Bezawit Abebe didn’t grow up in Israel. But the 32-year-old has had an unusual life path: Born in Ethiopia, she’s now an Israeli citizen and a Jew, even though neither of those facts were true just a few years ago.

By Maya Mirsky (The Jewish News of Northern California) |

Bezawit Abebe was about to get on a plane to Israel when she talked to J.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “I don’t remember myself being so excited to go anywhere.”

Bezawit Abebe didn’t grow up in Israel. But the 32-year-old, who is completing a Ph.D. in law at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, has had an unusual life path: Born in Ethiopia, she’s now an Israeli citizen and a Jew, even though neither of those facts were true just a few years ago.

“Every story is so different,” she said.

Growing up in the small southern Ethiopian town of Yabello, Bezawit had no connection with the local Jewish community. Instead, what took her to Israel was love — namely, a Moroccan Jewish man whom she had met in college. She moved to Israel and studied there, where she met other women from around the world who were also there for similar romantic reasons.

“It’s so funny. It happens,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t know it was so common.”

Bezawit Abebe received a master’s degree in law from Tel Aviv University and another master’s in government and diplomacy from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a private college. She converted to Judaism in 2014 (a multiyear process) and is now an Israeli citizen, with a deep love and connection to the country — it’s where she wants to live and work when she’s done with her Ph.D., and it’s the place she’s been missing since August, when she came to San Francisco.

“I just understood how much I’m attached to Israel and Israeli culture,” she said.

Bezawit’s international trajectory is in large part due to her parents’ example in teaching her to go after her goals, as distant as they might seem at the time. “Especially my mom,” Bezawit said. “Because she had me when she was young and it was obvious for everyone that she would stay at home.”

Continue reading this story at The Jewish News of Northern California
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