Journal Entry: It takes a Village – and an Animal Farm – To Help “At-Risk” Teens at Ben Yakir

KFARHAROEH, ISRAEL, March 30, 2011, 9 a.m.– We visited the Ben YakirYouthVillage, located at Kfar Haroeh.  The village for boys ages 12 to 18 was founded by the Youth Aliyah Department of the Jewish Agency forIsrael in 1974.  It was the second time I visited Ben Yakir.  Our senior management team toured the facility in 2007. 

The village provides a home for 122 at-risk middle school and high school students, many of them from the Ethiopian community.  As one facilitator said, “They’re not getting from home and families what they need to reach their potential.  There are social gaps, emotional gaps and educational gaps.”  

At Ben Yakir, one of four youth villages inIsrael, participants receive a formal education in a setting that includes a comprehensive therapeutic facility and a boarding school framework that provides for all their needs.

The students enjoy a wide range of extra-curricular enrichment activities, including a large animal farm that they manage.  We’re talking dozens of horses, goats, donkeys, camels, peacocks, dogs and other creatures.  The daily routine of participants focuses on empowerment, Jewish tradition, values and individual excellence.  An impressively high percentage of students complete high school, complete their army service and go on to higher education opportunities. 

In addition to meeting with participants, we visited the animal farm and watched how these youngsters take care of the animals.  We were also treated to a concert by the Ben Yakir choral group, which had our group dancing to some pretty catchy Israeli tunes and shedding tears to a powerful rendition of the Israeli anthem, Hatikvah.

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