Sderot teens hold a rocket launched by Hamas into the city. (Courtesy Meir Panim)
Israel’s southern city of Sderot, located just one mile from the contentious Gaza strip, has been battered by nearly 10,000 Qassam rockets since the beginning of the Second Intifada in October 2000. These rockets have caused deaths, injuries, significant damage to homes and property, profound disruption to daily life and severe psychological distress. Yet today, Sderot is not only rebuilding its infrastructure, but also developing the future leadership of Israel.
“Meir Panim works with Sderot’s at-risk youth,” explained Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim, to Breaking Israel News. “We were amazed to discover that these traumatized youth actually have tremendous leadership abilities. Therefore, we are doing all that we can to nourish the future leaders of Israel.”
A child is tutored at the Sderot youth center. (Courtesy Meir Panim)
Last summer, Meir Panim inaugurated its first official after-school youth club in Sderot. The event was attended by city dignitaries, community and municipality workers, IDF soldiers who serve as volunteers at the club, parents and their children.
“With proper intervention, we will not only transform young adult lives but also build a cadre of young leaders that will choose to continue living in Sderot and contribute to its future stability and hence, by doing so, create a more secure and stronger Israel,” Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi said at the event.
The Sderot Youth Club is inaugurated. (Courtesy Meir Panim)
Just one year later, the success of this club is clear to all. As a result, Mayor Davidi and the municipality, along with Meir Panim, will be partnering to open two more youth clubs in the area.
“The youth club provides high-level educational programs, latest technological and computer education, therapies, cultural and recreational activities to Sderot’s youth, and even adults in need,” continued Sternbuch. “Meir Panim is proud to partner with the municipality and expand this excellent and crucial program so that many more of the city’s residents can benefit.”
The municipality has already appropriated a large public bomb shelter to house the next youth club. “Converting a bomb shelter into a youth club is rather symbolic,” noted Sternbuch to Breaking Israel News. “It demonstrates how, despite the difficulty of living under the daily threat of attack, the spirit of Sderot’s residents is alive and well. Even a place like a bomb shelter, which is associated with fear and terror, can be turned into a lively place which provides hope and solace.”
Meir Panim is actively raising funds to transform this bomb shelter into a fully furnished and outfitted home-away-from-home with kitchen, lounge, computer, media, and play areas. Showers are being installed as, when needed, the shelter can accommodate up to 200 people seeking a safe place from rocket fire.
A Qassam rocket is fired on Sderot from militants in Gaza. (Courtesy Meir Panim
Fifty percent of Sderot’s residents are immigrants from Ethiopia and the FSU with low socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. Approximately 75 percent of the city’s population suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and 80 percent of its citizens earn a minimum wage. Yet thanks to programs like Meir Panim’s youth clubs, the city is experiencing a revival and showing signs of true leadership.
Social workers note that many of Sderot’s disadvantaged youth do not consider getting a higher education or joining the Israeli army, both of which are crucial to a productive future. In contrast, those youth who participate in Meir Panim’s youth club, which instills in them the importance of a strong education and hard work and provides skills to acclimate to Israeli life, consistently express their desire to be Israel’s future leaders and success stories.
“We asked a fourteen-year-old boy what he wanted to be when he grew up,” smiled Sternbuch. “He said ‘Israel’s Prime Minister’. When we asked what he would want to be if he wasn’t Prime Minister, he answered with determination, ‘That is what I want to be, Prime Minister of Israel’. Now, that’s an accomplishment.”
Sderot kids and IDF soldiers celebrate opening of Sderot Youth Club. (Courtesy Meir Panim)
The Sderot municipality, with the help of Meir Panim’s initiatives, are making a real change to the “bomb shelter capital of the world”. Although the combination of living in a potentially dangerous area and the cultural challenges common for immigrant children creates a particularly risky situation for teenagers, the hope to help these youth break free of the cycle of poverty, distress, and isolation is high. Meir Panim’s after-school youth program not only provides the next generation a chance for a better future but just also might give Israel its future Prime Minister.
Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad displays the Barbie doll modeled after her. (Twitter)
A new hijab-sporting doll modeled on the Muslim Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad will join the Barbie line in 2018, Mattel announced last week.
