Restoring self-confidence to Israeli youth

The Nirim Project aims to empower children who hail from troubled backgrounds.

Nirim students trek through the Galilee as part of the many outdoor exercises included in their curriculum (photo credit: COURTESY/NIRIM PROJECT)
Nirim students trek through the Galilee as part of the many outdoor exercises included in their curriculum
What began as a passion project for an Israeli officer in mourning has succeeded in transforming the lives of hundreds of at-risk youth in Israel each year.
Nirim, a non-profit organization that aims to empower children who hail from troubled backgrounds, was founded in 2003 by Ziv Gershony, the commander and brother-in-arms of the late Sgt. Nir Krichman, a Navy Seal who was killed during a raid against terrorists in Nablus in 2002.
On November 1, the organization will host its first-ever fundraising gala dinner in New York City, featuring dignitaries such as Israel’s consul general in New York, Dani Dayan and former commander of the Navy and Shin Bet director Ami Ayalon. The event is an opportunity to raise funds for an organization taking action to rescue Israeli youth on the cusp of adulthood from precarious conditions.
“Thanks to the Nirim project, youths who enter the organization with an impaired sense of self-worth and self-esteem come out as confident young men and women for whom even the sky is not the limit,” said Yoram Sagy, Nirim chairman and CEO of the Central Bottling Company group in Israel.
“Thousands of youths who go through the Nirim project become an integral part of the Israeli society,” he added, saying he believes the organization should be recognized as an official youth movement in Israel.
The Nirim Youth Village is located in a small town in Israel’s Galilee region, while Nirim in the Neighborhoods is spread in cities across Israel. Both programs help 14-to-18-year-olds at a critical time in their youth. By providing community outreach, rehabilitative and educational programs, Nirim transforms lives, giving youth at high risk the tools they need to excel in school and enter the IDF. The children in the village are removed from their families by the Youth Protection Authority or they attend the village as an alternative to going to juvenile prison.
Nirim’s Wildnerness Therapy program, for example, tasks children with necessary survival skills while outdoors and teaches them that it is possible to meet physical and psychological goals that ordinarily would seem unachievable to them. Academics is also an integral part of the Nirim experience. The school in the youth village ensures that students make up for lost time by diving into their studies so they can fully matriculate and get a diploma.
Nirim gives youths an opportunity to receive a fresh start and move beyond the many failures and disappointments they experienced in their past. Nirim educators embrace the children with open arms and have the full belief that they have the same abilities as any other child and the expectation that they will succeed.
The ultimate goal is for the children to leave Nirim with a diploma and be accepted into the IDF with a long-term plan of enrolling in higher education.
The framework also encourages students to give back by returning to Nirim as adults. Its Graduates Unit for 18-to-25-year-olds gives young adults the opportunity to mentor children growing up with the same kinds of challenges they faced.
Nirim extends far beyond its small Galilee headquarters to other towns across Israel through its community outreach efforts. For example, Nirim partners with Ministry of Education to help get high school dropouts back in the classroom.
In nearly 15 years, Nirim has created a meaningful legacy for Krichman – so much so that students look to his image for inspiration.
“At times of crisis I would look at his photo and feel him talking to me, saying, ‘Keep going, make an extra effort,’” Ori, a Nirim graduate, says.
This article was written in cooperation with the Nirim organization. For more information, please visit