March 13, 2012 / 19 Adar 5772
Nitzana, the Jewish Agency’s educational community in southern Israel, opened its doors to Eritrean refugee children in May of 2011. Today, the children live and learn at the special boarding school established by David Palmach, Director of Nitzana.
Director of Dormitory, Amit Berkowitz says that forty children, ages 14 to 17, will be staying at a boarding school until age 18. “They came alone to Israel after fleeing the horrific regime in Eritrea, where children are recruited into slavery in the Eritrean army. As they traveled through Sinai, they were captured and tortured by Bedouins who tried to hold them for ransom. When they arrived in Israel, the children were at first imprisoned. Now that they are in Nitzana, we are giving them the tools that will help them build responsible lives either in Israel or wherever else that they choose, but mostly we try to give them confidence,” she says.
Karen Kellerman, Nitzana's English language coordinator, says that the project is very exciting. “These are good seeds which will grow wonderful fruit and I am very moved by this project. We opened our eyes to those who came to us and we feel that this is a good example both to us and the world about how to tackle the painful problem of refugee children. This is real tikkun olam (repairing the world)”.
One of the children’s counselors is a Nitzana graduate, who came to Israel as a child refugee from Darfur, southern Sudan, and is now doing Israeli national service as a counselor at Nitzana.
The Nitzana Educational Community in the Negev was founded with the assistance of the Jewish Agency in 1986, by Israel Prize winner Lova Eliav. Ever since its creation, Nitzana has been committed to education and emphasizes values such as Zionism, pluralism, self empowerment , a love for Israel and specifically the Negev Desert, while stressing the importance of sustainability, ecology and conservation. The main idea behind the community from the beginning has been to teach Israeli Youth and young Jews from the Diaspora about the Negev Desert as a "Living Desert", that contains great potential and endless settlement and development possibilities.
The Nitzana school operates five days a week. The boarding school has teachers, counselors, a house mother, coordinator, and a social worker. Children and youth live in ten rooms within the village, they eat in the Nitzana dining room. In the afternoon they participate in social activities and have free time.
For more information about Nitzana, visit: http://www.nitzana.org.il/