“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ " - Fred Rogers
In response to the rocket attacks and ongoing threats in southern and central Israel that began the morning of November 12, schools in the affected areas were closed, and students at Kfar Silver, a residential school near Gaza, were evacuated until safety and security can be restored. As during past conflicts, the Hadassah/Meir Shfeyah Youth Village offered to host 30 of their students at our village and to provide housing, meals, classrooms, and activities. Within hours the children began arriving at Shfeyah. We are proud to be able to provide help during this difficult and uncertain time. Because this is what we do.
Residents of Southern Israel have been living in a war zone for years with constant attacks and threats of attacks on the places where they live and work. They live their lives with great courage despite the dangers, the fears, and the constant stress. Only when danger threatens central Israel do most of us pay attention. Those of us who are fortunate to live in relative safety need to be appreciative of our blessings and willing to share and help others. I like to think that this is an Israeli value that most of us believe in and practice.
Many of students who live and study at the Hadassah/Meir Shfeyah Youth Village are without families to take care of them. They have not always received the attention and support they need and deserve. Many have experienced abuse or neglect and have had to cope with challenges that most of us cannot imagine. But they are lucky because they have been sent to a Hadassah Youth Aliyah village where they receive love, safety, education, tools, and opportunities to succeed. They are surrounded by adults who understand them and care about them and by friends who support them. But among the most important values we teach are those of giving and leadership. We want them to be the“helpers” Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) describes. We want them to feel confident and proud of who they are. We want them to appreciate their inherent value as good, caring human beings, capable of achieving what they want and capable of helping others.
During this difficult time, we are happy to help. Before the arrival of the youngsters from Kfar Silver, our students helped prepare rooms and signs welcoming them to our village. Some of them gave up their rooms and slept in their friends’ rooms to make space for others. Our staff and student leaders planned and ran activities for our guests. During their stay, the 30 10th and 11th graders from Kfar Silver, many of them new immigrants from Russia and the Ukraine, accompanied by staff members from their village shared meals in our dining room, participated in village social activities, went on a day trip to Haifa, a day trip to Zichron Yaakov, and spent an afternoon bowling. Now that a ceasefire has been announced, we are hoping for a peaceful and more permanent resolution to these conflicts. The students from Kfar Silver are welcome to stay for as long as is necessary. We are happy and fortunate to be able to help.
We are especially proud of our Shfeyah students, who are learning the most important lessons of all. I am reminded of a story about one of our students who, when he returned from our second mission to Ethiopia where our students visited former Jewish communities and brought school supplies to an elementary school, told his housemother, “ Now I understand what it’s like to be in Hadassah. It feels good to know that I have something of value to give to others.” Because this is what we do—with your help, friendship, and support.