The 2016-2017 school year in Israel officially began yesterday with the country's education minister, Naftali Bennett, touring the WIZO Nir HaEmek Youth Village in Afula.
WIZO Nir HaEmek Youth Village, one of the biggest schools in the north of Israel, is home to over 1,000 students in grades 7-12, including 200 boarding school students who live on premises. The school specializes in teaching science and technology and houses a unique agricultural farm and study center including a barn, chicken coop, dairy, stables and ecological garden.
As part of the tour the minister got to meet students and hear their stories about the boarding school experience. Bennett began the day at the youth village by planting an olive tree together with Chairperson of World WIZO, Professor Rivka Lazovsky and WIZO President Esther Mor, and went on to watch a game of goalball played by blind WIZO Nir HaEmek students who are on Israel's national team. The highlight of the visit came at the youth village's agricultural center, where the minister made cheese with the help of students who study in WIZO Nir HaEmek's agricultural study track. The tour concluded with a moving meeting between the minister and 13 children who live in unique foster homes hosted by WIZO in the youth village.
The minister praised the youth village, which boasts an exceptional number of students who graduate with a full matriculation and continue on to meaningful service in the army. "It is exciting to open the new school year at a magical place like WIZO Nir HaEmek," said the minister during his visit. "Here I've witnessed civic responsibility, a spirit of achievement and hands-on learning. We in the education system try to put an emphasis on personal attention, and that stands out here. Each child is seen, listened to and directed on a personal path to success. That's what I wish for every student in Israel."
Prof. Lazovsky thanked the minister for his exciting visit and pointed out that WIZO youth villages, unlike normal public schools, combine learning with a rich social life and extra-curricular activities. She stressed the fact that students at WIZO youth villages receive tremendous personal attention and the opportunity to develop their own unique talents. "The minister's visit," said Prof. Lazovsky, "conveys an important message to Israel's youth and parents about the value of the boarding school educational framework."