May 18, 2011 / 14 Iyar 5771
The cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Yitzchak Shavit Student Village took place this week in Ofakim.
On Wednesday, May 11, Jewish Agency officials and other dignitaries came together in Ofakim to lay the cornerstone for the Ayalim Association’s new student village, named after Yitzchak Shavit. Shavit, who was a Senior Vice President of the Jewish Federations of North America and who headed the Israel Education Fund, played a central role in developing Ayalim’s student villages throughout Israel since the organization’s establishment in 2002. Upon his untimely passing in February, Ayalim and a number of respected donors decided to honor Shavit and his contributions by establishing a new village in the Negev Desert. Contributors to the project included the Merage Foundations Israel, the Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, the Jewish Agency, the Ministry of Housing, and the Ofakim Municipality.
The ceremony included remarks by Ayalim Association founder Matan Dahan, Ofakim Mayor Tzvika Greenwald, Jewish Agency Deputy Chairman Rany Trainin, and Shavit’s brother Gid’on. Those present then proceeded to lay the new village’s cornerstone.
The first buildings are expected to be in place within a number of months, and the young volunteers will move into the village and will start contributing to the Ofakim community, for the benefit of all the city’s residents.
One of those in attendance noted that Shavit would no doubt have drawn a great deal of satisfaction and pride from the village’s establishment.
The Ayalim Association was founded in order to strengthen the communities of Israel’ Negev and Galilee regions. The Association’s goal is to revive a Zionist model of community-building in the Land of Israel, led by young Israeli man and women, and to nurture such values as Zionism, young entrepreneurship, and the bonds between man and land, and between individual and society. All this is achieved through via the establishment of student and entrepreneur villages, which serve as pillars of social outreach and the seeds of new communities. In return for a scholarship and discounted housing in the villages, each student spends approximately 500 hours ach year working with children from development towns and participating in the special projects of the Association, including building gardens in development towns, helping to renovate local schools and youth clubs, enhancing the neighborhoods, and so on. Some 600 students currently reside in eleven student and entrepreneur villages across the Negev and Galilee. The students in these villages are already generating tangible change in the areas regarded as Israel’s “periphery,” as well as in the State of Israel beyond. The students work with more than 20,000 children, who benefit from various activities, from academic support, and from socialization assistance.