04 April 2008 Druze town celebrates opening of smart classes The town of Horfesh, near Israels border with Lebanon, turned out in force this week to celebrate the inauguration of the first World ORT smart class at its high school. It is the first Druze school to benefit from Phase 5 of Kadima Mada (Science Journey), World ORTs programme to raise the standard of science and technology education in underprivileged Israeli communities. ORT America President Doreen Hermelin, whose organisation is a major funder of the project, was among the enthusiastic crowd welcoming the arrival of 21st century educational methods to the town, which suffered scores of injuries from Hezbollah missile strikes during the Second Lebanon War. Mrs Hermelin (pictured with school administrator Jedaan Amir and student) was impressed by both the technology, which has been installed in nearly half the schools 24 classrooms, and the warmth of the local peoples response. Its amazing what can be done with these interactive white boards, Mrs Hermelin said. This is how the kids are learning nowadays; this is how to teach them. They are so technologically oriented that this is the best way to reach them. I told them that we were thrilled to do this for a Druze village: they have done so much for Israel, so were happy that the American Jewish community can do something for them. And they were thrilled that we even knew about them. They didnt know that American Jewry knew or cared about them. World ORT is installing 10 smart classes in most Kadima Mada schools. The classes replace traditional chalk and talk methods with an interactive white board a multimedia screen that is connected to laptops on the students desks. World ORTs investment, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and municipalities, is a huge step forwards for the Jewish State where, until now, only 27 schools have had even one such classroom. These smart classes are the beginning of a revolution for the education system in Horfesh, said Mayor Rekad Kheredin. Until now, it has been difficult for students to reach the academic level needed to go to university. Now they will have a much better chance. And with more of our children graduating from university and becoming professionals we can expect an improvement in the local economic situation. Mayor Kheredin, who retired from the IDF with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, said Horfesh led the country in its commitment to Israels defence: nearly 93 per cent of the schools male graduates serve, 60 per cent of them in combat units. Horfesh produces more officers, per capita, than any other Israeli town, Mayor Kheredin said. To give our students an opportunity to go to the Technion, to be the best doctors and engineers and officers, is very important for the strength of Israeli society and its defence. A demonstration physics lesson allowed guests and media to see the smart class in action. One student, Rabea Bader, plans to enter the armys Technical Reserves programme next year, before studying computer sciences at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, was typical in his praise of the smart classes. They open doors for us, Rabea said. The technology is easy to use. We can do video conferences with people all over the world where World ORT has installed smart classes. We feel like we are connected to the world. It feels great to use this technology. Fellow student, Bshar Snaan, added: The technology makes the lessons much more attractive. It also helps us to understand the material better because the teacher is able to return to previous screens as many times as she needs to. World ORT Director General Robert Singer told the inauguration ceremony that he was personally very happy that Horfesh was receiving the support it deserved because a good friend of his during his time as Head of Education at the IDFs Officers Training College, was a Druze from the town. These smart classes are an excellent tool for educational advancement, Mr Singer added. I believe that, with time, these classrooms, together with the other educational tools that World ORT is giving students across Israel, will help to bring about positive social change to the benefit of the whole of Israeli society. Dr Orna Simchon, the Head of the Ministry of Educations Northern Region, said that this latest phase of Kadima Mada was the icing on the cake of the help that World ORT had already provided to needy schools. Nowhere deserves this more than Horfesh because of how its citizens contribute to the security of the State of Israel, Dr Simchon said. The Head of the World ORT Representative Office in Israel, Rony Kalinsky, paid tribute to the professionalism and motivation of the school and municipality in installing the new technology and moving to exploit its potential.