February 18, 2007 / 30 Shevat 5767
"I chose to dedicate myself to education and to changing the direction of Israeli society because if we don't take on this responsibility, our society will have no direction," says Meyrav Kvashne, 32, a member of the Ravid Educational Kibbutz, a Young Community run by the Working and Learning Youth Movement, with support from the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Dany Gliksberg, a leading member of the Ayalim Association, which has also established a number of Young Communities in the Negev and the Galilee with the support of the Jewish Agency, echoes Meyrav's sentiments. "We are bringing young, dynamic people to settle in the Negev and the Galilee, promoting social activism and providing equal educational opportunities."
"We are making a difference," says Dany. "We believe that the social structure in Israel needs to change for the better, and we are doing something positive about it."
Young Communities are imbuing the periphery with a new, young and innovative spirit. They were founded with the goal of strengthening both settlement and social involvement in the Negev and Galilee.
After finishing their army service, many talented Israelis remain in the center of the country to pursue a college education and launch their professional careers. Yet growing social activism is motivating the next generation to work toward closing social gaps and building a more just society. They are doing this by living in the Negev and the Galilee, building Young Communities and contributing to the fabric of the regions' community life. They volunteer to work with underprivileged children and youth through the Jewish Agency's Youth Futures program, in informal education and social programs, and in encouraging community leadership and involvement.
"These young people are the Rolls Royce of today's Zionism," says Zeev Bielski, Chairman of the Jewish Agency. "They give up their private pleasures. Instead of lying on a beach in Goa or making money, they are willing to settle the Negev and the Galilee, to help others and to sit for hours with senior citizens. They deserve our help."
With the Jewish Agency's support, and the support of other NGO's and Foundations, Young Communities are cropping up throughout Israel - from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Dimona in the South. The Jewish Agency supports a number of these initiatives and is working tirelessly to secure funds for this incredible social movement.
The diverse range of Young Communities supported by the Jewish Agency includes:
Student Villages - Students studying at colleges in the Negev and the Galilee are building new communities. At the same time, they receive tuition assistance and are involved in important social, cultural and educational activities in coordination with the local councils of the areas in which they are located.
Youth Movements - A broad range of post-army youth movement activists are creating vibrant Young Communities and volunteering in local community activities as part of their commitment to social change. Some are also building educational kibbutzim whose members are dedicated to bringing about change through education.
Local Communities - Local young people living in the Negev and the Galilee are establishing Young Communities, creating a cadre of dedicated activists who are committed to strengthening their home communities.
Shachaf Communities - The Jewish Agency has partnered with the JDC, the Oran Foundation, the Gandyr Foundation, SACTA-Rashi Foundation and the Communities Fund to create the Shachaf Communities Initiatives, which serves as a center for coordinating activities for Young Communities throughout the country.
"When all social, national and communal values are weakening, it is ever more crucial to put education at the forefront of the social agenda," says 29-year-old Moshit Fainshtein from the Eshbal Educational Kibbutz. "At our Kibbutz, you see a boarding school for Ethiopian youth at risk instead of dairy farms and innovative educational projects in lieu of citrus groves."
"Our members touch the lives of some 4,000 students, using an educational philosophy based on equality, social justice and the belief in every person's positive potential," continues Moshit.
The founding members of the Ayalim Association succinctly sum up the vision of many of the Young Communities: "We, young people from all over the country, who have completed military service in elite units, believe that it is not enough to strive to realize our potential as individuals, but that we must also work together on tasks with national significance. As soldiers navigating the countryside, we learned that wide swaths of the Negev and Galilee stand desolate and cry out for the infusion of a new, young spirit. We have observed, with anguish, that Israeli society, in a complicated demographic reality, is losing its grasp over peripheral areas. This is our opportunity to take a real part in rebuilding the land, in the footsteps of the generations that came before us."