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For one afternoon in February, the WIZO Pardes Katz bigudit (second-hand clothing store) temporarily doubled as a photo studio. Students from the prestigious Shenkar College of Engineering and Design came to photograph some of the local children, most of whom are from Ethiopian families, who come to the WIZO Pardes Katz center daily for after-school tutoring.
The initiative was part of a joint project between WIZO Pardess Katz and Shenkar. Last week, the 15-portrait photo exhibit officially opened at Shenkar, with the all the young subjects in attendance. Representing WIZO at the opening were WIZO Israel Chairperson Gila Oshrat, Director Sarit Arbel and Fundraising Director Poly Meschiany.
“It’s such a thrill for these kids to see themselves up on the walls here,” said Racheli Mangoli, Chairperson of WIZO Pardes Katz, who accompanied the children to the opening. “It gives them a great sense of pride, which is so important.”
“This project was not just an empowering experience for the children, it was also an eye opening experience for the student photographers,” Noa Spector, the exhibit’s curator added. “Although Shenkar is located near the Pardes Katz neighborhood, most of our students are unfamiliar with it. This initiative enabled them to experience and interact with a different community.”
WIZO Pardes Katz: Turning Around Lives of Thousands of Ethiopian Children
Situated in an area of economic hardship near Tel Aviv, WIZO Pardess Katz represents diversity and inclusion at its best. Established by Mangoli in 2006, she continues to run the learning center and ”bigudit” with the help of many dedicated volunteers. She describes the center as not only “the lifeblood of the community” but also contributing greatly to the wellbeing of the youth who would otherwise not have the space and opportunity to learn and play in warm, safe surroundings. It is no exaggeration to say that the center has completely turned around the lives of thousands of Ethiopian children.
Now, thirteen years later, there are over 100 children who receive one-on-one tutoring in math, English and Hebrew at the Bayit BaPardes (the Marie Nahum Centre, Sponsored by WIZO UK – Manchester) after-school tutoring facility. Thanks to a recent generous donation from WIZO Denmark, WIZO Pardes Katz will be able continue to run its vital programs for local Ethiiopian youth in the coming years.
Children play a computer game at the WIZO Pardes Katz after-school tutoring center
Lifetime Achievement Award
In 2015, at WIZO Israel’s conference, Mangoli was given a lifetime achievement award recognizing her dedication and achievements. She has been singled out as both a role-model for other WIZO volunteers, a reflection of WIZO’s values, and an example of what women’s empowerment can produce in Israeli society.
“Thanks to what I learned through WIZO, I’ve succeeded in attracting numerous volunteers who work with great dedication in order to help the Ethiopian community’s children. Thanks to WIZO, these kids see the beautiful side of Israeli society.”
The student photographers and their subjects at the Shenkar exhibition
Photo Credits: Shenkar College of Engineering and Design
Intenational Women’s Day Video
This special video was made in celebration of International Women’s Day 2019.
From the moment a girl is born, as she grows into the woman she is meant to be, WIZO is with her every step of the way – embracing, educating, empowering.
WIZO’s Glass Ceiling Index
In advance of International Women’s Day, WIZO published their ”Glass Ceiling Index” for 2019. The index reflects the extent of gender inequality in Israeli society in a variety of fields – women’s representation in politics and government companies, academia, sports, the integration of women into the IDF, etc. The data was collected from state authorities, research institutes, organizations and various reports.
Here are some notable finidings from this year’s Index:
Integration of Female Soldiers in the IDF
The Index reported that despite the opening of many roles to women and their integration into the combat system in recent years, there are still processes that impede the integration of women soldiers into a variety of positions and senior positions. Today, women in the IDF constitute 33% of all soldiers, they make up 8% of all combat soldiers, 36% of officers, 13% are of the rank of Colonel and above. In addition, for the first time a female squadron commander was appointed in the IDF, and two women were promoted to the rank of major general in the history of the IDF.
