The stories featured in this book are the experiences of Israeli teenagers. When creating these essays, the students were told that this was their opportunity to tell the people of the world what they believed. They were asked to write about any subject that interested them, or which they thought that the people of the world must know about Israel. Thus, there is a great variety of opinions based on each students' own personal experiences. For example, one student wrote that discrimination exists in Israel against Ethiopians, while another Ethiopian student wrote that it is nonexistent.
The students, mostly secular, come from Kiryat Malachi, a small city south of Tel Aviv. Kiryat Malachi was founded in 1950 as an immigrant transit camp that absorbed immigrants from Morocco, Iraq, Kurdistan, Iran, Romania, and other parts of North Africa. During the last five years, Kiryat Malachi has absorbed 8,000 immigrants mainly from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. In July 1997, Kiryat Malachi was pronounced a city, and currently has a population of approximately 22,000 people.
The original conception of creating this book had two main goals. The first, was to help the students to improve their reading and writing comprehension of the English language. For some of the students English is their second language, while for others it is their third or fourth.
The other goal of this book was for it to be used as an educational tool and resource for Jewish people living outside of Israel. The hope is to build bridges of understanding and to create mutual relationships between Israel and the Diaspora. Unless one has lived in Israel, an understandable ignorance exists within the Diaspora concerning the daily life and general views of the Israeli youth. Their voice is much too often ignored, yet Israel through the eyes of its youth is deeply significant if the Jewish communities outside of Israel sincerely want to understand the realities of Israel. It is hoped that a similar project, of Jewish youth from the Diaspora writing about their feelings towards Israel and their lives as Jews, will come about and instigate a solid line of communication between the two communities.
I would like to thank the English teachers at "Amal 1 High school," Liat Gidon and Ellana Spector, for their help in aiding and encouraging the students to take part in this book. I would also like to thank our advisor from "Project OTZMA," Yossi Smajda, for his extremely useful expertise in formatting this book.
Thanks must especially be given to Dalya Borgana, the Strategic Director of the Municipality of Kiryat Malachi. Dalya helped us out incredibly while we were in Kiryat Malachi and made our experience in Israel so much more meaningful. It is with the incredible dedication and love for her community, and for the Jewish people, that Dalya managed to do the work of five jobs in one, and still found the time to meet with us for lunch, making sure that everything was going alright.
Finally, I would like to thank the wonderful people of Kiryat Malachi who made our time there so special. Of these, I would especially like to thank the students of "Amal 1 High school," who taught us so much about Israel, and about life. This is their book. They are our teachers.
This book was created in conjunction with "Project OTZMA," and was written by students from "Amal 1 High school" in Kiryat Malachi. "Project OTZMA," which is sponsored by the Jewish Federations of America, is a ten month long volunteer program for Jewish-American young adults, aged 20-25. The program is oriented towards immersing Jewish-Americans into the culture, politics, and life of Israeli society in order to be involved in community service volunteer work and to gain leadership skills that will be brought back to be applied to Jewish communities in America. As part of the "Project OTZMA" program, three other people and I lived and worked for two and a half months in Kiryat Malachi, the Israeli town twinned with our local Federations in America. During those two and a half months, we worked in various areas of the community, including "Partnership 2000" programs. "Partnership 2000" is a program created by the Jewish Agency, the United Jewish Appeal, and Keren Hayesod. The purpose of each of these programs is to bridge the gap between Jews living in the Diaspora and Jews living in Israel.
"Project OTZMA" 1998-1999
For more information about the "Project OTZMA" program, please contact your local Jewish Federation, or one of the following offices:
P.O. Box 4390
New York, N.Y. 10011
For more information about the "Partnership 2000 " program, please contact:
The Israel Department
Jewish Agency for Israel (Jerusalem)
UJA Federations of North America (New York)
Tel: (212) 284-6513
Fax: (212) 284-6838
For those who would like to begin a pen-pal dialogue with the youth from Kiryat Malachi, please write to the following address:
"Amal 1 High School"
Ben Gurion St.
P.O. Box 156
83101 Kiryat Malachi, ISRAEL
Tel: (08) 8581317
c/o Kiryat Malachi Municipality
P.O. Box 1
Kiryat Malachi, Israel