The creative side of National Service

An exhibition to showcase the works of Shlomit National Service volunteers opens in Beit Hakerem.

Eyes painting 521 (photo credit: Courtesy )
Eyes painting 521
(photo credit: Courtesy )
A n exhibition that opened this month at the Beit Hekerem Community Center is offering a platform for 20 National Service volunteers to showcase their paintings and photographs.
The young people who created these works are completing their National Service through Shlomit, an organization that deals with the training and placement of such volunteers. The purpose of the art exhibition, called “Where National Service and Art Come Together,” was to give them an outlet for their artistic abilities.
“It is extremely important to provide these young people with a place to express themselves during their year of National Service,” says David Felber, the director of National Service in the Education Ministry.
According to Shlomit CEO Chaya Shmuel, the idea for such an exhibition arose three years ago.
“Many of the young people who volunteer at Shlomit are extremely artistic,” she says. “National Service participants are expected to volunteer 40 hours per week in jobs that benefit Israeli society. In an effort to help these young people keep their creative skills honed, we decided to encourage them to express their own ideas and feelings through their artwork. This is our way of thanking them for what they give us.”
Shlomit has been placing youth in National Service volunteer positions for 20 years. This year alone, it has placed 3,000 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 24 who were exempt from IDF duty. The volunteers come from all around the country and from various ethnic and religious groups. There are Arabs and Jews, religious and secular; some have disabilities, and some are new immigrants. Volunteers work in schools, healthcare services and day-care centers for underprivileged children.
Felber welcomes the artistic exhibit, saying, “Creating a way for these young people to express themselves allows them to have a richer experience, while at the same time contributing to the community in which they are volunteering.”
He notes that Shlomit, which is growing each year, is “currently responsible for one-quarter of Education Ministry positions.”
Inbar Ben-Yaakov, from Jerusalem, is serving as a study group instructor in the Leah Rabin House in Holon, a home for autistic adults run by the ALUT organization.
“I work closely with a behavioral psychologist, who assists me during sessions,” she explains. “The aim of the workshops I hold with autistic participants is to help them develop social and cognitive skills, as well as encourage them to communicate with other group members.”
Although she is not directly involved in artistic activity during her service, she says art has always been an important part of her life and that the combination of art and National Service has been wonderful for her.
“I never had any formal art training, but painting has always been a great way for me to express myself, and it’s a great reprieve from day to day stresses,” she says.
“I absolutely love working with different materials and discovering what I can create with them.”
Ben-Yaakov says it took her a long time to understand her painting of a dancer.
“The dancer is a tool I use to express the part of me I don’t want to get swallowed up by fear,” she explains.
“I wanted the painting to express my feelings. The dancer is both fragile and strong at the same time.”
Jan Shefner, from Holo,n volunteers in the neurology department of Assaf Harofeh Medical Center.
“Painting has been a hobby of mine for many years,” says Shefner, who began his National Service after suffering a few years of depression.
“I joined the army, but after a few days I wasn’t able to handle the stress, and I became depressed,” he recounts. “I couldn’t function, so I was released from military service. I was depressed for three years, during which time I rarely left the house. Because it was very important to contribute to society like everyone else has, I decided that I had nothing to lose, and I volunteered to do National Service.”
Now that he’s finished a year of National Service, he says, he is looking into volunteering in the military as well.
“By volunteering for National Service, I feel like I’ve come full circle,” he says.
Shefner is doing his service through a program called Meshalvim, which helps place young people with special needs in National Service positions. Each participant is trained in one-on-one sessions as well as group workshops.
Two of the paintings that he created during his period of depression appear in the exhibition.
Jerusalemite Noam Rivkin Fenton is about to enter his second year of volunteering as a photographer for Shatil, The New Israel Fund’s Initiative for Social Change.
“Since I was released from serving in the IDF, it was clear to me that I wanted to contribute to my community in any way I could. I have always been active in the community, and my National Service position also involves making improvements in the community,” he says.
“Since I was a child, I have always loved photography,” he continues. “There is more to photography than just taking a picture of something pretty. Photography can be a means of delivering a message, changing reality and manipulating people’s attitudes.”
Chen Batito, from Kiryat Shmona, will be showing a photograph of one of her drawings in the exhibition.
“I’ve found that the best way for me to express myself is through drawing,” she says, explaining that the photographed drawing is of “an eye in which the pupil is in the shape of a heart. In the photograph, you can see my hands trying to open the eye. My photograph is an effort to show people that there is love in the world. Even when life is difficult, it’s important to make an effort to keep our eyes open so that we can see the love that exists around us.”
The exhibition is located in the Beit Hakerem Community Center and will run through July 31. For more information, contact Shlomit: (03) 612-9202 or
Translated by Hannah Hochner.