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A graduation ceremony for the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) men's engineering degree took place in May which coincided with the 30th anniversary of Operation Solomon, a historic mission which brought over 4,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1991. In addition to the some 200 graduates and their families, JCT President Prof. Chaim Sukenik, Rector Prof. Kenneth Hochberg, Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dov Rubin, all attended the emotional event.

Also present was Gashu Brihun, a software engineer for the Israeli Police and one of the first graduates of JCT’s Reuven Surkis Program for Students From the Ethiopian Community, which is dedicated to integrating Ethiopian Jews into Israeli society.

JCT was the first academic institution in the country to establish a dedicated program aiming to help Ethiopians acclimate to Israel. In light of its success and the understanding that higher education is a critical tool to integrate populations, other universities and colleges have followed suit and offered similar programs with government support.

"There are a few key milestones in my absorption in the country and one of them is the fact that I studied computer engineering at JCT," said Brihun. "I was able to combine studying both Torah and secular studies while learning from the best professors who ingrained within me the importance of persistence and determination.”

Brihun was also fortunate to receive the goodwill of a benefactor who believed in his potential.

“JCT introduced me to a donor who gave me a generous scholarship that enabled me to devote myself to studying in the Beit Midrash and in the academic track. I asked him why he was investing in me. He replied with a sentence that accompanies me to this day, ‘If I invest in you, you will invest and nurture future generations,’” he recalled.

“Today I have the privilege to be a vital part of the Israeli Police Technology Department. In recent years, I've been a partner in the establishment of many software systems to support the different needs of the police force, and it's a great privilege for me to stand here and speak to the new graduates," he added.

The program was named after its founder, Reuven Surkis, who also served as vice president of the Jerusalem College of Technology.

"The program is a direct way to integrate populations into society," Prof. Chaim Sukenik, president of JCT, said. "The program enables integration into the job market and promotes social mobility. Reuven Surkis recognized this and worked hard to raise funds and donations so we could offer higher education to Ethiopian Israelis and Haredi students, as well as to allow them to devote time to their studies and not be preoccupied with needing to pay certain bills to make ends-meet. This event is an opportunity to thank him on behalf of our institution and its alumni."

As for the significance of the anniversary of Operation Solomon, Brihun commented that “Operation Solomon is the end of a 2500-year-old exile, the end of longing and yearning for Jerusalem.”

“Operation Solomon was made possible thanks to a speedy air operation by the Israeli Defense Forces that brought me along with four thousand other Jews to the land of Israel. The yearning to come home was deeply rooted in us. My father would tell me that one day we would go on a journey to Jerusalem and I should prepare myself. As a child, every time I saw an airplane, I would wave to it and call on it to take me to Jerusalem. I was privileged to fulfill my dream and to create a home and a family here in the Land of Israel,” he added.

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