Twelfth-graders in the Na‘aleh program for youngsters who have immigrated to Israel without their parents took part in a countrywide seminar for program participants that was held this year, for the first time, at the Nes Harim Field and Forest Education Center, not far from Jerusalem. Some 250 students from youth villages all over Israel took part, from the Eilot region in the south to Nahalal in the north.
For those students who had come from areas close to the Gaza Strip, such as Kfar Silver and Mevo’ot HaNegev, the seminar provided a significant added advantage in that it gave them a break after the intensive shelling from Gaza that they had suffered during the Israel Defense Forces’ Pillar of Security campaign. The pastoral atmosphere of Nes Harim provided a total contrast to the tension, the rockets and the sirens that the youngsters had experienced only recently.
Eighteen-year-old Sasha Alexandra, who emigrated from Moldova three years ago and now studies in Kfar Silver, near Ashkelon, told us: “When the sirens were going off my parents phoned from abroad every couple of hours to make sure that I was all right. I had to work very hard indeed to calm them down. Here at Nes Harim the atmosphere is totally different, and the alerts seem further away than ever.”
During the military campaign in Gaza, Israel’s Home Front Command ordered the Nes Harim center to be closed, as it, too, was within range of the rockets. Now that things have calmed down it has resumed its activities and, among other things, has been hosting groups from the south. After the difficult period they have been through, there can be no doubt that students from southern Israel badly need a bit of peace and quiet amid the hills and the forest.
Dasha Kuzmenko (18) immigrated to Israel from Ukraine four years ago, and is now a student at Kfar Silver. “It’s sort of sad, but the truth is that we’ve got used to the security situation,” she said. “It’s great that there are good people helping us and taking us away for a holiday break.”
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