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Jewish Agency Israel Fellow Spotlight: Yonatan Eyov

Stanford University, California | 2022

JA Israel Fellow Yonatan EyovI was at a birthday party a few years ago and a friend said to me, “You should really apply to become a Jewish Agency Israel Fellow on a college campus in the States.” After studying at a mechina (military preparatory program), serving in the Israeli army, and graduating from college with a degree in communications, the last thing I wanted to do was commit the next few years of my life to another program. But I love Israel, and sharing that love has always been so important to me, so when my friend came back to me a few months later and told me that Stanford University was looking for an Israel Fellow at the last minute, I decided to apply. A month and a half later, I was settling into California life.

My love for my country and for the Jewish people was ingrained in me from when I was very young. I was born in Ethiopia, and the central heartbeat of the Jewish community there was a yearning for Jerusalem and a return to our homeland. When I was six, my family moved to Israel and experienced the joy of coming home. I grew up in Lod and served as a criminal investigator in the Israeli army. I have seen the problems Israel faces both internally and externally and with all its flaws, I love its story. 

Bringing that love with me to Stanford has inspired me to share my unique Israel story with the students here, and as their Israel fellow, connect with them on a personal and communal level. I’m gay, and I created a space for Jewish queer students on campus so they can understand how their Jewishness and queerness contribute to their stories. I’m Black, and that often triggers important conversations with students about differences within Judaism, racism in America and in Israel, and the variety of experiences that Black people face all over the world. I’m Ethiopian and have introduced students to holidays like Sigd which they may not have experienced otherwise.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to work with an incredible team at Stanford Hillel who have been a family and a community for me when my own family and community are far away. Packing up my life in a month and a half and coming to Stanford to share my love of Israel with the campus community here was the best decision of my life.