Uzi Hangadi, 27, made Aliyah this past week from San Diego, CA, following a promise he made to his father, before he died of cancer. The promise was to continue what he started in the US, and to devote his entire life to the struggle to improve Israel’s image in the world. With the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF USA, Uzi fulfilled his promise and went to the IDF recruitment office yesterday.
When Uzi’s parents divorced, his father returned to Israel and started a new family, while his mother remained with him in Los Angeles. Uzi’s father took advantage of every opportunity to convince Uzi to enlist in the IDF and protect his Jewish homeland, but Uzi knew he could not leave his mother, who was suffering from ALS, on her own.
On the other side of the ocean his father was battling cancer (which was kept a secret from him). When Uzi was 19, his father’s cancer suddenly worsened, and he received a surprising phone call from his uncle to come to Israel as soon as possible in order to say goodbye.
Uzi managed to reach the hospital in time, and was able to assure his father that he will make Aliyah and enlist in the IDF. Hours later, his father lost consciousness and died. A short six months later, Uzi’s mother passed away, leaving him an untimely orphan. He decided then that he would fulfill his promise to his father and realize his dream of moving to Israel, which was in essence his own lifelong dream .
After making Aliyah a few days ago, Uzi reported to the IDF recruitment office and plans to serve in an elite combat unit.
In addition to his difficult personal journey, Uzi experienced a number of anti-Semitic incidents during his studies at UCLA, where he was attacked by pro-Palestinian activists and had his life threatened on Facebook and offline.
Uzi used to conduct lectures and workshops for students and interested US citizens who were less knowledgeable regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, and as part of the various protests and demonstrations he participated in was subject to countless anti-Semitic acts, curses and threats. He was attacked physically and had personal property destroyed.
He explains that many times he felt his life was in danger, someone was breathing down his back or he was being followed. The more he tried to advocate for Israel, the more he felt the threats growing around him. In Israel, he hopes to continue to dedicate his life to Israel advocacy, first in the army and later on by working to improve Israel’s image in the world.
Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh added: “Uzi’s story portrays a moving story of a young man, who despite so many personal challenges, not only chose to fulfill an intimate promise to his father but to also fight for the realization of the Zionist dream, and became an Israeli who is dedicating his life to his people and his country.”