"I was imprisoned twice, not for short periods, for violence, drug and property offenses. At the age of 45 I was released. I went out into the street with nothing, without motivation. I didn't have a shekel for cigarettes. I broke into a room in the Argazim neighbourhood, a drug addict, without teeth, living for a day, and another day, thrown out on the street, trying to survive like an animal in the forest, looking for trouble.
“The Authority for the Rehabilitation of Prisoners put me in touch with Comeback. I received support, consultations. I began working in a hotel. I lifted heavy vegetable boxes for NIS 4000 a month. I had debts to pay in the grey market. I was very close to despair, and to return to crime. I could have made tens of thousands of shekels in half a day's work. When the State Executors Office offered to reach a debt settlement with me, requiring me to pay only NIS 200 a month, I preferred to spend the money on drugs.
“But Comeback told me that they are standing by me. They sent me to the People’s University. I received a Certificate in Business Administration. I started paying off my debt to the State Executors Office. I fled the crime infested areas and moved to live close to my ex-wife and my son.
“When an offer came from the hotel to do a chef’s course, Comeback found me funding for the course. I was awarded a Certificate of Excellence and went on to the next course. At first I couldn’t find work because of my criminal past. Today people ask me to work for them. I fixed my teeth, and paid off my debts.
“Today, with a certificate of senior chef grade 5, I manage five kitchens in a large catering company, and am responsible for 80 employees. I am considered to be among the best chefs in the field of catering, and I earn NIS 20,000 a month. Three years ago I didn’t imagine that I would reach this point. If I wanted to go back to crime, I could go back in five minutes. Take off my cook's clothes - and make easy money. But I'm not there. Mentally I'm not there.
“If once I bought a new car from drug deals I made from inside the prison - today I save the money I worked hard for, buy myself a car, and sleep peacefully at night.
“At Comeback, they used to tell me all the time "You don't break quickly. If you take your strength from the street, and put it in the best places - the sky’s the limit". At first I didn't believe them. Today, three years after my release, I say: “Let others go to prison, I am not going back there. My 9 year old child calls me "Daddy"! It's worth a million dollars to me. It pays me to work hard.
“I know all the criminals. They respect me for the path I have chosen. I made millions in crime, I lost millions, I don't want to go back there. “Look at my wall, full of certificates of excellence. They offer me to hack into chats, to be a big deal on the grey market – it leads to misery, for others and for yourself. It destroys everything that’s good, leading to fear and sleepless nights, afraid the police will come for you.
“Today I have one fear. I’m afraid to lose all the goodness I have”.
The Story of Shalom
"I came up with a lot of ideas for things I wanted to do in my life, but I was scattered and disorganized. In a long process at Comeback, I learned to organize all the projects I set for myself.
“During the years in prison I married a woman from my village. When I was released I had a child from her, a child who doesn't know me at all. I had no idea how to be a father, how to go out and make a living."