Violence Against Women
In 2018, 26 women were murdered in Israel, the highest number in the past decade. According to a new study published by the World Economic Forum, Israel was ranked 46th out of 149 countries in terms of gender equality, first in the Middle East and North Africa
Israel Ranks 66th in the World
Under the category ”Participation and Economic Opportunities,” Israel was ranked 66th, with political empowerment at 48th place. However, under the category ”Education Achievement”, Israel was ranked first along with 24 other countries, including Australia, France and Brazil.
”Despite significant achievements in recent decades, in Israel in 2018, gaps between the sexes are still prevalent, and they have costs, in the proportion of women in senior positions, in the integration and exclusion of female soldiers in the IDF, in harassment and violence,” said World WIZO Chairperson Prof. Rivka Lazovsky. ”The struggle for equality is not only a matter of women, it is a social struggle that affects each and every one of us, the image and the improvement of the face of the entire society in the country. ”
”Polite Women Don’t Do Politics?!” – WIZO’s Israel’s Annual International Women’s Day Conference
Hundreds gathered at Cinema City in Ramat Hasharon on Wednesday March 6th for WIZO Israel’s annual International Women’s Day Conference entitled:”Polite Women Don’t Do Politics.” The event focused on Israeli women and politics from the establishment of the State of Israel up until the present day, a month away from the next Knesset election.
First Prof. Rivka Lazovsky – Chairperson of World WIZO and Gila Oshrat – Chairperson of WIZO Israel, delivered their opening remarks. Then a special award was presented to outgoing MK Dov Khenin for being the MK who promoted the most laws for the benefit of women in the current Knesset.
MK Dov Khenin (left) with Eti Burkin, Chairperson of WIZO’s Advancement of Women Division
Dr. Sharon Geva then delivered a lecture on ”The History of Women in the Knesset – and what we can learn from it”. She was followed by Dr. Sigal Barak Brandes who spoke about ”Media-News-Politics in the Age of Social Meda and Fake News”.
The highlight of the morning session was a lively panel dicussion entitled ”Someone to Run with Me” which featured four female MKs: Revital Swid, Aliza Lavie, Meirav Ben-Ari and Michal Rozin. The panel was moderated by Israeli journalist Nechama Duek who asked the panelists about the challenges of being a female MK and their goals going forward.
Left to right: Moderator Nechama Duek, MK Meirav Ben-Ari, MK Michal Rozin, MK Revital Swid, MK Aliza Lavie
To further illustrate the difficulties women have in seeking acceptance in male dominated work places, in between the sessions the orgainizers of the conference, WIZO Israel’s Division for the Advancement of Women, showed the new Pixar animated short ”Purl”. ”Directed by Kristen Lester and produced by Gillian Libbert-Duncan, it features an earnest ball of yarn named Purl who gets a job in a fast-paced, high energy, all male company. She tries hard to fit in, but how far is she willing to go to get the acceptance she yearns for, and in the end, is it worth it?
The conference concluded with a special showing of the new feature film based on the early years of the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, ”On the Basis of Sex”.
The Shame List: WIZO Ranks the Year’s Most Sexist Commercials
As it has done each year for over a decade, WIZO created and publicized ”The Shame List” a ranking of the most sexist and chauvinist commercials in Israel of the year as chosen by a professional committee of experts on gender and media, academics, journalists and legal experts. The purpose of the initiative is to raise awareness to gender-bias and negative representation of women and their bodies in media, and to bring about a change in the way women are represented in commercial media.
The top spot went to a controversial Castro ad entitled ”Where is the dress from?” in which TV actress Rotem Sela is shown kidnapping, robbing, murdering and burying the body of a young woman who refused to tell her where she bought her dress. The ad garnered so many complaints that it was barred from airing on Israeli television by Israel’s TV authority.
Rotem Sela in the Castro TV ad
Read more about WIZO’s 2018 Shame List, including the ads rated most sexist of the decade, in this article in the Jerusalem Post:
WIZO Israel Chairperson Gila Oshrat said in a statement, ”We hope that the advertising market will adopt a higher level of self-regulation to prevent sexist advertising, which no longer has any place in our lives.”
