Transforming Lives in Israel

Sunday, November 23, 2014
Israel's First Class

As a single mother living in Israel without a high school diploma, Riki Perets found it a challenge to provide for her family. She decided to change her circumstances by completing her high school education through YouthBuild Israel in 2013. She now has a maintenance job and plans to pursue post-secondary coursework in accounting.

“YouthBuild helped me to realize I am worth something,” said Peretz in a Jewish Journal interview.

Professor emerita Dr. Edna Bustin started YouthBuild Israel in 2007. Bustin set out to address the most troubling issues experienced by the local youth. She found that many young Israelis from countries outside of Israel, such as those from Ethiopia, struggled with financial difficulties and the effects of cultural differences.

Ethiopian-Israelis serve in the Israeli Defense Force at a higher rate than the rest of the population. However, stress from various sources contributes to one-third of Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers spending time in military prison, usually for desertion. For many young people, this record hurts their chances of gaining employment after their military service.

In an effort to establish an alternative to military prison, the Israeli Defense Forces, in collaboration with YouthBuild Israel, began a program to provide support to this marginalized group.

The three-month program focuses on areas such as cultural education, personal development, and construction training. Students in the program are able to further develop their professional skills through continuing their military service with the Israeli Defense Forces’ building crews.

“YouthBuild gives these young people a fair chance to succeed like other Israeli youth,” explains Dr. Bustin in the Jewish Journal.

In addition to helping recent immigrants, YouthBuild programs throughout Israel assist various marginalized ethnic and religious groups, unemployed former soldiers, and low-income Israelis.