January 5, 2011/ 29 Tevet 5771
I know that cynicism prevails over anything good, and that it’s hard to see goodness while the eye is clouded over—sometimes willfully.
I have indeed seen happy Israelis. They are participants of the Atidim program, of which the Jewish Agency for Israel is a full partner and primary investor.
I know that there is a belief that the elite create elite, that money makes money. Do you know that saying? I do, too. But I saw happy Israelis who do not come from money, who dare to dream, because someone is helping them realize their dreams of finding safe harbor—be it through education or a livelihood.
Read more about Atidim.
I saw, I conversed with, and I was impressed by the children in the Pre-Atidim program at Kfar Silver, near Ashkelon.
They come from every social class. There are kids here, like the friendly Yulia, who immigrated to Israel from Siberia with the Na’aleh program; there are girls here like blue-eyed Sharon from a Moshav just outside Ashkelon, whose father is an alumnus of Kfar Silver. They are all happy to be here, in the program.
Pre-Atidim Students at Kfar Silver
Hadar Adari, the coordinator of Pre-Atidim, says that the investment in the students chosen for Pre-Atidim is very large. “The cost of investment” is not fixed since the program is tailored to each child according to his or her ability.
These kids will go far—they will be the ones to plan and build our turbulent country. The program is funded by: the Sate of Israel, philanthropists from Israel and abroad, and the Jewish people—by means of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
From Atidim’s inception in 1999 until today, 21,000 young people have participated in the program. The graduates’ achievements can be easily quantified, as they include 2,305 engineers in the labor force and another 1,591 studying engineering or the sciences.
Tens of thousands of young men and women from peripheral communities apply to the program and attend the selection meetings.
I can recall the program’s origins: it began as a dream by the Chief of General Staff and a small group of Israeli philanthropists like Eitan Wertheimer and the Jewish Agency to enable kids from the periphery to obtain technological training. At the time, they spoke about identifying potential, guidance, and leading toward achievement.
The basic outline of the program was and remains:
- Boys and girls from the periphery would join the program
- Only young people would participate in the program
- Those accepted into the program would be those who show potential in the fields of engineering and the sciences
In a conversation with the Pre-Atidim students at Kfar Silver, I was impressed by their articulateness and their desire to succeed. They simply know what they want to be.
Atidim Cadets, Pre-Atidim at Kfar Silver
Yulia, whose parents still live in Siberia, knows that she wants to be a chemist. She is only ten years old and has been in Israel for one year, but she knows that she wants to be a chemist. And she will be.
When I ask her: “What do you mean that you’re good at math?”
She answers: “I get the exercise and solve it really fast… I have a really really good chemistry teacher, and she helps me a lot in understanding chemistry.”
Yulia is very young, like all of her friends in Pre-Atidim. Read more about Pre-Atidim
Zohar Maimon, the Jewish Agency’s representative to the organization, says that the children obtain, through the Jewish Agency and other contributors, real enrichment in those subjects that led them to Pre-Atidim.
Dana Paran, a representative of Atidim, makes it clear that the dream is to reach a state where the organization can guide the children from age 13 for the subsequent eight years, until they enter the workforce, for example. This dream has already entered the planning stages under the auspices of the Jewish Agency and several senior members of Atidim’s administration.
The questions, “What is the Jewish Agency doing for the country? What is the country doing for its children? What are philanthropists doing for the country?” can all be answered in one word—Atidim.
To see what the more advanced students in the Atidim program were doing, I visited some of them at the Holon Institute of Technology.
Read more about the Holon Institute of Technology
Dov Peleg, the CEO of the institute, says that his institution gets the middle tier of students contending for higher learning in technological fields.
According to Peleg, his institute supplies 700 engineers annually to the Israeli industrial market. “We see how this activity directly helps strengthen the country; a lack of engineers and technology would be a real existential risk to the State of Israel,” he says.
The institute is funded by the State. Atidim students who study here are eligible for assistance from Atidim during their course of study — including assistance with job placement and professional development.
“A year ago, at graduation, we made arrangements to drive the family of one of our graduates, an Ethiopian immigrant. We shed tears when we saw how his parents faced the realization of their dreams: their son was advancing,” he recounts.
Dima Karsu, Holon Institute of Technology
One of the graduates that I met was Dima Karsu, in his first year at the institute, who came by way of Atidim. He is a lone soldier and has an unusual family situation. Currently, he reports, he is studying hard to meet the demands of the institute. Atidim and the institute are preparing and training him in required subjects, like calculus and others.
Bazazu Sabat of Kiryat Ata is studying in the electricity and electronics program (first year). “It’s like home. If not for Atidim, I’m not sure I would be here, or even studying at all.”
Both of these youngsters come from a segment of the population that cannot afford this level of higher education.
Hila Yaakov, who is studying Technology Management here, works at the Manufacturers Association of Israel in addition to her studies at the institute. “Words fail to describe how well they treat us here,” she explains.
Oshrat Elias, one of eight siblings from Kiryat Malachi, is completing her fourth year at the institute and has already begun working at Israel Aerospace Industries as part of the Atidim for Industry program. “I studied here by virtue of Atidim. I found work through the career guidance unit. It’s a pleasure to be here.”
Sharon Blumenthal is completing his fourth year in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He works at Alvarion, a leading company in the field of electronics. When he speaks about the assistance he receives, he gets very emotional.
These youth are part of the Atidim for Industry program.
Read more about Alvarion
Read more about Atidim for Industry
At one of the conference rooms at Ness, an Israeli company traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, we met an alumnus of Atidim named Roi Weizman.
Read more about Ness
He was born in Kiryat Yam. He moved with his family to Moshav Massad in the Lower Galilee. The economic situation was not great, to say the least.
Upon completion of his military service, he decided to go to the next level and study a profession. He had no sources of funding.
He was working four jobs as a security guard when he began studying at the pre-academic course at Hebrew University. He applied to Atidim and was accepted.
Atidim alumnus Roi Weizman, and engineer at Ness technologies
During his studies—assisted by Atidim, which made his studies much easier—he began volunteering at Ness. “When you receive something, you have a strong desire to give back to those who helped you,” he says.
He studied, worked, and volunteered, completing his studies and volunteering at Ness. “The combination of academics and working at Ness proved itself beautifully,” he remarks.
Roi Weizman, a young man who dreamed of being ‘someone,’ has a cutting edge job. He realized his dream.
When you meet someone from Roi Weizman’s family, you experience a sense of spiritual uplifting. That’s how I felt. I presume that many others who come into contact with him or with other Atidim alumni get the same sense of satisfaction that there are young people who can be entrusted to lead the State of Israel into the future.
Text and photos: Nathan Roi