One of the main ways WIZO promotes the status of women in Israeli society is by developing women’s leadership via programs that educate women and girls for political, social and community leadership roles. These programs also include special leadership courses for Druze and ultra-Orthodox women.
Ha’nivcheret (The First Team) is WIZO’s first of its kind leadership training program for ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) women. A joint venture between WIZO and ”Nivcharot – Haredi Women’s Movement”, the program began last year and opened its second course this week with 25 partiticipants coming together for four months of training (12 weekly meetings at WIZO’s Tel Aviv Headquarters), to prepare and encourage them to take on public leadership roles in civil society, local and national politics, and in their communities. The Ha’nivcheret program is made possible thanks to the generous support and encouragement of the U.S. Embassy in Israel.
Left to right: Hila Hassan Lefkowitz, Sheli Rapaport, Esty Shushan, Tamar Peer, Rivka Nuemann
”While Israeli women are slowly but surely making strides in leadership roles both nationally and locally, some sectors of Israel’s public, including ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) women, have yet to break through the glass ceiling,” said Rivka Neumann, Director of WIZO’s Division for the Advancement of Women. ”Women’s rights and roles in Israel’s large Jewish ultra-Orthodox sector are of tremendous importance to Israeli society. The Ha’Nivcheret program promotes involvement in decision-making and influence centers in the social, public and political spheres. The participants deal with the conflicts, barriers, and unique challenges and opportunities of ultra-Orthodox women.”
”The program’s participants acquire theoretical knowledge along with practical tools and experience, said Sheli Rapaport, WIZO’s Director of Development and Guidance for Gender Equality Programs. ”They also meet influential women in Israel’s local and national authorities who inspire them to become activists themselves at the social, public and political levels.”
Finding Her Voice: Hila’s Story
Hila Hassan Lefkowitz grew up in a Haredi family in the center of Israel. Her father, who represented the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Shas party, sat on the local regional council. Although she was exposed to politics at an early age through her father, Hila never imagined that one day she would run for public office.
“Growing up in a Haredi family, I never had the same opportunities as my brothers,” Lefkowitz said. “I felt it was unfair, but I never said anything about it. I just accepted it. I also grew up believing that being called a ‘feminist’ was a bad thing.”
Hila Hassan Lefkowitz
Everything changed for Lefkowitz just over a year ago when she first saw an online ad for WIZO’s “Ha’nivcheret” leadership training program for ultra-Orthodox women.
“It truly opened my eyes,” she said. “First of all, I realized I was not alone. Through the WIZO program, I met other Haredi women just like me who also had the desire to lead and make a difference in the public sphere. Secondly, I learned that being a ‘feminist’ is not a dirty word. I am a Haredi woman who is also a feminist and I am proud of that.”
From Campaigner to Candidate
In last year’s local elections, Israelis were witness to the sweeping support of the Haredi public for the candidacy of secular women in places such as Haifa, where for the first time a woman was elected mayor, and in Beit Shemesh where a national-religious woman defeated the incumbent Haredi mayor.
Inspired by her participation in the WIZO leadership program, Lefkowitz sought to get involved in the local elections in Kfar Yonah, the city where she lives. After meeting all the candidates, she decided to throw her support behind one of the female candidates for mayor, who immediately added her to the candidate list of her party. “I only intended to help with the campaign,” Lefkowitz said, “and suddenly I was on the party’s list as a candidate for the local council.”
Though her candidate did not win the election and Lefkowitz did not win a seat on the council, she intends to continue to pursue leadership roles in public office.
“I never would have dreamed of getting to where I am today if it were not for the guidance and inspiration WIZO’s leadership program for Haredi women gave me,” she said. “Yes, I faced some opposition to my getting involved in politics from some elements in the Haredi community, but overall I got a lot of support – especially from Haredi women who privately told me how proud they were of me. I encourage every Haredi woman who wants to lead a social change to take part in the WIZO leadership program.”
