Last week, for the third year in a row, students of WIZO Nir Ha'Emek Youth Village, located near the northern city of Afula, battled the apathy they noticed surrounding the issues of poverty and hunger in Israel. Two years ago they launched a project aimed at raising awareness to the startling numbers associated with poverty in Israel, which show that one out of every three Israeli children suffers the effects of hunger and malnutrition.
On January 31st WIZO Nir Ha'Emek held a conference titled "Closing Social Gaps and Reducing Poverty in Israeli Society." The event, organized by the student council and school staff hosted MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, former MK Amram Mitzna, World WIZO Chairperson Prof. Rivka Lazovsky and various social activists. A panel discussion dealt with issues of poverty in Israel as reflected by statistics released in the Israeli National Insurance Institute's annual Poverty and Social Gaps Report, showing that 30% of Israeli children live in hunger and 20% of Israeli families live below the poverty line.
Ofer Matayahu, head of the WIZO Nir Ha'Emek student council, described what motivated the students, "It simply can't be that so many poor and hungry children live in Israel, and the situation is only getting worse. We claim to be an enlightened and progressive country; statistics like these just don't fit in a country like Israel. Esti Cohen, the school's director, added, "I am so proud of our young men and women here at WIZO Nir Ha'Emek. The caring, dedication and social justice they display is real ethical education."
As in previous years, the climax of the Day Without Hunger campaign came onFebruary 2nd when, thanks to the students' efforts, 20 restaurants, pizzerias, kiosks and cafés in Afula and Migdal HaEmek, in a gesture of goodwill, offered meals at thelow cost of 2 NIS each. The goal is to have schools from across the country join the project in the future.
Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, at the panel discussion, stated, "There is still a lot of room for improvement. The fact that you, the youth, decided to raise awareness to the current situation realizes the vision of the WIZO movement."