August 5, 2010 / 25 Av 5770
The youth at the Jewish Agency Kiryat Yearim Youth Village are very familiar with the “Open Space” riding ranch in Kfar Shmuel, not far from Ramla. Here on the farm, under the supervision of Dr. Ofer Komrovski, they take first steps toward the future.
A veterinarian by profession and a former soldier in the elite Matkal unit, when Dr. Komrovski speaks about the youth he is emotional. It all began over a decade ago. He arrived at the school in Ramla and offered the principals the opportunity to send young Jews of Ethiopian descent, who he discovered were partial to riding horses, to his farm, free of charge.
He met with the parents, who refused his offer. They had thought at the time that their children “deserved better”. Today, many years later, they understand that the children received a great gift. Many of the young men and women today are instructors for therapeutic riding, having completed the Instructor’s Course at Wingate. They tend to autistic children, children with ADHD, and children with various handicaps.
“By seeing other disabled children, they learn to understand that they are not weaker than others, and that there are others who are weaker than them”, says Ofer.
The farm is beautiful and offers a variety of activities: petting corners with small animals and large farm animals, riding courses for all ages and levels; a paradise for children and youth.
In our interview, Dr. Komorovsky relates to his decision to take in the youth from the Kiryat Yearim Youth Village.
Why did you pursue the Kiryat Yearim youth? Why did you decide to take them in and make them a part of the process, part of the team?
We choose to offer our services to the weaker population, because we can change them. If we take someone who has it all, he will not feel he needs to be in the process of change (which is incorrect). People come here to experience a world of amendment. People who supposedly have everything are not aware of the pain they are experiencing, which should lead them to the desire to change. The youth becomes a giver and a receiver - they receive instruction and also assist the instructors, and this way they achieve a balance.
At the end of the process with the youth the staff learns to appreciate the beauty of this youth. It is obvious to us that we learned more from them than we taught them. We are working with Ethiopian Jews. We learned to fall in love with them, with the amazing beauty they contain.
This is a sensitive, delicate youth, unafraid of a challenge. They are not spoiled. You can see they are extremely unspoiled.
What happens on the farm?
They come to the farm and partake in six different activities, all of which stem from the “Open Space” philosophy. They come to connect with a horse. Connecting with a horse involves listening to him on the one hand, and on the other hand connecting with the movement without fear. The gentleness and sensitivity helps them develop emotional and spiritual power both in the present and future. I empower the kids through riding.
We teach them how to listen, overcome their fears, see where they are not focused and adjust themselves appropriately.
Most of the kids who come to us for treatment – and the Ethiopian youth experience this – are kids with ADHD. I teach them how to study, accept boundaries, and deal with learning disabilities. I teach them how to listen to other people, to the horse, to abandon their fear. These are the parameters I seek in riding. The youth who act as staff members carry a lot of baggage, and working here is therapeutic as well.
What process do the Kiryat Yearim youth undergo?
I start out with kids who know nothing, but now say they know. I start out with kids who shook for two years, and today are better riders than I am.
Riding starts out as a sport, and later a challenge.
Most of the youth reach the “wealthy” competitions, and are eager to succeed. Their gentleness makes them excellent riders. After the learning period, we teach them how to become instructors. We receive kids in a certain state, and I train them, with my team, to want to ride, to ride, to succeed at school, to succeed in whatever they do.
In the third year I move them to advanced riders, and then they work and make the effort to get to those courses. Then they work on the farm.
Our farm deals with a variety of people. The youth learn that they are capable of assisting autistic children, they learn to accept differences and that accepting the weakness of the other is accepting your own weakness. They discover what they are worth. The weakness of others makes them put in a greater effort to be better people.