For a second consecutive year, the students of WIZO Nir Ha'Emek Youth Village, located near the northern city of Afula, continue to battle the apathy they notice surrounding the issues of poverty and hunger in Israel. Last year 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.
According to the National Insurance Institute's annual "Poverty and Social Gaps Report," released in November 2015, 18.6% of households (or, 432,600 families) in Israel live below the poverty line. That figure includes 757,000 children, or 30% of Israeli children.
Noa Kureish, head of the WIZO Nir Ha'Emek student council, described what motivated the students last year, "We decided to be active. We decided to wake up the public from its apathy, in the belief that we, the youth, have the obligation as well as the ability to work toward social change in Israel. We decided to start this journey immediately, at the time when decision-makers in Israel were busy preparing for upcoming elections, in which, unfortunately, the subjects of poverty and hunger got second billing. Our goal is to reach an ideal situation in which no children go hungry in Israel." Esti Cohen, the school's director, added, "We are astounded by the sensitivity of our students and their ability to identify with the struggles of others, even though they themselves want for nothing. WIZO is an organization that has always advocated for better education and welfare for the children of Israel; our student council is realizing WIZO's vision."
After great success last year, this year's campaign came to a climax onFebruary 2nd, declared in Israel, "a day without hunger." Dozens of businesses in the north of Israel, including restaurants, pizzerias, kiosks, cafés and more, in a tremendous gesture of goodwill, signed on to the project and opened their doors to local students, who were able to buy meals at thelow cost of 2 NIS each. The Afula municipality also collaborated with the students' project and dedicated several billboards to advertising the event. Large numbers of parents and children from Afula and its surroundings took part in activities in the city's main square. This year's campaign, having grown and expanded since last year, included the efforts of students from schools in Migdal Ha'Emek. The goal is to have schools from across the country join in the future.
Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Chairperson of the World WIZO Executive, commented with pride, "Our students are taught to be, first and foremost, citizens who are involved and interested in their communities - not only in good grades."