Thanks to support from the Jewish Federations of North America, today The Jewish Agency brought about 600 children from southern Israel into the Shafayim Amusement park in central Israel, part of its goal of taking more than 10,000 kids this week from rocket-battered regions into areas outside the line of fire, for rest and recreation.
The days of respite for children from the south also provide much-needed breaks to parents, who have, for the past decade but in particular in the last week, spent inordinate amounts of time attempting to entertain their children in bomb shelters, and whose own routines are shattered by the near-constant alarms of air-raid sirens.
The 600 youth who were taken today to Shafayim included around 250 children from the southern town of Kiryat Gat, and approximately 80 teens who are involved in various southern chapters of the Net@ hi-tech educational program, in which The Jewish Agency is a partner.
A group of visitors representing the JFNA, who are on a solidarity mission to Israel during Operation Protective Edge, also came to the amusement park today, and met with Net@ coordinator Benchalem Argau and with two participants of Net@, Nitzan Tzeitlin and Shaked Asaig, both from Be’er Sheva.
“We spend many hours in bomb shelters,” Tzeitlin said. “The activities here make life a little easier.”
“This is saving the kids,” Argau said. “They’ve been bouncing off walls, they haven’t left their homes for a week, and I see how much fun they are having here, and the weight that has been taken off their shoulders, at least for a little while. They are used to sirens going off all the time, so this is very relaxing for them. I want I want to thank the JFNA, who made it possible for us to take our kids out of the line of fire.”
Net@ is a joint program of The Jewish Agency, Cisco Networking Academy, Keren Hayesod, and Appleseeds Academy to promote excellence in technology and social leadership, and to empower youth via hi-tech skills. It creates opportunities for teenagers in grades 9-12 from Israel’s social and geographic periphery by training them in marketable computer skills that culminate in certification as computer and network technicians. Inherent in the curriculum are social values including personal and communal responsibility and achievement, leadership, pluralism, democratic values, and volunteerism.
To promote active engagement as Israeli citizens, Net@ also requires each participant to volunteer their services – for example, by fixing or teaching computers in schools or nursing homes.
In 2013, Net@ worked with 1,100 students; many of the Net@ counselors are themselves graduates of the program. Compared to other high school students in their cities or towns, Net@ participants are 50 percent more likely to earn a bagrut (“matriculation”) diploma. The program is in the process of creating exciting opportunities for alumni in the fields of hi-tech, youth leadership, and post-high school service years.
Jewish Agency Respite Activities During Operation Protective Edge
Yesterday, about 1,500 children, from six different regional councils in the south, including many children living in Jewish Agency Absorption Centers, visited the Biblical Zoo, the Israel Museum, Cinema City, and the Kiftzuba amusement – all in the Jerusalem area. All the Jewish Agency respite activities this week, aimed to serve 10,000 children and their families, are being organized in coordination with the National Emergency Authority, government ministries, and the childrens’ local municipalities.
Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, met with the groups at the zoo yesterday to show his support for these young Israelis who live in the pressured environment of the south. He also noted the quick movement by the JFNA to ensure that Israeli children could get a break from “the conflict” and enjoy a day in Jerusalem, where air-raid sirens are less likely to sound.
“Thanks to the immediate action of our partners at the JFNA and Keren Hayesod-UIA, The Jewish Agency is able to offer a real-time response to the residents of southern Israel,” Sharansky said. "It is both moving and inspiring to feel the mighty fortitude of the people of southern Israel—both immigrants and native Israelis—and the powerful solidarity of world Jewry, which draw upon and strengthen one another. The Jewish Agency is proud to serve as a conduit of positive energy between the Jewish world and the people of Israel's south and we will continue to do whatever we can to support the local residents during this trying time.”