Zoharim Youth Village

Ramot Yehuda operates the only youth village in Israel specifically dedicated to at-risk ultra-orthodox teenagers. We provide rich educational programming, vocational training, and therapy for teens who would otherwise have nowhere to turn, giving youth the tools to integrate into Israeli society.

Location: Kiryat Gat
Year founded: 2012

Description

In the tight-knit ultra-orthodox (Haredi) communities in Israel, the only path to respect and success is through religious study. Those who do not succeed in religious studies at seminary (yeshiva) quickly become outcasts, and frequently become estranged from their families. Overwhelmed by loneliness and a feeling of isolation, young people on the fringes of Haredi society engage in substance abuse and as a result end up in socially and financially difficult situations.

Ramot Yehuda operates the only youth village in Israel to give a second chance to at-risk Haredi teenagers. Based at Kfar Zoharim in the foothills of Jerusalem, we have provided a safe and homely environment for more than 120 youths since we opened our doors. Our residents receive a holistic experience that integrates high school education with preparation for integration into wider Israeli society.

Further to the educational and pastoral support, we also aim to provide vocational training that will give our youths the tools to succeed career-wise.  For example, we teach olive farming, wine-making, building, carpentry, as well as other professions. Moreover, since military service is frequently serves as a springboard for future careers in Israel, our staff is also heavily involved in preparing the youth for a meaningful service in the Israeli Defense Forces.

It is important to highlight that many of the students in our village arrive with learning difficulties and poor educational backgrounds. For instance, 25% of our students have ADHD, a 21% are unable to do simple arithmetic, and a further 15% struggle to read and write. Moreover, almost half of our students are not in contact with their families. In light of these statistics, and with the understanding that our youths have already experienced crisis in their lives, we see ourselves responsible for creating a community environment based on support and empowerment. To ensure continued stability personally and professionally, we employ pedagogical, emotional, and mental health specialists to advise and treat our youths.

The last few years have shown us great success. Indeed, our first classes have now finished high school with the vast majority moving onto military and national service. We plan on continuing to grow, with a plan to accept 300 new youths within the next four years. We are also broadening our extra-curricular activities, guidance, military preparation, trips, and volunteering opportunities to ensure a continued rich experience.


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