April 10, 2008 / 5 Nisan 5768
Living in Sderot means living under a constant threat of terror. But for Heftzi Keinan, the Jewish Agency's Atidim program made sure her future was secure.
Heftzi Keinan from Sderot faced a critical moment in her sophomore year of college. Her savings were running out and her parents were almost bankrupt. When she heard about the Atidim program it sounded like a dream. “Now,” says Heftzi, “I know dreams can come true.” Heftzi Keinan, 26, grew up in Sderot, before the unrelenting Kassam rockets rendered the city a virtual ghost town. The youngest of five children, Heftzi remembers helping her parents run their stationary store during peak season. “Before school started, my parents used to hire people to help out.”
The situation rapidly changed when the terror began seven years ago. “I was in the army, in an intelligence unit,” says Heftzi, “And no one was sure whether this would continue. But the rockets continued to fall, and everyone lived in fear. Today, if you walk around Sderot, the streets are empty.”
For Heftzi’s parents, the situation brought them close to bankruptcy. After the army, Heftzi went to live with her sister in Ra’anana and then returned home to help her parents. “I knew that I wanted to go to college, but I wasn’t sure how I would afford it,” says Heftzi. “I worked as a receptionist and saved money, and I had savings from my army service.”
When she was accepted to the industrial engineering and management program at Ben Gurion University, Heftzi was ecstatic. She had enough money to pay for her first year. In her second year, her savings ran out. Her aunt told her about the Atidim for Industry and the Business Sector program, and this changed Heftzi’s life. “Atidim helped me in my most critical moment,” says Heftzi. “But it was more than just the scholarship and financial support they gave me. The people at Atidim really believe in me. They make me feel that I am worth investing in and that I have the ability to succeed. This is very powerful.”
Heftzi is now starting her third year of college. Through Atidim she receives a full tuition scholarship, living expenses, tutoring if needed, and a laptop computer. At the same time she will be matched with Osem, one of Israel’s largest food manufacturers, gaining valuable work experience and hopefully working for the company when she graduates. “Atidim is like a breath of fresh air,” says Heftzi. “It’s like a family. My coordinator, Dorit, really cares about me. She is always in touch to see if I need anything and if everything is okay. I feel so lucky to have a program like this behind me.”
To learn more about the Jewish Agency's innovative Atidim programs for pre and post high school students that ensure educational and vocational success for thousands of Israelis in Sderot and across the country here, click here. Please join us in our efforts.