B. E, from London, urges us to reach beyond the beach — and change lives
WE WANTED to do it differently this time. We had been to Israel so often and the experience had become a little stale, not quite as special: the beach, hotel coffee lounge, shuk, museums and even the friends, all from back home anyway. “Why not visit one of the youth villages we’ve been supporting for years?” asked my husband.
The drive into Aloney Yitzchak, through orange groves and banana trees, was like entering a kibbutz. The youth village is home and a school to around 400 children from at-risk backgrounds — poverty, abuse, neglect.
Nina, the director came out of her office cabin to greet us — a warm welcome from a warm person. She herself is a graduate of the youth village, where she arrived from Romania, alone and without any support. She went on to university and returned in a management position to the village she now calls home.
Our tour took us through dormitories, clubhouses, classrooms, gardens tended by the village students, as well as to the art centre and music hall. The living quarters were immaculate. “Our kids take turns on the cleaning rota, learning to cherish their home and environment,” said Nina.
Among the young people we met was Morav, from Ethiopia. He was practising the flute — a melancholic tune. Later we learned that he had been helping his father sweep the streets of a nearby town. He was 15 years old, had come to Israel two years earlier and felt a failure. Encouraged to study, and given the assistance he needed, Morav blossomed into a keen student, now about to graduate.
We also met Assaf, whose parents travelled to Israel on foot through the deserts of Sudan. One of six children, with both parents unemployed, Assaf now has high hopes of getting a scholarship to study at the Technion.
Dorit suffered physical and verbal abuse at her father’s home and her mother was a drug addict, but now she is part of the village’s performance group, with her sights set on the Batsheva Dance Company.
The sun was setting. It was time for us to return to Netanya. Our minds were set on a scholarship for Assaf and trying to help in other ways too. The day was certainly different, a moving insight into why charity really does matter.
Looking into the future