David B. prefers the afternoon run "because it gives me a chance to unwind after a day in school". David G. prefers the morning run "because it is so quiet. It is just we running with the birds flying above". "Yes," agrees David B. who jokingly adds - "and the motor of our coach's car." Asher, the coach, joins in the joke and laughter.
|Asher, a graduate of Youth Aliyah following his aliyah from Ethiopia, uses sports to help the boys achieve where, otherwise, they have only demonstrated failure. |
Asher, a graduate of the Wingate Institute and a recent finisher of a 10 km. race in 37 minutes, explains that he drives behind the athletes in the car in event of an injury and for security reasons. "I actually prefer the later runs because I don't like getting up at 4:30 AM in order to wake them up at 5:00, but that is what the job demands." The job, however, demands a lot more than that. It also calls for dedication and commitment.
Asher and his thirteen cross-country runners, who have won five trophies in recent competitions, live at the Ben Yakir Youth Aliyah Village, a short distance from Hadera off of Israel's coastal road. Ben Yakir, the home for another 121 boys in the 7th - 9th grades, is a village for boys who never quite found their way in their homes, schools, or communities. The principal, Yossi Krothamer, explains that many of the boys come from homes with a low socio-economic standing. There are single-family homes and homes with a history of violence and/or drug or alcohol abuse. The picture is not pretty.
Orit Besh, a member of the professional educational staff, talks lovingly about the boys at Ben Yakir and the village's goals. "Many of these boys have failed in the past. We - the entire staff of educators, social workers and psychologists - work with each youth individually to show him that he has the ability to succeed. All of the boys have the potential. They just do not know it. David B admits, "I have a lot more self-confidence now. I never thought that I would be running up to 6 kilometers at a time or competing in races. I am improving all of the time."
The "Davids" are proud of their team's recent finishing in first-place in the regional events and 4th place, overall, in the nationals. David G., who plays a musical instrument in the after-school enrichment program, says that I use "my hands, my feet and my head at Ben Yakir". And it shows! "I am also concentrating more in school and getting better grades," he proudly exclaims.
Asher, a graduate of Youth Aliyah following his aliyah from Ethiopia, uses sports to help the boys achieve where, otherwise, they have only demonstrated failure. Ben Yakir teachers use many methods - music, computers, science, pets and art, for example - to get the boys to demonstrate their hidden talents. "My 13 runners eat more nutritiously now. Of course, that doesn't mean that they have given up pop-corn or fast food completely. The "Davids" favorite foods remain pizza and hamburgers. "But we now eat the vegetables, too," smiles David B.
|While trophies are nice, they are not the primary objective at Ben Yakir. Every personal or team achievement helps to prove that these boys possess the means to succeed and that excellence can be attained in different ways.|
The boys run up to 15 kilometers a week and their next competition is on February 24. "We hope to bring home another cup," declares Asher, "but the cup is not just for show and not the real goal."
And that's the truth! While trophies are nice, they are not the primary objective at Ben Yakir. Every personal or team achievement helps to prove that these boys possess the means to succeed and that excellence can be attained in different ways.
David G. and David B. are but two indicators of not only the success of the sports program at Ben Yakir but, also, of their ultimate goal - bringing these boys back to their homes and local schools and communities and to help them integrate into Israeli society.
Written by: Arnie Bendor
Photos by: Boris Visoky
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