September 25, 2007
Soon after Second Lebanon War, during Sukkot of 2006, hundreds of volunteers travelled north to Kiryat Shmona to take part in project ‘Students Lead North’. This year, they plan to go south, to Sderot. ‘The idea is to provide students with an opportunity and a place where they can give something of themselves,’ explain the initiators of the project. Care to join?
Last year's participants at work
It is always much easier to be anti, to complain or ask ‘what’s in it for me?’ We are all waiting for the Winograd Commission’s results and for the Shochat Commission’s conclusions to be implemented. We find ourselves fighting for pensions for the elderly and shocked by the collapse of a construction company that took hundreds of customers down with it. Following the pessimistic surveys held for the beginning of the New Year, we thought it would be nice to draw you attention to something a little different. We would like you to look back with us on the recent past, and forward, towards the very near future.
Last year, just before the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, we were privileged to be amongst a group of Israeli students who decided to take action and lead hundreds of volunteers to post-Second-Lebanon-War Kiryat Shmona.
Approximately 500 students took part in the Students Lead North project. They spent five days, painting underground bomb shelters, replanting forests destroyed by fire, doing up apartments, repairing roads and holding activities for the children.
We had wanted to connect people’s needs with others’ wants, and more so, to bring people together. The result was beautiful: students from all over the country – from colleges and universities, observant Jews and secular, leftists and right-wingers, veteran social activists and novice volunteers – were all united for one cause.
“First let them lower your tuition fees, and stop calling you up for so much reserve army service, then come here to volunteer,” said a resident of Kiryat Shmona, when we told her what we were actually doing there, why there were hundreds of us sleeping on the grounds of the local swimming pool for a week.
We told her then that the two were unrelated, and we believe that still. There is no correlation between the attitude the citizens receive from the authorities and solidarity among citizens. We are all still obliged, as we were then, to assist wherever we can.
Despite the students’ reputation for being indifferent, we do have a desire to help and contribute to our environment. Our activities are based on a simple idea: providing people with a place and opportunity to give.
Last year, only two days after an article was published describing our project and asking students to enlist, we had over 500 volunteers. The response was so enthusiastic that we had to stop advertising, as we could not handle so many applicants. We were not surprised. We believe that each and every one of us has a desire to give of ourselves and take a more active part in this nation. We were here during the war, we were here after it and we will be here still tomorrow.
There are about quarter of a million students in Israel today. Over the last few years, you saw us fighting together, with one voice, only when it was our pocket we were fighting over. Our aim now is to get together for a joint goal that takes us outside our microcosm. Our daily life is filled with studying and work, but this Sukkot, we want our actions to do our talking.
We call out to all our fellow students to join this year’s project ‘Students Lead South’. During Sukkot we will go south to help Sderot residents and Gush Katif evacuees as much as possible. We will help to restore damaged apartments, streets and bomb shelters, decorate improvised shelters, distribute food, work with children with special needs, activate camps for children and help them with schoolwork.
The non-profit organization Ruach Tova, which accompanied the project last year, is taking part in the project, as are the Sderot Center for Leadership, the Jewish Agency, Matrix, and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzlia.
And just in case you have any doubts about us: No, we are not a non-profit organization, a registered company or listed organization of any kind. We are just a few fellows who think that although complaining is a deep-rooted tradition, it is our duty to act.
Avner Warner, Guy Avrutzky and Nir Boms
The campaign will be held from Saturday, September 29, through Tuesday, October 2. Care to join? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org