October 3, 2006 / 11 Tishrei 5767
After a nightmare summer spent in bomb shelters, life is looking up again for Ilanit Sigati. The 27 year-old third year student at Tel-Hai College in Upper Galilee is one of hundreds of Israelis studying in regional colleges in Israel’s north being given tuition scholarships by the Jewish Agency.
“As a student in Israel it's always a struggle to make ends meet,” explained Ilanit, who was clearly relieved to receive this unexpected financial bonus. “I have to work while I’m studying and that makes life very hard. This scholarship will let me focus much more on my studies."
According to Dan Brier, who coordinates programs to develop the Galilee and Negev for the Jewish Agency, the goal of the scholarships is to boost enrollment in the country’s colleges of higher education in the north.
“I’m sure these scholarships will relieve a lot of hardship for many Israeli students,” he observed. “But we initiated this program because we heard that the number of students applying to colleges in the north was down 30%. This was an example of the way the war was blighting the region’s development."
Brier continues, "Not only would the colleges have suffered, but the entire economy of the north if thousands of students had gone to study in the center and south instead. And students often stay in the area after graduation, so it would have affected the region's long term future.”
With the new academic year starting in October, the Jewish Agency had to mobilize swiftly during September to publicize the scholarships and persuade students to look to the north after all.
“I heard about the scholarships from all directions,” said Ilanit. “There were ads on the radio and TV and information on the Internet. The registration process was completely user-friendly.”
Ilanit originally comes from Dimona in the Negev but moved to Kiryat Shmona in the north after meeting her partner Yair, who is from the Upper Galilee. In the first days of the war a missile fell five meters from Yair’s parent's home. Yair and Ilanit were visiting at the time, but fortunately they were safely in a nearby shelter.
Throughout the war, Ilanit remained in Kiryat Shmona as Yair, who serves in a reserve combat unit, was called to serve and she wanted to remain near him. Yair, who is beginning his studies in electronics at the Max Stern Academic College of Emek Yezreel, will also receive a Jewish Agency scholarship through the program for soldiers who were called-up for emergency reserve duty.
“It’s very moving to know that Jews around the world have given me money so that I can study,” stressed Ilanit. “It gives me enormous incentive to study."
Ilanit's annual tuition fees at Tel-Hai College amount to $2,500. Under the Jewish Agency program the colleges, who select the students who will receive the grants, can disburse up to 50% of the annual fee. Brier of the Jewish Agency estimated that the eight colleges included in the program could give scholarships to up to 5,000 students.
“I’ve been living in the north for four years now,” remarked Ilanit. “I love the region. But the war made me question whether I wanted to stay. The scholarship has erased any doubts that I had. The Upper Galilee is where my future lies.”
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