For the fourth year running, the Netu'im program, conceived by Memizrach Shemesh – Kol Israel Haverim, ran local leadership groups for young adults throughout Israel. This year, groups have been operating in Afula (2nd cohort, year 2), Migdal Ha'emek (2nd cohort, year 2), Ofakim (2nd cohort, year 1) and Ashdod (1st cohort, year 1). Over 60 students are currently participating in the Netu'im leadership program in their home towns, which trains participants for involvement in local change where needed and highlights the towns' strengths.
In a relatively short period of time, the program has deeply affected its participants and partners, mainly because of the deep connection that takes place between local residents, their personal identity and the students' social action. In Kivunim, for example, Ashdod's Young Adults Center, a new group opened this year and its participants already testified to its contribution in an article published last month. Mrs. Nona Altman, the center's director reports: "The spirit of the program fits our agenda exactly: providing a place for social action undertaken by the city's young people, where they can study, research and implement community projects. We are very pleased with the program and its meaningful content as well as with the partnership. It corresponds exactly to the approach we have been leading for many years. Without a doubt, young leadership is what will definitively and positively impact the city." Moshe Karuchi, Dean of the Sammy Shimon Academic College for Engineering, addsthat the program "contributes to the understanding and containment of the different identities in Israeli society, the study of the discourse on the traditional [masorati] identity and to the spirit of volunteerism… while building a values-based social leadership among the city of Ashdod's students."
Born in Ashdod, Orly Saroussi, the group's facilitator, provides an excellent explanation for the successful partnership: "Rather than "importing" people, ideas and resources from outside, it is important to cultivate and conserve local resources in every town. For years I watched how Netu'im succeeded in other places and dreamt that it would come to Ashdod as well. We have recruited the best people, and I'm certain that our contribution will be unique and different than that of any other project – because of the local residents. This guarantees meaningful action that will generate a local tradition and community involvement."
This year, a second Netu'im cohort opened in Ofakim, expanding its partnership with the Young Adults Center and the municipality. In early March, the group's 18 members participated in a two-day seminar on political activism, led by Mr. Shimon Malcah, a compassionate and highly experienced political advisor and social activist. The seminar's objective was to provide the tools and knowledge required for effective and influential community work. The two days, in a highly successful first attempt, were devoted to studying and practicing strategies for leadership and social change within the political arena: "We learned things that may seem self-evident but to which I hadn't ever previously paid attention. Now I have the tools I need for the next time I want to take action," says Yoav Yahav, a group member. "I received a huge amount of material, and accurate, relevant information on politics and on social change in general. It's fun to learn from a person who is involved and active on the issues with which we're concerned," added Merav Hemo, another seminar participant, at the seminar summing-up.
Netu'im activities reached a summit during the program's main annual event, a conference saluting local leadership held for the second year running, in Afula this time, and jointly led by Afula and Migdal Ha'Emek Netu'im members. As it did last year, this year's conference hosted local men and women leaders chosen by the group for having been their models and inspiration. The conference opened with a festive reception for the group members, joint study with local leaders, and a central ceremony which the participation of the Yitzhak Meron, Mayor of Afula, Eli Barada, Mayor of Migdal Ha'Emek, Major General Uzi Dayan (Reserves), Chairman of Mifal HaPayis, the head management of Kol Israel Haverim, partners, friends, and participants' family members. The evening's traditional piyut and song performance featured the Golan Azulay's Happy Childhood program and standup comedian Hadar Levi.
The Chairman of the Mifal HaPayis told the young people that by their very participation in the program they are leading change on personal and community levels and in their municipalities. Sam Pinto, Chairman of Kol Israel Haverim, addressed the young people, saying that while it is important to be a man of the world and be familiar with our surroundings, it is no less important to be rooted in our place of origin and lead it to growth and prosperity. Eli Bareket, Kol Israel VP and Head of the Division for Education called upon the students to transform their personal successes into social change.
We wish all the students much success in their endeavors and thank all our devoted partners.
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