December 24, 2006 / 3 Tevet 5766
The Jewish Agency for Israel is currently preparing to implement the "A New Tomorrow" educational enhancement program. This program includes enrichment activities during extended school days in elementary schools in 36 cities throughout the country, 31 of which are in the Northern region and five in the Western Negev region.
The two-year project will serve 30,000 students and augment their academic studies with programs in the fields of sports, computers, art, nature and the environment. All these are meant to expand the formal learning process which takes place during morning school hours, facilitate the personal and imaginative development of the youngsters, and provide a sense of getting back to a normal and productive learning setting.
Additional Jewish Agency programs which will get underway at the beginning of January, will also include meetings between Jewish, Druze, and Arab students who will participate in joint activities. These interactions intend to further the relationship that was developed between these young people- a relationship that was sparked when they attended summer camps together in the center of the country during this summer’s hostilities. These young people shared the mutual experience of security, far away from the katyusha rockets, and learned to appreciate each other. They built a channel of communication, friendship, and joint activity.
Also, we have just completed sorting through over 12,000 applications from students from throughout Israel who were drafted to reserve duty during the war as well as students who we encouraged to enroll in universities and colleges in the North and Western Negev. As these students were unable to earn and save money during this past summer vacation, many were unsure of how they would make tuition payments. I am overjoyed that we will be able to assist thousands of students and allow them to concentrate their efforts on their studies.
Only a few days ago, we finished our celebration of the Chanukah holiday. We celebrated with numerous cultural, holiday, and leisure events that were held for thousands of children and their families from Northern and Western Negev cities. They attended theatrical performances, guided tours in parks and tourist attractions, musical concerts, and “happenings” for the entire family.
I consider it a tremendous privilege for us all, that we were able to organize and support these initiatives with the help of our partners in the world wide Jewish community, specifically the United Jewish Communities (UJC) and Keren Hayesod who out of care, solidarity, and responsibility offered assistance to the State of Israel and its residents. Their support allows us to continue the mission we took upon ourselves at the beginning of the war to lend a sincere, helping hand to those so desperately in need even now, the day after.
Unfortunately, in Sderot and the Western Negev the katyusha rockets continue to rain down. This is despite a cease fire agreement that our adversaries refuse to acknowledge on a daily basis; the danger to the lives of tens of thousands of innocent residents of Israel continues to exist.
As we spend time in the field and meet with city leaders, citizens, children, youth, and students, we are able to attest to the appreciation and thanks they express about your generosity and support that allow us to labor on their behalf on so many levels.
On behalf of my colleagues at the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, I extend sincere thanks and admiration. May we all experience days of peace, security, growth, and a strengthening of the connection amongst world Jewry and its relationship to Israel. With 2007 just around the corner, let us all pray for the peace of the world- as it faces the threat of the evil forces of Iran. Let us strengthen the shield of civilized democratic defense so that we may secure the future of all of humanity, in every place in the world.