“This program allows ultra-Orthodox women to reach the places where all the decisions about the daily lives of all of us are made,” Etti Burkin, Chairperson of WIZO Israel’s Advancement of Women Division said. “We expose them to all the ways in which politics touches their lives, and how passive avoidance and active exclusion from decision-making affect the daily life of ultra-Orthodox women.”
”Change is very important,” says Esty Shushan, the Haredi woman who founded Ha’nivcheret. ”We are all very excited to begin this journey of empowerment, leadership and independence, a journey so different, and in many cases at serious odds, with the particiapants’ own worlds at home and in their communities. But we must do this together.”
For the fifth year, students, staff and alumni of the WIZO Nir Ha’Emek Youth Village (sponsored by WIZO Argentina and WIZO USA), took a stand against the apathy surrounding the issues of poverty and hunger in Israel with their Day Without Hunger campaign.
According to the National Insurance Institute’s annual Poverty Report, one out of every three Israeli children suffers from the effects of hunger and malnutrition. Under the slogan, ”One in three kids is hungry”, WIZO Nir Ha’Emek students launched their annual citywide project aimed at raising awareness to the startling numbers associated with poverty in Israel.
Over 20 local restaurants, pizzerias, kiosks and cafés in Afula answered the students’ call to join their campaign and sell food to children and youth at the minimal cost of 2 NIS (55 cents) for two hours on Monday, February 18th, The Day Without Hunger. Every eatery that took part in the project received a framed certificate of appreciation. In addition, the Nir Ha’Emek student council sold hot dogs for 2 NIS. Representatives from the Nir Ha’Emek student council set up an information booth in Afula’s main square and distributed flyers about the campaign.
The Day Without Hunger campaign also included classroom discussions and panels about poverty in Israel. Representatives of the Nir Ha’Emek student council entered classrooms and held discussions on the subject of social gaps, included a panel featuring MK Yael German and social activists from Afula and the region.
MK Yael German (fourth from end) on the Day Without Hunger panel
WIZO Nir Ha’Emek Director Esti Cohen (far left) with students and staff
”This is the fifth straight year that our entire school has joined together to take part in the Day Without Hunger project,” Paz Shosho and Mishel Reznikov, heads of the WIZO Nir Ha’Emek student council, said. “Our ultimate goal is to increase awareness among the public. We are already well trained at going out and enlisting local businesses and recruiting as many students as possible for the benefit of this very important cause. As teenagers, this is the least we can do to raise awareness of the difficult situation in which one in three children in Israel is a hungry child.”
”This initiative comes entirely from the students of our youth village and our staff has mobilized in order to implement it,” Esti Cohen, Director of the WIZO Nir Ha’Emek Youth Village, said. ”This effort has grown each year with more students and local eateries taking part. We are full of pride that our students can feel compassion, be socially involved and express their opinions on this important cause. This initiative truly reflects the spirit of WIZO.”
Photo Credits: WIZO Nir Ha’Emek
Information direkt från WIZO Israel följer nedan.
Good morning (8:30 a.m.) from WIZO in Israel, and an update:
More than 400 missiles have been fired. A 40-year-old man was killed, and two women were seriously wounded by a rocket that crashed directly into their apartment building in Ashkelon (see below). The number of injured has risen to 85. As I write, rockets continue to be fired, without interruption.
20 WIZO day care centers will be closed today, in the cities of Sderot, Beersheva, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi and Ashdod. The DCC in the Barlizai Hospital in Ashkelon will be working on an emergency basis to serve the children of hospital staff. In addition, WIZO’s early childhood centers in Sderot and Beersheva will be closed.
”After midnight in a residential neighborhood in Ashkelon…. a long line of people, mostly residents of the nearby apartment buildings, were standing on the street. There were young men and older women in bathrobes, having come out in the brisk night air to see what was happening. Many seem traumatized, some hugging, a few crying. The smell of gas hung in the air.
As the crews worked in the building sirens sounded overhead and the scores of residents who had come out now had to run to find shelter. Some crouched down next to cars and walls. Overhead Iron Dome missiles intercepted several rockets. Flashes and booms could be seen and heard. It was a duel in the skies above, a war over our heads, while on the ground the emergency crews waited to emerge and get back to work.
