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May 23, 1986 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-05-23

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overseas supporters to confront; that and
the fact that it has over the last ten years
persistently refused to acknowledge major
changes in Israeli society that cast serious
doubt today on the relevance of its approach.

outh Aliya originated in 1933
as a program to rescue Euro-
pean Jewish youth from the
looming Nazi threat. Most of
the 16,000 young people
brought to Palestine by Youth Aliya be-
tween 1933 and 1945 were taken in by kib-
butzim and agricultural schools, the set-
tings which inspired the creation of the
"youth village" as a specific educational hi-
stitution for Youth Aliya children.
Between 1945 and 1967, Youth Aliya
took in more than 63,000 youth who came
as refugees from post-war Europe and the
Moslem countries of the Middle East.
Youth Aliya housed most of them in youth
villages set up and run by various Zionist
political movements. These villages were
not the conventional type of boarding
schools known in many western countries,
but residential schools that sought primar-
ily to educate productive citizens devoted
to Eretz Israel and the Jewish people.
Instilling Zionist idealism was just as
important, if not more so, than training the
children for a specific occupation. There is
no question that the villages supported by
Youth Aliya succeeded in this endeavor.
They have been admired and studied by ed-
ucators around the world. Youth Aliya also
developed special techniques for correcting
learning problems in children from de-
prived social and cultural backgrounds,
most of whom were the children of im-
migrants to Israel from the Middle East,


also known as Oriental Jews.
As the 1950s and '60s waves of mass im-
migration to Israel subsided, Youth Aliya
increasingly took on the task of providing
a better future for Israeli-born youth of
Oriental background who were growing up
in the deprived conditions of immigrant
transit camps, new towns in outlying areas
and urban housing projects that became
"instant slums." This task, which was ex-
panded considerably in the 1970s, came to
be seen as another phase of Youth Aliya's
mission of rescuing Jewish youth from
distress. Indeed, about 40 per cent of all
those ever helped by Youth Aliya came
under its care between 1972 and 1985, or
close to 99,000 youth out of total of
227,000 helped during the 53 years of its
This ambitious project of taking disad-
vantaged youth away from their families
and neighborhoods, educating them in a
new environment and instilling in them a
new set of values has been, and still is,
based on the assumption that decent liv-
ing conditions and opportunities could not
be provided in their homes or neighborhoods.
This meant that the criteria for accep-
tance into a Youth Aliya school were de-
fined quite broadly and based on economic,
educational and social grounds. A youth
between 12 and 18 years old can be ac-
cepted if he or she meets one of three re-
quirements: (1) if the youth is from a low-
income family, (2) if he or she is a poten-
tial or actual school drop-out or cannot
realize his or her potential in a local school
for whatever reason, or (3) if he or she
comes from a broken or unstable family
(e.g., in which a parent is chronically ill,
abusive, jailed or on drugs) or from a home

and neighborhood environment that stifles
the youth's potential for social advancement.
According to these criteria, which have
not changed in the last ten years, a youth
can be accepted to Youth Aliya if he falls
into any one of these categories, although
there is often overlap among them. For ex-
ample, a youth can be accepted even if his
family has an average income, provided he
comes from a small town in an outlying
area or from what is considered to be an
urban slum, thus qualifying on social
grounds. His family would have to pay a
small part of the school tuition, while a low-
income family would be exempt.
Over the years, a division of labor was
worked out between the Youth Aliya de-
partment and the 300 private or public ins-
titutions to which children are referred.
The most difficult cases, socially and

Even admitting the
need for reassessment
is a major step in
Youth Aliya, which
has been notoriously
defensive . . .

educationally, are sent to the six institu-
tions owned directly by the Youth Aliya
department, which in 1983 had 850 pupils.
In addition, the department owns 18 Youth
Centers, non-residential schools in cities
and towns providing intensive remedial
treatment for children at the lowest educa-
tional levels. The Youth Centers had 2,140
pupils in 1983. Thus only 16 per cent of the
17,700 Youth Aliya pupils in 1983 were
sent to institutions directly owned and
operated by the department.
The rest of the Youth Aliya pupils in that
year were placed fir special groups of 144
kibbutzim, or with foster families on three
moshavim (together, 12 percent); or re-
ferred to 146 youth villages or residential
schools owned by political or public bodies
such as the religious schools owned by
political or public bodies such as the
religious Zionist movement, Naamat
(Pioneer Women), Hadassah, the Zionist
movement affiliated with Herut, Wizo and
others. The vast majority of Youth Aliya
pupils, 72 per cent, were placed in these ins-
titutions in 1983. The same pattern holds


bile there are about an
equal number of Orthodox
and non-Orthodox children
in all Youth Aliya frame-
works, the breakdown in
the youth villages and residential schools
tilts toward the Orthodox. Sixty per cent
of the children in these institutions are
Orthodox, and the rest non-Orthodox.

Part One

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