Israel Scholarship Ceremony Spotlights Social Activism

By Sivan Carmel, HIAS Israel Country Director

Israel Scholarship Ceremony Spotlights Social Activism

Havtam Berre, an Ethiopian immigrant, social worker, and activist for the LGBTQ community in Israel, speaks to the HIAS Scholarship awardees at a ceremony Dec. 9.

(courtesy Sivan Carmel)

On Dec. 9, HIAS Israel held its first-ever virtual scholarship awards ceremony. 

HIAS Israel has given scholarships to student immigrants, or olim, since the 1970s. This year, we awarded 46 scholarships to students from eight countries, the majority from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. The scholarship recipients were selected by a team of volunteer judges, most of them olim themselves, out of more than 400 applications. 

For many of the students, the $2,500 scholarship enables them to complete another year in school, whether college, graduate, or doctoral level. “This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences, the scholarship program was extremely important,” said Tal Michaeli, the scholarship program coordinator. “It enabled the recipients to continue pursuing their goal toward higher education in a difficult financial reality.”

Because the awards came at the end of a turbulent year that witnessed many social struggles, protests, and calls to action, we decided to dedicate the ceremony to immigrants involved in social activism. Havtam Berre, an Ethiopian immigrant, social worker, and activist for the LGBTQ community in Israel, was our keynote speaker. 

“We face a lot of different challenges when trying to acquire higher education,” Berre told the students during an inspirational speech. “These challenges are not a sign that we should quit, but rather an opportunity for personal growth. When we look at these challenges in this manner, we can find that there are various opportunities hidden in them.”

Two immigrants from France also spoke about powerful social-media campaigns protesting violence against women. Morgan Koresh and Ilana Weitzman lead the “Sticker Women” Collective in Israel, which brings awareness to violence against women by plastering messages on a daily basis. They explained the challenge of sending out these messages given the language barriers immigrants face, and have tried street art using black and white signs in various languages. These signs contain empowering messages for women, educational messages for men, and statistics about violence against women. We are proud to give a platform to these activists fighting gender-based violence, especially during the 16 Days of Activism campaign.

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