The working class neighborhood where the direct hit happened seemed like it was already suffering through this war too much. Some people had blank stares, others seemed nervous. The urban area felt claustrophobic, like there was nowhere to run from the rockets, even though there were many options to seek shelter.
The large number of emergency crews, and the presence of IDF search and rescue, showed that the emergency services were well prepared for this eventuality.”
One of the first signs of the disorder is regression, with sufferers reverting to behaviors suitable for a younger child. A toilet-trained youngster may have accidents, use a bottle or a diaper, or start talking like a younger child.
Other manifestations can include fears that did not exist before – even if they are not directly related to a triggering event, such as the war – separation anxiety that did not exist before, trouble sleeping and anger issues.
“What’s important, first and foremost, is to notice if there is a change in the child’s behavior,” she explained.
Other signs can include quieter children speaking out more, outgoing children becoming more introverted, and children playing in a way that shows a preoccupation with the conflict – such as constantly acting out red alerts and hiding from rockets.
Other signs can be the development of new fears, shying away from trying new things, increased difficulties in school, or trouble falling asleep at night.
Pat-Horenczyk emphasized that to understand the disorder, there needs to be sensitivity to the child’s developmental stage, as at each stage the symptoms will manifest differently.
“Schoolchildren have a lot of complaints about pain and somatic pain. They have trouble saying that they are afraid so they speak about it in hidden ways,” she said.
Teenagers are more likely to act out in dangerous ways, she said.
Although some children are more verbal than others at any stage in their development, there are basic gender differences.
“Generally, girls talk more about their anxieties, fears and feelings. Boys tend to show it more through behavioral problems, intensity and aggression – functional problems.”
Some children display their fears and anxieties in more indirect ways, such as dreaming about the war, or fears that did not exist before.
Some fear using the toilet or taking a shower because of the possibility that a red alert will sound and they will have to run to a bomb shelter.
Others link specific places with red alerts, such as the child who did not want to visit her grandmother because during one visit there was a red alert and the place itself now causes anxiety.
According to Pat-Horenczyk’s research, the younger the child, the more vulnerable he is to the influence of his parents.
“If the situation affects the parents and the mother is depressed or post-traumatic herself, this strongly affects the child,” she explained. A parent who is dealing with her own trauma and anxiety is less capable of calming down her child who is suffering.
This is why a lot of the treatment given is to the parents, to help them learn to deal with their own anxieties and fears, and then equip them with the tools to help their children.
The programs give the parents tools to use the fear felt by themselves and their children in a constructive way. Playing and having fun is an important part of the process of dealing with the anxiety caused by living near the Gaza Strip.
Despite the high levels of anxiety, fear and PTSD among children in Sderot and the Gaza periphery, most of the children and the parents deal with the situation with resilience, according to Pat-Horenczyk – “even the most difficult situations.”
Studies conducted in the area over the past 10 years prove the point.
“Resilience is the most common reaction. Even among those in the worst situations,” she said.
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May 28, 2018
”A thousand firefighters won’t be able to extinguish me!” The lyrics of that iconic Israeli song took on a special meaning last week as the students of the first-ever graduating class of the WIZO Nachlat Yehuda Youth Village Fire & Rescue Cadets Program received their completion certificates at a special ceremony at Rishon LeZion’s Regional Fire Station.
The 26 proud graduates, both boys and girls, completed a three year training program, the only one of its kind in Israel, which empowers these teenagers from at-risk families and gives then the opportunity to grow and develop into responsible young adults.
At the ceremony, the cadets demonstrated their firefighting skills by quickly and efficiently extinguishing a fire set ablaze in an old abandoned vehicle.
More Than Just Fighting Fires
The unique program, which was established in 2015 and currently has over 70 students from grades 10-12 participating in it, does much more than just train students to be the next generation of firefighters and rescue workers. “The program instills in these young people confidence and pride, which is so critical for these young people, especially considering that many of them come from very difficult family situations,” Doron Shabi, who heads the program, explained.
