Film Synopsis

"When I was 5, I was a shepherd. I never imagined then that I would be a paratrooper, let alone a commander."

Mekonen Abebe

Mekonen: The Journey of an African Jew is the new mini-documentary from the creators of Netflix-featured Beneath the Helmet and PBS-featured Israel Inside. The film follows the backstory and personal journey of Mekonen Abebe, a young African-Israeli Jew, once a young shepherd in Africa and now a commander in the Israeli Defense Forces. Mekonen is one of many brave young men and women drafted into compulsory service in the IDF, to defend their homeland and the liberal values of democracy, freedom and equality.

Born and raised in an Ethiopian village, Mekonen was a 12-year-old shepherd when his father died suddenly, less than a day before his family was to move to Israel. The film accompanies Mekonen back to Africa on an emotional journey. He explores his roots, makes peace with his past and embraces his future in Israel.

After a difficult adjustment period in Israel, Mekonen was fortunate to attend the Hodayot High School, which educates children from troubled backgrounds and helps integrate them into Israeli society. Mekonen became a decorated officer in the IDF, while staying true to his Ethiopian roots and culture.

Mekonen is an uplifting and inspiring film that will move audiences and show viewers that anything is possible with the right attitude, tools and support.

Film Character

Private Mekonen Abeba

Mekonen is in basic training with the 101st Paratrooper Brigade. At age 12, Mekonen emigrated from Ethiopia. Hours before boarding the plane for Israel, his father passed away, hurling the family into a tumultuous period of grief and coping with the unknown in a new land. Mekonen is being raised by his mother in a two-room apartment in Bnei Brak, which he shares with nine other family members.

Film Trailer

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Film Credits


Raphael Shore
Naty Saidoff


Pamela Claman
Roberta Kaylie
Andy Lappin
Adam Milstein


David Coleman
Richard Green
Amy Holtz
Larry Post


Nancy and Dov Friedberg
David and Jean Bernstein
Scott and Andrea Bernstein
The BIMAH Foundation
Ronny & Toby Hersh
Radine & William Spier
The Erlbaum Family
Rob and Vicki Trachten Schwartz


Drs. Naomi Vilko and Sid Goldfarb
Beth and Jeff Kopin
Wayne Kopping
Moses and Susan Libitzky
Bertha and Ken Litvack
Leon Miller Family
Pam Rose
Marc and Susan Sacks
Ilan Sharon
Micah Smith
Ron and Nina Spiro
Jewish Community Youth Foundation, Princeton, NJ


Cecilia Chan
Benjamin Tripp MD SFM

The distribution of the film was made possible thanks to the generous help of Rob and Vicki Trachten Schwartz