Part of the company’s “Shero” collection highlighting real-life women inspiring new generations, the new doll, outfitted in fencing garb, is modestly covered up from head to toe. She is the first Barbie ever to flaunt the hijab, a traditional headscarf worn by many Muslim women.
British-Israeli Jonathan Spyer knows he’s been gambling with his life, but says getting the story is worth it
Jonathan Spyer, wearing a black leather jacket, meets with Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria in 2013. (Courtesy)
Jonathan Spyer had been behind enemy lines many times before, carefully guarding his dangerous secret. But on a fine Spring day in Aleppo this year, in an area controlled by the Syrian regime, he thought his cover might have finally been blown — not by government intelligence agents or Islamist rebels, but by a fellow Brit just trying to have a nice chat over coffee.
How an Israeli family conquered the Vienna food scene
If London has Ottolenghi; Paris, Miznon; and Jerusalem, Machneyuda, then Vienna has NENI. Founded in March 2009 by the indefatigable Haya Molcho and her sons, NENI has become the go-to restaurant in Vienna for eclectic Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisine. With NENI, the Molchos also became pioneers, introducing the kaleidoscopic Israeli palette to an Austrian audience while transforming Vienna’s historic but slightly staid Naschmarkt from a traditional market into a gastronomic hotspot.
In a city marked by its Turkish-owned kebab stands, NENI has broadened the definition of Levantine food in Vienna beyond that which can be handheld, stuffed inside a pita. Haya has taken the classics and turned up the volume. For example, NENI is famous for its “hamshuka,” hummus that contains a fragrant mound of warmly spiced ground beef and lamb, served with pita
Twenty French and European parliamentarians and French mayors who planned to arrive in Israel to show their support for imprisoned Arab terrorists, and specifically meet with convicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti, canceled their flight from France at the airport at the last minute, according to a report in NRG.
The flight was scheduled to leave at 8:00 pm on Saturday.
The anti-Israeli parliamentarians were informed that nine of their more prominent BDS-supporting members would be denied entry into Israel, so they made the group decision that none would go.
How Obama’s appeasement policies have prompted a fundamental realignment in Mideast alliances.
The Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, revealed this week that Israel was prepared to share intelligence with Saudi Arabia in an effort to combat Iran’s expansionist agenda and malign regional influence. The unprecedented statement was made during the course of an interview with the London-based, Saudi online publication, Elaph.
Speaking at the Zionist Organization of
America’s annual dinner, Steven Bannon, US President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist and current CEO of the Breitbart news website, said the US political establishment has “lowered the bar on what [pro-Israel] is supposed to be.”
Bannon invited the pro-Israel activists to join what he referred to as the “insurgency movement against the Republican establishment and against the permanent political class in Washington, DC.”
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri recently shocked the international community by announcing his resignation. Hariri, a Sunni political leader, made this announcement from Saudi Arabia, where some speculate that he is being held under house arrest, while others believe he is there on his own accord because he fears for his very life. These fears are not unfounded. In 2005, his father, Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, was assassinated by a car bomb that is believed to have been planted by Hezbollah.
It’s our problem, actually, and we’ve made it theirs.
Check out our split-brain reaction to the Palestinian Authority. By rights, the U.S. should have nothing to do with people who venerate and pay for terror against civilians; teach their children that their country is “From the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) Sea; rob donors and international agencies blind; jail people for their Facebook posts; hold office eight years after the end of a single elected term; refuse to seat an elected parliament; and refuse to acknowledge the permanence and legitimacy of America’s ally, Israel.
Tell me, I am asked over and over again, both by friends and by people who aren’t my friends, have you people in the media gone mad? Do you really think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sold the state’s interest to help his friends get rich?
You’re creating the impression that “Netanyahu is a traitor,” without actually saying the word. It’s worse than what they did to the former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, some even say. And in any event, none of his supporters buy into your claims. You’re simply lying.
“Many people prowl round Mount Sinai. Their speech is blurred, either they are garrulous or they shout or they are taciturn. But none of them comes straight down a broad, newly made, smooth road that does its own part in making one’s strides long and swifter.” (Franz Kafka, Mount Sinai)