Students and teachers from ORT programs across Israel have explained how they are continuing their education despite the impact of the war.
During World ORT’s latest online briefing looking at our response to the aftermath of October 7, supporters worldwide heard how the focus has shifted to the long-term psychological needs of beneficiaries and the return to classroom learning where possible.
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Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, thanked international supporters for their financial and emotional backing since the deadly terror attacks seven weeks ago.
The ORT network has raised around $2 million to help our students, teachers and beneficiaries in Israel. He also referred to the solidarity and goodwill shown by colleagues worldwide.
Dan visited Israel to meet colleagues including Amos Gofer, CEO of our Kfar Silver Youth Village, and Dr. Moshe Leiba, Chief Pedagogy and R&D Officer of World ORT Kadima Mada, our operating arm in the country.
Dan said: “It was an incredibly inspiring, uplifting and positive experience for me. I spent some time with Amos and Moshe in Kfar Silver. To see our students coming back to school was fantastic because there was so much joy in their faces. To have this opportunity finally, having been either stuck at home or relocated around the country or being on Zoom. That was wonderful.
“It was also tinged of course with lots of sadness. We paid a condolence visit to one of the staff members of Kfar Silver, who very sadly lost her son fighting for the IDF. That was a tremendously humbling experience, meeting her and seeing her resilience, sharing pictures and stories about her dear son was a moment that I won’t forget.”
He paid tribute to staff “for the incredible work they have been doing – picking up the pieces, showing love and support and care for all of our students. It’s really been very humbling to see how they have worked during this critical time and I can’t thank them enough”.
Dr. Leiba explained how World ORT Kadima Mada staff were now working to assist more than 4,000 students across 44 evacuation centers in the country, providing counselling, psychological assistance and a range of physical therapies including sport and krav maga sessions.
He said the organization had switched from the immediate ‘first aid’ response of October to longer term services. Our extra-curricular YOUniversity courses have relaunched in Dimona and Kiryat Yam and more than 340 students will now be benefiting from dozens of permanent courses.
“We are regaining a sense of normality,” Moshe said.
Joining the call from Kfar Silver, Amos Gofer explained how students were returning to the village in limited numbers. Around 180 boarding students are now back living on site – around 75 per cent of the total regular number of boarders. Some overseas students returned to their home countries in the initial aftermath of October 7 but it is hoped almost everyone will be back in the village after Chanukah.
He said classes are being staggered so that day students can be in the village at least twice a week for their lessons.
Amos said: “The spirit is strong. Some staff lost dear family members so it is obvious they are not in a good emotional condition, but almost everyone else from the staff is back working in the village.”
Dana Dahan, Manager of the Western Galilee Center, who was evacuated seven weeks ago from her kibbutz on the northern border with Lebanon, described how she and colleagues are now providing robotics, animation and other activities for children in evacuation centers in the area.
“The students are really happy to see us when we go to the centers,” she said. “It gives them something aside from their schooling, which are not yet their regular courses. So our activities are really pleasing them.”
The briefing was completed with the moving testimony of two students. Uriyah, is from Kibbutz Zikim just a couple of kilometers from the Gaza border where terrorists infiltrated, Uriyah was evacuated from his home and described how in addition to resuming some classes at Kfar Silver, he has also been attending extra classes online in the evenings to ensure the war does not disrupt his education.
Uriyah added: “I know I am still part of the programs the school and World ORT offer me, like the Taub Young Entrepreneur Program (YEP) and the young ambassadors, so I will continue to represent the school wherever I am.”
And Sviatoslav, a Kfar Silver boarder, told viewers he had returned to Kfar Silver this week. He is able to work in his room during the day but sleeps in a classroom, with other students, next to a safe room at night. Between 15 and 20 students sleep in each classroom.
As an educational organization, ORT strives to provide our students with the strength and support to learn and grow. Now we must also help them process the trauma they are experiencing and build resistance to the horrors of terrorism and war.
Please help us to provide urgent educational and psychological support for students, teachers and their families across Israel.