June 30, 2009 / 8 Tammuz 5769
Growing up in Ramla, Reut Sinai didn't think she had many options for her future. Located in central Israel, Ramla is a mixed Arab and Jewish city that suffers from years of municipal neglect, financial problems and rising crime. When 15-year-old Reut first heard about the Jewish Agency's Net@ program for technological instruction and certification, she knew that a great opportunity was opened to her. Reut first learned about Net@ when program representatives came to speak to her 9th grade class. "I met some students in the 10th grade who were already participating in Net@," explains Reut. "They spoke so highly of the program and strongly recommended that I apply to get in."
Operated in partnership with Cisco Systems and Tapuach, Net@ offers talented high school students a range of intensive technological training and certification recognized by Cisco International certification. Instruction hours are supplemented by social action and recreational activities. In Ramla, close to 45 students, both Arab and Jewish, are enrolled in the three year project - the fourth year of volunteer work is optional. Preceeding Net@ is a short English summer camp which prepares participants for the English-language studies of the program and incorporates socialization and leadership activities.
"In the beginning it was difficult between the Jewish and Arab students," recalls Reut. "Especially because, at that time, there was a lot of political tension in Israel, which put everybody on edge. It took us all about 2 to 3 weeks for us to put our differences aside, and to see past the labels. We're now very good friends, and we even socialize after the program, at birthday parties and social outings."
"Net@ has changed my life dramatically. First of all, it's improved my English immensely. But mostly, it's changed my views on Arabs. It was strange to witness and meet Arabs who don't hate Israeli's and Jews." Now, given her newly acquired computer skills, Reut feels her future is an open book. "It was always my dream to study medicine and become a doctor, but now my horizons have widened and more opportunities are open to me for my future. I'm really happy I have choices now."