Opening New Horizons for Young Israelis
By Laurina Driesse, ICEJ Head of Media and Publications
In only three short years, life drastically changed for Israeli Arab sisters Zara* (24) and Salma* (20). Still reeling from the loss of their mother, they found themselves coping with a dying father. Although they have extended family members, the sisters are not close to them, and they were suddenly left on their own, needing to rent an apartment and feed themselves.
Facing these challenges at only 18, Zara sought the help of an Israeli social worker. Soon she began counselling to deal with the emotional trauma and improve her economic situation. Seeing the value of the counselling, Zara referred her sister Salma for help as well.
“I was confused,” shared Salma. “My life is very complicated. However, together with my social worker, we built a plan. At the beginning, I wasn’t so independent. I lacked self-confidence, and the courses helped me to develop that.”
Salma received assistance through Horizons, a program that is transforming the lives of struggling Jewish and Arab young people in Israel’s periphery. It expands educational opportunities and provides essential tools and support to navigate the university system or complete vocational training and then enter the job market.
The Christian Embassy is sponsoring the Horizons program to help improve the lives of struggling young Israelis, especially in the Arab sector, where 40 percent of those aged 18 to 34 live below the poverty line.
Horizons was launched in 2022 as a new and innovative pilot program, and it quickly mushroomed from 400 young adults to 1,334 participants, including 554 Israeli Arab women and men. These disadvantaged young people lack support in their home or community, and wrestle with self-doubt and lack knowledge about academic programs, the admissions process, and financial assistance.
Horizons can remove barriers that keep young people in poverty. Each participant gets personal guidance from a counsellor to build a customized work plan and advance their education. They also receive help to find scholarships and student stipends, along with ongoing mentoring to ensure they stay the course.
With the ICEJ’s support for laptops, private tutoring, language courses, and study workshops, students can focus on their studies.
Having struggled with obesity throughout her life, Salma expressed a strong interest in embracing a healthier lifestyle. With great determination, she plunged into her fitness workouts and met her own weight goal. She then decided to become a fitness coach to inspire others, and even completed a specialized coaching course. Salma also received a laptop so she could take an online English course.
When Nicole Yoder, ICEJ’s VP for AID & Aliyah, asked about her future dreams, Salma answered: “I have many dreams, and I want others to know and be inspired by my story!”
Meanwhile, Nadia* (20), saw her mother pass away and her father abandon the family. But Horizons has helped her gain confidence and clarify her career path.
Nadia always dreamed of becoming an engineer so she could earn a good living, but had no idea how to reach that goal.
“If you had asked me five years ago about my dreams, I wanted to be an engineer, but I didn’t know what kind” said Nadia. “Then my mother got sick and died from cancer a few years ago. Since then, I’ve wanted to find solutions for illnesses and genetic sensitivities.”
Nadia connected with a Horizons counsellor in her town in northern Israel. After an initial two-hour interview, Nadia felt comfortable enough to tell her whole story. Showing potential, Nadia received aid to take a psychometric course and excelled in it. Today she is enrolled to pursue a medical engineering degree at the Technion in Haifa and will begin studies in October.
After meeting these three students, Nicole said: “I came away with the deep conviction that the aid we provide here is life changing.”
Only with your vital support can we impact more Israeli lives and reverse the downward spiral of poverty. Help us give a future and a hope to those in need.
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