World ORT implements response to crisis in the South of Israel


World ORT in Israel continues to be in close contact with all of its affiliated schools in the south, who are dealing with the escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Asher Ben-Hamo, manager of the World ORT You-niversity Centre of Excellence Programme in the southern city of Kiryat Gat, who was born and raised there, said “for some of the students we serve, the challenge of staying at home for long periods of time is particularly difficult due to the distressing situation in their homes.”?

These teenagers, most of whom come from low economic and social backgrounds rely on the local social clubs in the city, which are a safe haven for them and where they receive warm meals as well as psychological support. “The mentors at these clubs are in many ways fulfilling the roll of parent to these youngsters by assisting them with homework, by listening to their concerns and by providing a generally supportive environment”?, he said.

As these clubs do not operate from approved secure buildings, they are not currently allowed to host the teenagers that truly rely on them.

Ben-Hamo said his students are waiting impatiently to participate in the Applied Physics Course given by the instructors of the Weizmann Institute of Science that was due to take place on Monday at the You-niversity in Kiryat Gat. “Unfortunately, this course isn’t going to be given on Monday if the military situation remains as it is”?, he said. “We are looking for ideas to keep in touch with our students and to make sure they are not left behind.”?

One of the ideas that they are exploring is to examine how to deliver at least some of the materials through live-interactive classes, however most of the places in this city do not have the resources for such interaction.

World ORT in Israel is also exploring the possibility of working together with its affiliated schools in rocket-hit southern communities to move students to affiliated school communities in the north.

“We are doing all we can to ensure the safety and well-being of these young people and we are also looking at ways to ensure that they can try to continue with their normal routine,”? said World ORT Representative in Israel Avi Ganon.

Meanwhile, principals of World ORT-affiliated schools in the south have stressed the importance of maintaining contact with their students.

All schools in the region have been closed because of the hundreds of rocket attacks from Gaza.

Gila Balaish, Principal of Makef Aleph High School in Be’er Sheva, told us: “Our main concern is the well-being of each and every one of our students. It’s a big city and a big job so yesterday teams of teachers came into school and contacted students. We’re checking how they are coping, where they are, and if they need anything. We’re all hoping that this weekend will be quiet.”?

Teachers at Nofei Habor High School in Eshkol were doing the same, said Principal Zmira Ben Yosef who added that the school was preparing to establish distance learning operations.

World ORT is working closely with the Jewish Federations of North America in a joint effort to meet the immediate and long-term needs of the people in these communities.

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