upside-down can again mean laughter and happiness for me, not terror.
They are such amazing kids! Thank you, to all of you. I am so happy to be with you, and to have the support of your parents, and other host families.
I am thankful to be sharing in the unfolding of Jewish history and to be part of the Start-Up Nation. It hasn’t all been easy for me. It was a very long journey – confusing, devastating, and my not knowing where I would end up. Now, every time I start reading the parshat hashavua on Shabbat morning, I am moved to tears thinking about the miracles that Hashem has made for me. Every step was a gift from Him. Right now, I live in Jerusalem close to the Temple Mount; all I feel is gratitude for this huge, awesome miracle. I am incredibly happy with my choice to become Jewish. I feel very comfortable and joyful in my life, surrounded by all my brothers and sisters in my adopted families, and nation. I feel like I’m completing one cycle and continuing in a new one.
I feel blessed and privileged to be here. I believe that whatever comes next in my life will be great and exciting. I am home, with family.