I dagens moderna Israel existerar fortfarande barn som upplever hunger.
1 barn av 10 barn i Israel går hungrig till sängs… WIZO:s matkampanj gör skillnad!
När barnet oroar sig över om det alls kan få mat blir tillvaron kaotisk och barnets utveckling påverkas. I WIZO ger vi våra barn allt som är viktigt, för att kunna växa och utvecklas normalt. Ett dagligt hälsosamt och näringsrikt mål mat, kanske det enda lagade målet som barnet får. Matkampanjen är viktig och räddar barn.
WIZO:s förskolor motverkar undernäring
På WIZO:s förskolor får barnen goda och näringsriktiga måltider varje dag. Men när barnen inte är hos oss, riskerar de att inte få tillräckligt med mat. Förra året fick ca 1 000 behövande familjer med små barn inskrivna i WIZO:s förskolor matkuponger att använda under helgerna och inför längre skollov.
WIZO hjälper dessa små barn och deras familjer genom att erbjuda:
Ungdomsbyar och skolor ger livskvalitet
228 grundskoleelever hos WIZO kommer från fattiga familjer. De är beroende av dagliga näringsriktiga måltider. I ungdomsbyarna är maten en integrerad del, men många elever bor utanför. De har synnerligen krävande liv och kämpar med inlärningssvårigheter, misshandel och hemlöshet. Att ta med sig lunch till skolan är helt enkelt inte tänkbart för dem.
Matkupongen garanterar ett mål mat. Ingen ska uppleva hunger idag, inte heller i Israel…
Dessa ungdomars möjligheter att få fokusera på undervisningen under skolåren formar deras framtid.
De ska inte behöva bekymra sig om sitt nästa mål mat.
WIZO bekämpar hunger hos ungdomar genom att erbjuda:
Exempel på vad din gåva räcker till för en ungdom:
Tack för din generösa gåva!
February 22, 2018
Hundreds of guests filled one of Afula’s finest event halls for the joint Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration of 23 local children, including three from the WIZO Nir Ha’Emek Youth Village Mispachton (foster home).
The Mishpachton, Hebrew for nuclear family, is a foster home simulating a family environment where students live as a cohesive family (usually up to 8 children) through their high school years. The “parents” of this family are actually trained social workers who live, often with their own children, in the house and provide the structure, supervision, and nurturing of “typical” parents.
Although the invitation limited the number of family members each celebrant could invite to five, all the children and staff of the WIZO Nir Ha’Emek Mishpachton came to join in the celebration and show their support.
“We were so happy to be able to include our three children from the mishpachton in the larger group celebration,” Esti Cohen, Director of the WIZO Nir Ha’Emek Youth Village said. “That way we could both reduce costs while at the same time giving these three children an experience they will never forget.”
“Our three Bar/Bat Mitzvah children from the Mishpachton all walked around the hall very proudly,” Cohen said. “Their parents were also very excited. Our students were so happy. They were getting their picture taken constantly. Each one of them felt as though the celebration was just for them.”
The girls, dressed in festive but modest white dresses that were purchased especially for them, and the boys, all wearing golden bowties, proudly entered the hall to the sounds of the shofar and the beating of drums.
All the celebrants received gifts. The boys each received a set of tefillin and the girls received a set of candlesticks with a book of blessings. All the children also received a beautiful “Hamsa” chain.
During the ceremony, Yitzhak Meron, the mayor of Afula, warmly congratulated the children, who all wanted to be photographed with him. They all considered it a great honor that the mayor took time out of his busy schedule to come celebrate with them.
The ceremony continued with blessings given to the students and blessings, which the students wrote and read. Then the students sang and danced.
“Each student that comes to us has a unique story,” Esti Cohen said. “These three students who celebrated their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs with the larger group are no exception.”
