Israel today is in some ways unrecognizable from the country that declared independence in 1948. The brave men and women who actualized the Zionist dream couldn’t have imagined the dynamic powerhouse it has become. But, one thing that’s remained constant is Israel’s role as a safe haven for global Jewry. Generations have come to build a better life in their independent, ancestral homeland.
Yet, the founders of Israel couldn’t have imagined the contemporary and unique challenges that it faces today. Chief among them is that over 400,000 children and teens are at-risk of a life of poverty, crime, and violence. And while this is obviously tragic for these young lives, it also has implications for all of Israel — increased crime, economic disparities, and a less united society. But, in the spirit of Israeli innovation, there is a solution.
“The key to many of the problems in Israeli civil society is education,” says Dr. Chaim Peri, Director Emeritus of Yemin Orde Youth Village and Founder of Village Way Educational Initiatives (VWEI). “Educators led society from the destruction of the Second Temple until modern times. Judaism, Zionism — our whole existence was an educational project. It’s time to once again utilize educators as nation builders, and the Village Way is our blueprint.”
The Village Way is an innovative methodology that turns Israel’s most vulnerable youth into confident, adjusted members of society. The methodology was first developed at Yemin Orde Youth Village near Haifa. For decades, the Village has served as a safe haven for Jewish youth — first providing refuge for Holocaust orphans — and has hosted waves of immigrants from places as disparate as Ethiopia, Iran, and France. And the recent arrival of Jewish Ukrainian youth — like Sofiy, who was rescued from an unlit basement in Kharkiv — serves as a reminder of just how critical Yemin Orde is.
In 2006, the ministry of education, recognizing this incredible impact, asked Yemin Orde to expand its methodology throughout Israel. The Village Way now touches every facet of Israeli society — including secular and Orthodox, Arab and Jew — through Village Way Educational Initiatives.
“Adolescence is a painfully narrow window of opportunity to transform lives,” says Dr. Peri. “And what we see time and again — backed by research — is that the Village Way totally transforms these teens.” This was crystal clear when Arab and Jewish youth worked together to send care packages to Ukraine. If not for the Village Way, these young individuals could have been lured into dark places. Instead, they are bringing light to the world.
But, it’s not just students who are impacted by the Village Way; it also transforms educators. Whether that’s through the incubator that develops new techniques, the Hebrew University course that primes education majors to utilize the methodology, or its partner schools in communities across Israel, the Village Way transforms the troubled into scholars, scholars into educators, and educators into nation builders.
Just like Israel, the Village Way educational methodology is an ever-evolving entity that shifts and grows. ImpactIsrael, the U.S.-based partner of Yemin Orde and VWEI, provides critical resources to further develop and implement this life-changing methodology in Israel. To learn more or stay up-to-date with the latest news from Yemin Orde Youth Village and VWEI, please visit ImpactIsrael website.
You may also make a contribution by clicking here.
This article was written in cooperation with ImpactIsrael