One of the most pressing social problems facing Israel today is the sharp increase in the number of youth at risk. The Jewish Agency, to address this issue, repurposed four of their Youth Aliyah Villages that once housed refugees who arrived in Israel alone.
These invaluable facilities provide at-risk youths with a positive, growth-based, environment where children removed from their homes, can receive the therapeutic intervention needed to heal and flourish.
Today, The Jewish Agency's Youth Villages provide highly cost-effective boarding school settings for several hundred youth with severe emotional, behavioral and family problems. Intensive educational, clinical and social work services help 12 to 18-year-olds succeed in and complete high school and enter national service army with their peers.
There are currently four youth villages operating in Israel, catering to almost 1, 000 youth at risk. Each Youth Village offers distinctive programs to help students overcome barriers to achievement and reach their goals. Each Village has its own approach and special programs:
Ben Yakir Youth Village, near Hadera, was founded in 1974 and serves adolescent boys, the majority of whom are immigrants from Ethiopia. Programs at Ben Yakir include: Bar Mitzvah preparation culminating at the Western Wall; therapeutic horseback riding and care; sports and music; and a summer camp specializing in English, animal care and digital media.
Kiryat Yearim Youth Village
, outside of Jerusalem, was founded in 1952; today over 50 percent of its residents are from Ethiopia. Kiryat Yearim's programming includes: "Kol Kore," an experiential literacy program helping new immigrants bridge language gaps; jewelry workshop; and music, cooking and gardening classes. Also located at Kiryat Yearim is the Kol Ami Mechina
Hadassah Neurim Youth Village, near Netanya, was founded in 1948 and today is home to hundreds of adolescents, the majority of whom are from the former Soviet Union. Hadassah Neurim's programs include: sound and audio workshops; animal therapy; pre-army preparation; and carpentry. Hadassah Neurim is also home to two additional programs: Special Needs and a sports program for athletically gifted youth.
Ramat Hadassah Youth Village, southeast of Haifa, was founded in 1949. At Ramat Hadassah, 70 percent of the residents are from Ethiopia and the FSU. Special programs include: sports (basketball, volleyball and soccer); hip-hop dance; and jewelry-making.