Here are their stories (all names have been changed):
Moshe: A Good Boy with a Complex Family Background
Moshe comes from Afula. His mother suffers from mental ilnees and does not speak at all, at least not in public. She loves her children very much, but finds it difficult to function as a mother. All the children in Moshe’s family are in various social service frameworks.
Moshe is a pleasant child. He learns well and tries very hard to help anyone who needs help. Moshe’s family is also large. They were the only ones who came to the event as an extended family, not just five as requested, but with more than thirty guests.
Gali: “I have never been to such a happy Bat Mitzvah!”
Gali has been a student at the Nir Ha’Emek Youth Village for five years. She came when she was only seven, the youngest child at the village at the time. Her parents live in Afula Illit and they have seven children. Both parents suffer from mental issues and are being assisted by the welfare department. Gali two older sisters also have mental difficulties .The daughters have lived together with their parents in a small, dilapidated house. Gali also has a brother, who is a very quiet child, and the parents decided to leave him at home.
Another one of Gali’s sister is in the seventh grade in the WIZO Nir Ha’Emek boarding school and will finish her studies in 12th grade this year. She is a wonderful girl and a bright student.
Gali, who has her own difficulties, is in need of a special education school, not just a grade for special education, but a school dedicated to special education. She receives personal psychological treatment from WIZO Nir Ha’Emek once a week, accompanied by art therapy.
On the evening of the Bat Mitzvah, Gali showed everyone in the hall what a beautiful chain she had received and how happy she was.“In my life I have never been to such a happy Bat Mitzvah!” she proudly beamed.
Avi: “I am now the best kid in the Mispachton.”
Avi came to WIZO Nir Ha’Emek from Nazareth Illit last year as a mid-year transfer from the Youth Village in Carmiel, which he attended for three years. The reason he was being transfered was that Avi had caused a lot of trouble with the other children in the Mishpachton and his behavior had become a serious problem.
At first Nir Ha’Emek was reluctant to accept him, but, as often happens, the social worker from Nazareth Illit who knows WIZO Nir Ha’Emek well and values their work with the children in the dormitories highly, brought Avi and his mother to the school anyway.
Immediately, Avi melted everyone’s heart. He convinced the staff that he could behave himself. As his mother stood by, he explained how complicated his family life was and how much he wanted to change.
Avi’s mother is a single mother and an alcoholic. His older brother is a drug addict who has been in and out of jail. Avi’s father never raised his children and died years ago, but not from natural causes.
Avi is now an outstanding student in WIZO Nir Ha’Emek’s 7th grade class. According to Esti Cohen, he is a pleasure to be around and has made a dramatic improvement for the better.
During the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration, Avi approached the Director of the Youth Village in Carmiel, and proudly told him that he is now the best kid in the Mishpachton at WIZO Nir Ha’Emek. The staff was so proud of him. Meanwhile, Avi’s mother went around the hall telling everyone she was Avi’s proud mother and getting photographed with him at every possible opportunity.
“We will continue to move forward in our educational endeavors,” Esti Cohen promised. “No matter how difficult, we will work hard for our students.”
“Each child is different, each child is special. Unfortunately, not every child has the means or opportunity to celebrate the important life event of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah,” World WIZO Chairperson Prof. Riva Lazovsky said. “We are so proud of the children of the WIZO Nir Ha’Emek Mishpachton who got to celebrate their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, their coming of age, in such a special and meaningful way that makes both them and their families feel proud.”
Located in the Jezreel Valley near Afula, the WIZO Nir Ha’Emek Youth Village has more than 1000 students from grades 7 through 12. WIZO Nir Ha’Emek is one of the largest schools in the north and is considered to be a leading school in agricultural studies. In the village there is a farm with a barn, a dairy, a chicken coop, therapeutic horse stables, an ecological garden and more. In addition, the school specializes in teaching science and technology. The WIZO Nir Ha’Emek Youth Village, which is under the supervision of the Director of Rural Education, is also supported by the WIZO federations of Argentina and the USA.
