The truth is that he’s right, as are the 500 or so Israeli and foreign students who devoted the intermediate days of the Sukkoth holiday to volunteering in northern towns:
Some of them joined members of the Ayalim student organization in restoring and painting stairwells, restoring sidewalks, cleaning up, and planting gardens in one of the neighborhoods of Kiryat Shmona. Some planted, trimmed burned trees, and cleared paths in the forests damaged by Katyushas.
Others cleaned and painted public bomb shelters in Kiryat Shmona, while still others gave instruction to local residents at the “Rights Centers” operated by the Yedid organization in Haifa, Hatzor, Safed, Afula, Shfaram, and Nazareth. Other volunteers shared war experiences with children from the north and worked with them in summer camps.
“Personally, I had an amazing experience from every point of view,” says Eliran Zarad, 25, a student at Ben Gurion University who was a camp counselor for elementary school children.
“It was marvelous to see so many people leave everything and come for an entire week to do their part in building the country, something that’s not really done by members of our generation. The activity in the camp was great, and the happiness you could see on the faces of the children was worth it all. I learned that there are a lot of good people in the country, which is in contrast to the usual image of students.”
“The project is proof that students in Israel can make a change,” says Avner Werner, 27, a law student at Hebrew University who initiated the project. “The war caught us toward the end of the academic year, many of us were drafted into the army, and others stayed to deal with exams and other student chores. After the year ended it was important to us to join a comprehensive and concerted volunteer effort for the residents, and that’s what we did.”
The enthusiasm of Werner, who went to the Ruach Tova organization after the war and asked it to help recruit students once again, this time for the people of the north, was what got things moving.
Ruach Tova agreed to his request, hosting Werner and the others for an entire month while they planned the volunteer activities, made staffing assignments for volunteers, and made contact with people in northern towns.
Funding for the initiative—by the Arison Group (Bank Hapoalim and the Ted Arison Family Fund), as well as the Jewish Agency—was found later on.
“Participating in the project opened my eyes,” declares Yotvat Bar-El, 27, a Hebrew University student. “Not all students are apathetic, and a large part of the final result is a product of the shared work, of the atmosphere of togetherness.”
“I came to give of myself and I got a lot more,” adds Naomi Elyashar, a 22-year old student at the Technion. “Personally I thought that there were too few people who wanted to help, and in the project I discovered that there are a lot more people who believe that you can make a change.”
Ofir Yechezkeli, 27, a student at the Interdisciplinary Center, and the coordinator of the project to restore the public shelters, sums it up as follows: “It’s important for people to realize that sometimes all that’s needed is one person with a good idea in order to bring hundreds of other people with him.”
Copyright © Yedioth Internet. All rights reserved.