JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Lieutenant Yerushalayim Andela is used to people taking a double take when she says her name:
“When I told my friends from the army my name for the first time, they thought I hadn’t understood the question, but in our community it is not so uncommon,” the Ethiopian-born Andela says in a Yisrael Hayom interview. The 21-year-old officer is in charge of volunteers at Northern Command, but her story as well as her name is exotic in nature.
At the age of two her family immigrated from Ethiopia to an absorption center in Kiryat Yam. Because her grandmother on her mother’s side was not Jewish the family underwent conversion. Her aunt was not able to come with them and as a compensation her mother gave the aunt the honor of naming the little girl with a Jewish name, and she chose Yerushalayim, the city that so many of the community yearned and died for.
Yerushalayim suffers from a serious eye condition which initially prevented her from joining the IDF. “My enlistment procedure was normal at first. Even when they understood I had a problem and my profile was downgraded, I was still allowed to continue auditioning for officers training. Three days before my enlistment I was told to come to a doctor who informed me that my profile was 21 (equal to mentally challenged people) and I wouldn’t be able to enlist.” Yerushalayim refused to accept the decision and after meeting the director of ophthalmology in the IDF, she received authorization to join an officer’s training program with the aid of special contact lenses provided by the army.
In her capacity as volunteers officer Yerushalayim helps young people who cannot enlist as well as older people who wish to volunteer within the IDF. On Jerusalem day she has more than one reason to mark the day besides her own name and the liberation of Jerusalem, since it also serves as a memorial day for the 4000 Jews who died trying to reach Israel during Operation Brothers, the 14-year operation to bring the Beta Yisrael community to Israel. Yerushalayim says that “this is a very significant day in my mind, a kind of joy mixed with sorrow. In regular years I visit my grandparents but this year due to the corona I probably won’t be able to go.”
Yerushalayim has words of encouragement for all those with medical disabilities and conditions: “Don’t let challenges make your life difficult. In the end one can live with any disability. Don’t let your disability control your life. I, and you too, can do everything.”