IsraElite Remembers Fallen Soldiers
On Israel's Memorial Day, called Yom HaZikaron in Hebrew, many communities cancelled large in-person ceremonies and, instead, prepared meaningful activities geared to small groups. At IsraElite, Yemin Orde's young women's gap-year leadership program located in Migdal HaEmek, participants prepared special care packages that they placed at "memorial stations" outside the homes of the fallen soldiers in the city. At each "memorial station" stood a "memorial guard" made up of volunteers from the city, students from the Rogozin school and IsraElite participants.
The memorial stations included a photo of the fallen soldier, a memorial candle, an Israeli flag, and a bouquet of roses. The volunteers remained at their stations throughout the day and watched the city’s virtual memorial ceremony together with the families.
According to an article in Yediot HaGalil, an Israeli web-based news magazine, the interaction with bereaved families in the community resulted in an important and meaningful learning opportunity for everyone, including educators and staff of IsraElite.
Gal Shavit, an informal educator at IsraElite said: “We are happy and grateful for the opportunity to be there with the families on this day. Working with the participants on this project really moved me. They are learning about and exposed to the fallen soldiers’ stories, and it is clear that this is meaningful for them. During this time, when we can’t have any ceremonies or major events, the participants are able to be even more connected to Memorial Day.”
Shir Haviv, a participant on IsraElite said: “The visit at Beit Yad LaBanim (a nearby memorial building and community center) was very meaningful for me. We heard the stories about the fallen soldiers of Migdal HaEmek and the bereaved families, and I was very moved looking at the pictures. I went from photo to photo, and tried to learn about each person individually. I want to continue to hear their stories. It really moves me to take part in this project, to show that the city does not forget its fallen and knows how to memorialize them. These soldiers served and protected their country, and this is the least I can do to remember and memorialize them.”
The IsraElite program, which is supported and managed by Village Way Educational Initiatives, serves young women from the social and economic margins of Israeli society and provides for them a year that changes their awareness and even the course of their lives. Over the course of the year the participants go through intensive training in different subjects – Zionism, Israeli history and geography, personal development, leadership, preparation for military service, connecting to their cultural heritage and their community, and more.
On completion, most of the participants enlist in meaningful and highly-prized positions in Israel's military. IsraElite graduates have been awarded certificates of merit, including the President’s Award for Outstanding Service. After they complete their military service, a large portion of the graduates continue on to higher education, securing meaningful professions, and integrating as productive citizens in society. The IsraElite program, now in its eighth year, is a program which has strong roots in Migdal HaEmek.
“We are looking for educational opportunities and the connection to our community in everything that we do,” saud Orly Barzel, director, IsraElite. “And I see that this project has a dual, reciprocal impact – on the community but also on our participants."