May 18 2008 / 13 Iyar 5768
Before going to study at Sapir College, Roni Saban was unaware of the rate and impact of the Kassam attacks in the Sderot region. Now in her second year of studies, Roni splits her time between her academic studies and volunteer projects to better disadvantaged populations in the South.
Roni Saban, 24, grew up in Kfar Saba, in central Israel. She studied filmmaking in high school and went on to become a video producer during her service in the Israel Defense Forces. Upon her discharge from the army, Roni pursued her filmmaking passion and began her freshman year at Santa Monica College, California. During her studies, however, Roni realized that she missed her homeland.
After a short stay in Malta, Roni excitedly returned to Israel and began her studies in Interactive Communication at Sapir College, in close proximity to Sderot. Coming from the center of the country, and having been away from Israel, Roni had no idea that there were Kassam rockets falling in the western Negev. “Even after the first Kassam rocket fell with a loud bang, I thought that this was just an isolated incident. I didn’t realize that it would become an almost daily occurrence,” says Roni.
The terror did not prevent Roni from building a wonderful life during college. She lived on a kibbutz near the Gaza border, and was instrumental in starting a pioneering therapeutic horseback riding program for children and youth in the region suffering from trauma. “I began riding at age nine, and I knew that this was an effective way to help the children,” says Roni.
During her sophomore year, Roni received a Jewish Agency scholarship for students studying in the beleaguered region. As part of the scholarship, Roni volunteered with young Ethiopian students living at the Jewish Agency’s San Diego Friedmann Ibim Student Village, near Sapir. “I introduced the three young women to other Israeli students, took them out with us and made sure that they felt like they were part of Israeli society. It was great.”
Roni will graduate from Sapir College with a degree in practical computer engineering. “Even though the Kassam rockets continue to fall – one day there were 27 rockets in 20 minutes – I love this area,” says Roni. “It is quiet, with lots of open space and opportunity. I see myself building my future here.” And making a difference for the region at large.
The Jewish Agency is actively responding to the needs of residents of Sderot and Gaza perimeter communities through a range of support and intervention programs. Read here to learn more and show your solidarity.