What’s the first thought that pops in your head when you think about Israel? If you’re like most people, your mind has already conjured images of a bustling entrepreneurial hub with cutting-edge tech startups.
It isn’t surprising considering that Israel has carved a reputation as a prominent epicenter of commercial activity and tech innovation.
However, the land of rapid technological advancements is also home to jarring social disparities. The geographical distance between Israel’s socioeconomic center and periphery is roughly a few hundred kilometers, but the standard of living in these two regions is light-years apart.
While people in the center enjoy world-class amenities and luxuries, the life of those in Israel’s periphery is a constant struggle. Millions of Israelis continue to dwindle on the fringes, fighting for basic necessities, like shelter and education.
Threatening the Social Fabric
Younger generations dictate the future of every country. When governments fail to address the needs of the youth, they become disillusioned and lose faith in the system. And that’s precisely where Israel is headed.
Countless children in the Israeli periphery are growing up, harboring feelings of abandonment and resentment. They’re dealing with first-hand experiences of economic disparities and a lack of opportunities. They don’t even have the luxury to aspire for a better future that isn’t mired in poverty.
A recent survey reveals that nearly a third of children in the periphery don’t have money for school supplies, shoes, or good clothing. Nor do they have access to smartphones or an internet connection. As these children reach adulthood, they’ll turn into the biggest threats to the country’s social fabric.
Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Refael, aka Rafi Edry – founders of the Ahinoam Association for the Promotion of Equal Opportunities – believe that geopolitical conflicts and wars won’t be as catastrophic to Israel as their own disgruntled youth.
Having experienced social inequities and deprivation first-hand, Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Refael Edry understand the plight of these children. That’s why they’ve launched various welfare programs to support and nurture children and youngsters in Israel’s periphery.
Mentoring At-Risk Youth
Volunteers of the Ahinoam Association work round-the-clock to identify and locate at-risk youth in the peripheral areas of Israel. They work with these individuals to outline a personalized development plan and help them integrate into the job market. They support and nurture youngsters for years, from high school to graduation and beyond.
Providing Financial Aid
Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Refael Edry have realized that many children in underprivileged households have to leave school and start working to support their families. Their circumstances force them to curb simple aspirations, such as pursuing higher education and working in an established company.
The Ahinoam Association provides scholarships to students in low-income families. The idea is to help these children continue schooling and higher education against all odds.
Sustained Peripheral Development
Besides nurturing the youth, Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Refael Edry are committed to developing the infrastructure in Israel’s periphery. They’ve launched various projects to improve the infrastructure of welfare institutions in the region. Also, they’ve established an elementary school library in their hometown, Safed.
Supporting the Ethiopian Community
The Ahinoam Association helps young Ethiopian immigrants find their footing in Israeli society. The organization has launched a program to train the Ethiopian youth and prepare them for admission into the IDF.
Fundraising for Students
To say that government authorities are apathetic towards the hardships of children in Israel’s periphery would be an understatement. The most glaring example of that is how the government advised schools to adopt e-learning models without sparing any thought for almost 400,000 students who didn’t have personal computers.
It happened at the start of the pandemic in 2020. Eyal Edry and his brothers couldn’t stand the idea of letting thousands of children abandon their education due to a lack of resources.
So, they started a fundraising initiative, inviting ordinary people and businesses to donate funds and used computers. While it’s only a small step towards bridging the digital divide between Israel’s periphery and center, the campaign helped more than 30,000 children attend online classes.
In the absence of support from the Ahinoam Association, these children would’ve grown up believing that their government and fellow citizens abandoned them during one of the worst crises the world has ever seen.
Heading to a Brighter Future
Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Refael Edry’s efforts have demonstrated the power of goodwill and perseverance to the world. Their support will go a long way to help the underprivileged youth fuel their dreams and build a better life for themselves. That, in turn, will prevent the disintegration of Israel’s social fabric.