Feature Story: That’s the Spirit! Students Take on Pioneering Role in Ayalim Student Village

NEAR SDEROT, ISRAEL, March 29, 2011, 4 p.m. – Eran’s big heart is putting him through college. 

The 25-year-old is participating in the Ayalim Student V illage program, which was established in 2002 by young IDF veterans who wanted to reestablish the pioneering spirit that helped build the state ofIsraelin the early days by bringing idealistic young Jews into neglected Israeli areas to build both neighborhoods and a sense of hope.  Spread out in the northern and southern areas ofIsrael, Ayalim counts 11 student villages as part of its organization and has over 600 resident students volunteering.  The program, for ages 20 to 29, is a joint project between the Ayalim Association and the Jewish Agency for Israel. 

Eran is one of 50 Sapir College students at the Yachini student village, established in 2003 in order to strengthen the Yachini Moshav, which suffers from both Kassam rocket attacks and long-term neglect of development in the area.  The village is also home to six pre-army volunteers and 10 students with disabilities. 

Eran receives a scholarship for tuition and housing in exchange for his participation in the program and 400 hours of service in each academic year.  The service includes teaching kids, helping seniors and single mothers, tutoring Bedouin children in Hebrew and conducting holiday activities. 

“Some people want to work in a restaurant or as a security guard,” said Eran, who is studying communications.  “I want to do something meaningful in the community… My parents educated us to help other people.” 

One of the program’s coordinators said theAyalim Student Village is all about developing human capital and self-sustainability. 

“Everything we can do by ourselves we will do by ourselves,” she said.  “Young people are coming to live in places that are a bit tough, but they are doing it.” 

Eran said his pioneering efforts have brought him friendship as well as the fulfillment of making a difference: “It’s great living with other people that have the same ideals,” he said.  “I came here and didn’t know anybody and now my best friends are right beside me.” 

P.S. Eran is the nephew of Barbara Kabatznik, who has been overseeing various education programs forFederation for years.


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