When he was 16, Menachem Yisrapilov, now 24 years old, was released from the police station for the last time, after being arrested for drunken behaviour. He was sure that this was the straw that would break the camel’s back and that his “career” at the Emunah Children’s Centre in Afula was over. “I thought they were going to chuck me out”, he said. At the time, Menachem, who had already been at the Centre for 4 years, was an angry and very troubled young man. Menachem crossed the lines almost daily as he demonstrated aggressive and self-destructive behaviour and the staff were at their wits end.
Menachem, the middle child of 5, in a one parent family from Haifa, was born in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Separated from their father the Yisrapilov family came on Aliya to Israel when Menachem was only 4 years old and things rapidly deteriorated. Since their mother had trouble bringing up her children, within a few short years, all the boys were sent to children’s homes and at age 12 Menachem was brought to Emunah Afula. Menachem has only recently, as an adult, been able to admit that his mother physically abused him.
Although very frustrated by Menachem’s destructive behavior, the staff at the Centre recognized his obvious potential, intelligence and charismatic personality, and decided to give him another chance. “I figured that if they cared enough not to give up on me, maybe I shouldn’t give up on myself”, said Menachem and the rest is history. With the added reinforcement of having been invited to London to tell his story at the British Emunah Annual Dinner in 2004, Menachem applied himself to his studies and gradually improved his behaviour. In 2005 Menachem completed high school and enlisted in the IDF. Since his relationship with his mother was still tenuous and raw, Menachem was officially recognized as a soldier without a family and lived on his own.
Menachem excelled as a soldier and completed a full 3 year army service in a combat unit, during which he was decorated for bravery. Currently Menachem is working at the Emunah Centre in Afula as a counsellor as he feels this is his best way to give something back.