Two girls sat in front of the main office of Mezudot Elementary School in Kiryat Shemona awaiting the arrival of the children from the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariya. The excitement in their eyes and the nervousness of their feet said it all. On this sunny winter morning, the two schools were meeting to culminate the first part of a year-long program aimed at teaching civics in a unique fashion.
The Israel Venture Network and the New Israel Fund have partnered to bring to eleven schools in the Galilee Panhandle the Education for Active Citizenship Program as part of the BeYachad Initiative*. The program, involving children from grades two to twelve, emphasizes the practical side of Democracy, involvement and citizenship in Israel. The program empowers the children to take on social action activities to help their community. In addition, the program promotes teacher training and the promotion of civics in all grades. Among the current projects that the children themselves have initiated are visiting hospitals; visiting homes for Senior citizens; volunteer work; and the adoption of a problem neighbourhood in Kiryat Shemona, which includes picnics with the residents and cleaning the streets. One of the most moving projects is the adoption of a high school girl in need of a kidney transplant. The children have been fundraising, speaking with the press and will be holding a cultural fundraising and awareness evening for her this month.
Fiaez Zangariya, the coordinator of the program in from Tuba-Zangariya and a teacher at Yesodi Bet there said, “There has been a big change in the students since the Active Citizenship program started. They are more connected to the country – less apathetic towards learning about Democracy. Now they want to know everything. All the classes are very practical and the children search from answers and don’t just absorb what I give them.”
The meeting between the two schools began with the children from Tuba joining Mezudot classrooms where the students had the opportunity to ask each other questions, such as: “What kind of customs do you have? Where do you pray? Where does the name of your town come from? and what books do you read?
Gal, a fourth grade boy from Mezudot, said, “I was really excited about this meeting. They were funny. Even though I couldn’t understand one of the boys, he was very funny. Some day I’d like to visit there.”
Following this encounter, the children all went to experience an Active Recess, where sports and games were played on the playground. “One of the reasons I wanted to have this meeting of the two schools,” said Smadar Rozenfeld, the IVN coordinator of the program, “was to have the staff and children see what a successful Active Recess with limited means can be.”
“The teacher’s are doing a fabulous job with this program. It’s a great program, and because of the sponsors there is cooperation between all of the organizations,’ said Smadar.
“The kids used to do only activities for our school,” said Yael, a teacher at Mezudot, “the children worked to improve the school – now, because of the program, there has been a change in attitude and they want to do things for the community and the country.”
* For more information on BeYachad, a partnership of the Israel Venture Network, the Sacta-Rashi Foundation, the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, and the Jewish Agency for Israel- Partnership 2000-UIA Canada Coast to Coast Communities, visit www.ivn.typepad.com/beyachad .