KIRYAT GAT, ISRAEL- Sometimes life is taken for granted. We have parents to hug and kiss. We have a house to sleep in and feel comfortable. We have our communities with which we interact. Some of our communities consist of people who have similar backgrounds (not including the Jewish factor).
Yemin Orde is a youth village in the northern part of Israel near the Carmel region. After visiting the youth village on July 8 as part of my visit to Israel this past summer it impressed me as a special place. I saw people there who go above and beyond caring for the kids who either are orphans or come from broken families.
After arriving there I went to the chadar ochel (dining hall) with one of the coordinators of the youth village, Racheli. Racheli and I sat and she gave me a detailed explanation of the place. She said although Yemin Orde is technically an institution with its gates and fences for security purposes, it is not operated like an institution. It is meant to feel like home. In fact, the living area and school area are distant from each other as to make the kids feel like they are not in a boarding school. The staff at the youth village show as much love and care as possible toward the kids even if the kids cannot grasp the abundant kindness. For example, Racheli told me that if a kid breaks a window, instead of the staff getting upset, they try to calmly deal with the situation. If a kid breaks a chair, the maintenance worker, Moshe, will work with the kid to fix the chair instead of getting upset.
An important aspect of what makes Yemin Orde special is its diversity. Kids from all over the world, from Ethiopia to Brazil to Azerbaijan, live and learn in the village. My tour guide, Batya, told me that usually the first year can be a cultural adjustment and it is not usually until after the second year someone feels fully adjusted. However, the staff at Yemin Orde do not give up on the kids and they never expel any kid despite any trouble he or she might experience.
I briefly met a few of the village kids along my tour. The first kid I met was a girl who emigrated from France (Yemin Orde has recently received a lot of French Jewish kids due to the rampant anti-Semitism in France). The two other kids were from Brazil and who during their stay at Yemin Orde are starting to become more religious. Even though these interactions with the kids were brief, it gave me a sense that these kids do not let whatever past they lived define who they are today. They are friendly and seemed grateful to be in such a special place.
On the train ride back to my host family in Kiryat Gat, after having visited this diverse but united village, I thought to myself the following: Why do I complain? I am very thankful to have a wonderful family and have great friends. Yes, there are times when I (as well as anyone) can be upset when something is not going the way I would like. To be upset and disappointed is one thing, but to complain now seems extreme. Even when times can be rough, we should all remember those parents we can hug and kiss and that roof that provides comfort. As my mother once told me, it is not what happens to you in life that matters, it is how you handle it. The kids of Yemin Orde come from dire circumstances that no child should have to face growing up. Nevertheless, these kids are showered with love and temporarily stay in that special village only to permanently stay in this special land of the Jews.
Visit Yemin Orde’s website here