Drastic, progressive budget cuts in the Ministry of Education’s finances have led Israeli schools to implement “lean curriculums” with limited, if any, enrichment programs. While minimalist education opportunities are often supplemented in affluent communities, children in the periphery are dependent upon subsidized services to ensure that they receive a well-rounded education.
In the aftermath of war, when feelings of discontent and neglect ran rabid among children and youth in war-stricken regions, it was essential to do everything possible to nurture this youth and enable them to feel that they are part of Israeli society, once more. Cultural activities are known to sooth wounded spirits and open doors to new opportunities. The Jewish Agency Fund for the Enrichment of Children and Youth selected the experienced Keren Karev organization to implement cultural enrichment programs for children and youth in Northern and Southern Israel.
Keren Karev is the primary interventionist entity in the Israeli educational system. The program operates in about 110 local municipalities, 570 schools, and 1,200 kindergartens, reaching about 250,000 children from all sectors, all across Israel. Karev educators deal with children’s post traumatic stress on a daily basis. All programs are designed to address these symptoms with empathy and encouragement of expression of the children's feelings and fears.
This project is being implemented through the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for the Enrichment of Children and Youth in war stricken regions that has been most generously funded by the United Jewish Communities of North America (UJC).
Close to 22,000 children and youth participate in Karev programs according to the following distribution
Recruitment of children and staff was completed over a time span of a few weeks. Because of the importance in rebuilding war stricken regions on the community level, programs are all being implemented within existing community infrastructure that brings children, parents and local authorities together.
Below is an overview of the specific enrichment implemented during after school hours.
String instruments, wind instruments, percussion instruments, music history
Music is used as a key educational tool, with which the cognitive, perceptual, abstract thinking and group cooperation is cultivated.
Law, conflict resolution, world cultures, interpersonal communication, marketing, advertisement
The different programs nurture social values such as multiculturalism, democracy and pluralism, encouraging social involvement.
Cinema, television, video, photography, journalism
Exposing participants to the exciting world of the media encourages critical thinking and creativity. Even more importantly, it also encourages the child to find new way to deal with his/hers post-traumatic feelings.
Theatre and Drama
Marionette theatre, acting and drama classes
Children expressing themselves by means of role playing, drama and personal movie production enhances their use of imagination, sense of pluralism and strengthens the group dynamic within the class.
Sports and Motion
Capoeira, ball games, roller blading, dancing, extreme sports
The different activities contribute to the development of psychomotor skills, enhancing participants' growth both physically and socially. It played an important role in helping children regain their sense of self confidence and releasing tensions accumulated during the war.
Languages open doors to new and exciting worlds of knowledge. Through a wide variety of joyful activities, the child is exposed to the new language, removing the initial fears of the unknown verbal environment.
Science and Technology
Chemistry, veterinary sciences, scientific discoveries in the kitchen, electronics, aviation and space
Exposing the children to diverse fields of science and their relevance to daily life, programs in this field develop critical thinking and encourage scientific curiosity.
Shiatsu, listening skills, relaxation through motion
Activities in this field offer the child different ways to reach internal peace and to find some distance from daily life challenges and fears, when needed.
Jewish and Israeli studies
Israeli archeology, Jewish studies
This field targets the assimilation of concepts such as continuity of time and space in the child’s perception of reality, in order to help him/her processes the wartime trauma.
Chess, logic, thinking games
Improving the children's' thinking skills contributes to the development of innovative mathematical and strategic abilities, while providing them with tools to overcome emotional and social challenges.
Kitchen experiences, agriculture, zoology, environmental awareness
Different programs provide the child with skills applicable to everyday life. The program nurtures the child’s self confidence and encourages them to play an active role in their family and community.
Plastic arts, comics, ceramics, architecture, sculpture, origami
The art programs use different methods to enable the child to express him self in innovative and creative ways.
All of the programs address war stricken children’s special needs by empathetically providing encouragement of self expression of feelings and fears. The proof of the programs’ success is in the participant feedback received - including that of Merav, a second grader who shared her feelings thusly: "The war seems less frightening. I can think of other things now and I am not dreaming about it any more. The drawing project we did in class is going to be presented in the town’s square and I am very excited about it!"
Operative Adjustments to be Incorporated Following Analysis of Project Evaluation
The security situation is still unstable. To ensure that children in war-stricken regions feel secure, programs are being adapted accordingly on an ongoing basis.
Programs are being developed before the start of the school year, to eliminate the challenge of incorporating programs to an existing school schedule
To reinforce community infrastructure, greater attention will be given to developing good working relationships with municipalities.
Looking to the Future
Participation in Karev activities is voluntary, but the participation rate in these after school activities is very high. This fact is a most powerful statement in showing how important these programs are to their participants.
The rehabilitation of northern and southern Israel’s children and youth has just begun. It is essential to continue the momentum and ensure that the devastation of war is transformed into an opportunity to go forward.