Helping students at Yemin Orde: the Israeli immigrant and at-risk youth village

The Yemin Orde Youth Village serves a vitally important role for immigrant and at-risk youths in Israel.

 The entrance to the Yemin Orde village. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The entrance to the Yemin Orde village.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In 1953, children orphaned by the Holocaust found solace in a village located atop Mount Carmel. They were taught leadership skills and resiliency. 70 years later, that village is still a haven for children from Northern Africa to India, to Brazil, and other places across the globe.

Yemin Orde Youth Village is achieving a milestone this year – 70 years of acting as a school and home for immigrant and at-risk youth. The staff has worked with over 5,000 students.

Their students are successful because of the emotional and financial support Yemin Orde provides. Some Yemin Orde students come from troubled backgrounds – orphanages and poverty – but Yemin Orde teaches them how to be optimistic and to go after their aspirations.

One student, Yael Landau Shnaider, immigrated from Birobidjan, Russia at the early age of 14. Yemin Orde was her first home in Israel. “At Yemin Orde people believed in me. That is when I started to believe in myself,” she said.

Shnaider received high scores on tests and created strong relationships with her teachers. School and creating friendships with her classmates, she said, were both important to her.

 USUMAIN BARAKA and friends from his high school in Yemin Orde. (credit: Usumain Baraka)
USUMAIN BARAKA and friends from his high school in Yemin Orde. (credit: Usumain Baraka)

Her favorite experience at Yemin Orde was being a member of the horseback riding club. Her practices, she said, allowed her to take breaks from her studies.

After Yemin Orde, Shnaider completed her bachelor’s degree in social work at Ruppin College. Yemin Orde provided the scholarships necessary for Schnaider to continue her studies.

She currently works as a social worker for at-risk youth in the Social Services Department of Holon. Her dream? To open a psychotherapy clinic for underprivileged youth.

“There is something really empowering about helping others in their healing process,” she said. Her time spent in the village still influences her life today. When not at the office, she puts her horseback-riding boots back on and works as a therapeutic riding instructor.

Like Schnaider, Yivalu Zagaya was also a young teenager when he immigrated to Israel. At the age of 11 years, he left his home in Ethiopia.

Zagaya developed an interest in the physical sciences at Yemin Orde and after graduation, he served as a munition specialist in the Israeli Air Force.

When he finished with the Air Force, Zagaya was not sure what his next steps would be. He returned to his teachers at Yemin Orde for guidance. They helped him decide to go back to school, and he is now studying for a degree in electrical engineering at Ariel University. They also gave him a scholarship.

“It is not just the financial support that is life-changing, but also the mentorship I have received. With their help, I can make the best decisions for myself,” he said.

Another student, Eden Igzau, immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia. Upon arrival in Israel, she and her family spent 18 months in an absorption center. Her family discovered Yemin Orde and knew that it would give Igzau the skills needed to find success. Not only did Igzau find community at Yemin Orde, but she went on to become a leader of the community.

In the 11th grade, Igzau was chosen to participate in the Diller Youth Fellows program – a full-year program where young Jewish students learn through seminars and workshops how to become leaders of their own community. She met Jewish students from around the world.

The lessons she learned at Diller Youth and Yemin Orde paid off. Igzau graduated with a degree in law and government from Reichman University and was recently hired as an intern at the Israel State Attorney Office.

Yemin Orde provides academic opportunities

Yemin Orde provided her with academic scholarships so she could complete her degree. “I am now seeing the extremely positive impact Yemin Orde has had on my life,” she said.

When she is not working, she schedules a day to visit the village. “It is important for me to see and talk to current students. I like hearing their stories and I want to be a mentor to them in a similar way my teachers were to me,” she said.

Throughout the past 70 years, Yemin Orde has not only supported students professionally but also continues to support them in their personal lives.

Schnaider is getting married soon with the hope of starting her own family. Her wedding is being planned and supported by faculty at Yemin Orde. All her friends from school will be there, she said, to celebrate with her.

The writer is a freelance journalist from Los Angeles.