Captain Shlomi Amar
Proud Migdal Ohr Alumnus
My name is Shlomi Amar, I am 29 years old and a Captain in the Israeli Air Force. Tonight I would like to share with you my story, and specifically my connection to Migdal Ohr and to Rabbi Grossman, its founder and dean.
My story begins 16 years ago. The apartment building where my family lived, housed 12 families. Each and every father and husband did not live at home, but rather were serving a jail term somewhere in Israel's prison system including my own father. As children we were constantly exposed to violence, drugs and alcohol everywhere we turned. In addition, the neighborhood had high unemployment and as a result many families lived in poverty. Now I want to talk to you about my father.
My grandparents came to Israel from Morocco. My grandfather died when my father was 3 years old. He had 9 brothers and sisters. At the age of 7, my father stopped going to school. He never learned how to read or write. My father’s brothers and sisters were sent away to school but my father did not want to go and was on his own at the age of 10. He was sent to Juvenile Detention for stealing. He grew up around crime, violence and drugs and never had a Rabbi Grossman to teach him right from wrong. My father has been in and out of jail his whole life. When I return to Israel, he may be in jail again.
When Migdal Ohr's "angels" as we call them visited my neighborhood – a neighborhood in a big city in northern Israel with many difficulties, things began to change. These "angels" are staff members who assist in recruiting new students for Migdal Ohr and who at that time came to our area to speak with children and parents about the many options of learning at Migdal Ohr. Little did I know then, that by bringing children to Migdal Ohr, they would be saving them from spiraling towards a very dim future.
Children learning at Migdal Ohr, who would occasionally return home for weekends and vacations, were the pride and joy of our neighborhood and a source of envy to many. Not only were they lucky to have the opportunity to move out of the area, but along with the high level of education they received and the knowledge they had gained, they were becoming young adults who showed a level of respect and manners not known in our area. One of these "angels" – Meir Shavat, was back then visiting my neighborhood and started speaking with my mother who as part of her daily routine was sitting outside at the front of our building. My mother told him about her son who was 13 years old and upstairs at home. My mother expressed to Meir that it would bring her much joy if her son would agree to go and learn at Migdal Ohr, and in turn get out of the area and away from the crime and violence. When speaking about me to Meir, my mother also told him that one of my hobbies was music and it might be wise to speak with me about my passion for music.
The staff at Migdal Ohr are experts when it comes to touching a child's heart and reaching out to them. They know how to find the best and most suitable way to communicate and with me, they managed to connect to me with music.
I was a child with a life of little substance or meaning, living in an area where I spent most of my day wondering around aimlessly. I then came to a place that embraced me with love and warmth and that knew how to teach me, guide me and set me on the right path. Almost immediately, I became part of the Migdal Ohr choir, and shortly after, I became the lead soloist. Upon my arrival to Migdal Ohr, I personally witnessed Rabbi Grossman’s uniqueness and his incredible work for children from all over the country. I saw how this great man helped every child as if they were his own, how he listened to each one of us and how he directed us and gave us the courage to grow stronger each day, all with tremendous patience and caring.
From where I stand today, I can say with complete confidence that if I would not have found my place at Migdal Ohr or met Rabbi Grossman, who guided me and supported me at such a critical stage of my life as a young boy looking for direction, I would not be standing here speaking with you today. In fact, I most probably would be where many of the children in my neighborhood ended up – in prison, in drug rehabilitation centers or unemployed and living on the streets.
Today I serve in the Israeli Air Force and am a Captain. I am making the Air Force my career. I was a specialist in electronic warfare. I am not allowed to talk about it by the laws of the Israeli Defense Forces but I can tell you that what we did was pretty cool and if you knew what we did, you would be very proud of us. I was also part of the senior management team of a large officer’s training course. After that, The Israeli Air Force received a gift of 120 F16 fighters from the American government and I was in the founding administration of the squadron responsible for flying the first F16 batch, with all its new technology. I was also the Director of Human Resources at the Israeli Air Force base in Tel Nof, which means being responsible for 5,000 soldiers. Today, I am enrolled in a special course for decorated officers of the Israel Defense Forces where I am studying for my BA for 2 years at the University of Haifa and after that, I will receive a promotion as Major at one of Israel’s Air Force bases.
Thank you so much for listening to my story.