Youth Aliyah’s villages have enjoyed an increased number of solidarity visits from Diaspora supporters in recent months. These solidarity visits have taken place despite ongoing Palestinian terror attacks and a possible war with Iraq. Friends from across the US, Canada, Switzerland, France and Australia have paid morale boosting visits to all five residential villages run by Youth Aliyah Institutions. In addition Australian students on the Birthright and Young Leadership programs spent a day at Ramat Hadassah Szold.
Youth Aliyah students prepare for the worst while hoping for the best
These solidarity missions are deeply appreciated by Youth Aliyah. Israelis, who are going through a very difficult period in their history profoundly value this support as do the representatives of Youth Aliyah, whose disadvantaged children were at risk even before the start of the latest Intifada and the severe economic recession.
While bringing profound comfort to Youth Aliyah in particular and all Israelis, and fuelling the generous financial support given by the friends of the residential villages, these solidarity visits can only soothe rather than solve the security worries that the children are suffering. Moreover, additional financial support from Youth Aliyah’s friends is vital as the economic recession in Israel deepens.
Terror hit the Ben Yakir village in October when the 20 year-old sister of one of the students was killed during a suicide bombing on a bus at the Karkur Junction near Hadera. This was the second tragedy in the family of the 14 year-old student, whose first cousin was killed two years ago in an attack on a pizzeria in Hadera.
“The boy still has trouble sitting still and concentrating in class,’ explained Yossi Krothamer, Ben Yakir’s Director. “But that’s understandable. All the children in the school have been badly shaken by this tragedy and the boy’s classmates have set up a memorial to the dead girl who was a sergeant in the Border Police.”
In addition to this tragedy the father of a Ben Yakir pupil who graduated from the school last year was also killed in the Karkur Junction attack. The shadow of potential terror haunts all Youth Aliyah villages and there was even a scare at the more remote Nitzana village where a reserve soldier was killed 15 kilometers from the village following a terrorist infiltration from Egypt. The threat of a missile attack from Iraq, possibly with unconventional warheads, has also sewn great anxiety among Youth Aliyah students. “We try to stress calm,” said Zvi Astrachan, Director of Ramat Hadassah Szold. “We’ve done all the drills with gas masks and going into shelters. I don’t think any of the kids are too badly effected though some of their parents are very scared.”The security situation has required major budgetary allocations for better security fences, adding guards, improved lighting and cleaning out bomb shelters. For their part the students have been eager to contribute and students at Kiryat Yearim and Ramat Hadassah Szold have been trained by the Civil Guard and are now participating in neighborhood patrols.
Adar Aleph 5763 - February 2003