February 20, 2018
From Nahariya in the north to Eilat in the south, over 200 energetic teenage girls from 14 cities across Israel came together at WIZO’s headquarters last in Tel Aviv last week to celebrate the conclusion of another successful year of the Otzma Tzeira (”Young Strength”) project.
Established in 2003, the initiative, which is a flagship program of WIZO Israel’s Family Welfare Division, is a social educational program that helps at-risk teenage girls who have suffered emotional traumas, social difficulties and dysfunction in the family, to express themselves artistically, develop a personal identity and learn to make better choices through group experiences and utilizing empowerment values.
Otzma Tzeira’s social and emotional reinforcement program deals with issues of adolescence with a gender emphasis via artistic tools such as: theater, music, photography and cinema. During the celebratory evening, the girls all presented their final projects from the program.
”These girls, despite having suffered in one way or another, suffer invisibly,” Cathy Sagie, head of WIZO’s Family Welfare Division explained. ”They are identified by their school counselors but do not receive treatment from the public school or health systems – leaving them open to unhealthy development in the future.”
In the framework of the program, groups of 15 girls, who are chosen by their school advisors for participation, met 15 times at their local WIZO branches across Israel. They took part in individual and group activities in order to develop awareness of their own personal, psychological and physical development, as well as to improve their decision-making skills. In order to enrich their coping strategies and building of personal identity, the program uses different forms of art therapy including photography, ceramics, music, drama and video.
The girls in the Otzma Tzeira theater group rehearse.
”The program focuses on the challenges that every teenage girl faces.” Sagie said. ”Otzma Tzeira enables these young teenage girls to develop a safer personal-feminine identity, to find their inner voice through the use of artistic tools.”
Sagie emphasized that the Otzma Tzeira program reflects all of WIZO’s core values: gender equality, women’s empowerment, education and family welfare.
Otzma Tzeira: Regaining Their Voice
Liora (not her real name) is a 14 year-old ninth grade student from Kiryat Malachi. She was a good student in elementary school. However, when she made the transition to junior high, she wanted to be in the theater track, but she was afraid the other students would mock her when she had to get up on stage and perform an audition that included a monologue and a song. Due to her fear, she dropped her ambition to study in the theater track and soon lost interest in her studies. She began to distance herself from classmates and for the next two years of school, 7th and 8th grade, she did not go out with friends, she had no one to talk to at school, and she did not go to class parties. Liora did not want her parents to interfere and refused their attemps to help her. She was all alone. For ninth grade she moved to a different class but that did not help either.
Every thing changed when her school counselor told her about Otzma Tzeira. Her mother reported that once she started the program her daughter began to sing at home. For the last few years her daughter had simply stopped singing and and now, thanks to Otzma Tzeira, she found her singing voice again. ”For me,” Liora says, Otzma Tzeira is first and foremost a group of girls who listened to me and loved me. This project has enabled me to rediscover my talents and my dreams.”
”Thanks to Otzma Tzeira, girls find their lost voice again, discover their own unique female voice, and become aware of the endless choices they have,” Sagie said.
A girl from Otzma Tzeira Afula closed the program with an amazing rendition of the Beyonce song ”Runnin”.
The Power of Otzma Tzeira
The success of the program is evident. One girl wished to enter a local photography competition, but her parents discouraged her from competing for fear she would not be able to withstand the tension that accompanied the competition. However, thanks to Otzma Tzeira, she took a picture that reached the finals.
Thanks to Otzma Tzeira, another girl had the courage to run for youth office and won the position of Deputy Chairman of the Municipal Student Council.
Yet another girl who learned photography via Otzma Tzeira, had a photo she took in the program chosen by a major Israeli law firm as the picture for their Passover greeting card to their clients
A photograph of one of the girls from the Otzma Tzeira photography group from Nahariya taken by another girl in the group.
”Otzma Tzeira is one of our most important projects,” Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Chairperson of World WIZO said. ”It embodies one of our highest goals: to empower women, starting at a young age. It’s so exciting to see the heights to which WIZO can lift these girls through art, which allows each participant to personally express herself. I applaud all those involved in this wonderful program.”