28 Nov Youth Futures, There Even in War
Youth Futures, There Even in War
As the Director of Youth Futures - Ofakim & Merhavim, Nurit supported mentors on October 7 as Hamas attacked Ofakim, and is now overseeing Youth Futures’ efforts to continue to support its child beneficiaries and their families.
On October 7, Nurit Nissim, 38, was at home in Ofakim with her husband, Amichai, and four kids, when they were woken up by the sound of the sirens. Amichai, who is in the army, was called in, and Nurit asked him not to go because she and the kids were really scared but he had to leave. His commute felt like an eternity until he let them know he had reached a safe place and said: “Something big is happening. The situation is not good at all. There are many dead and we haven’t really heard anything yet.”
Shortly after, Nurit started receiving WhatsApp messages and shocking videos taken in the city, even before the news reported the presence of a considerable number of terrorists in Ofakim. There was a lot of chaos; houses and cars were shot up, and there was blood in the streets. And all of this was happening without anyone being able to evacuate. Ofakim is a small city and Nurit said they lost around 50 of their people.
As the Director of Youth Futures – Ofakim & Merhavim for 16 years, The Jewish Agency’s program which pairs mentors with at-risk children to empower them and their families to succeed, Nurit immediately began to reach out to the mentors she oversees to check in on them.
“Some of the mentors were hearing gunshots as they hid in their safe rooms, and some couldn’t speak or didn’t respond. There was a scary feeling of thinking any one of us could be next in line to be attacked,” Nurit remembered. “I spoke with mentors having anxiety attacks… One mentor shared how she dressed herself and her daughters in many layers so if the terrorists kidnapped them, maybe they would at least not be assaulted or raped. Everyone was terrified and praying for the opportunity to escape from Ofakim as soon as possible.”
Today, Youth Futures and The Jewish Agency are ensuring that mentors and their families as well as the child participants of Youth Futures and their families, providing resources, respite and ongoing support.
“We had countless phone calls and meetings with various Youth Futures and Jewish Agency employees to help bolster the emotional and mental states of our mentors so they could, in turn, be there for the children and families of Youth Futures,” said Nurit. “I’m grateful to be able to be part of this organization, to support the beneficiaries and mentors as we heal together the wounds of our beloved community of Ofakim.”