The Ayalim organization is spearheading a joint initiative to help build up the city of Sderot which has been heavily bombarded by rocket fire from Gaza over the past 13 years, and even more so during Operation Protective Edge.
The beleaguered city has had its turn of bad circumstances, and Ayalim is setting out to help by combatting rocket attacks in the best way they know how: by building up the city and rejuvenating the young social life.
“By bringing youthful energy to Sderot, not only do we help revitalize the city but we also send an important message; ‘We don’t break, we build!’,” a spokesperson for Ayalim told Breaking Israel News. “ Hundreds of young adults, students, ideologists, enthusiastic pioneers and community volunteers will come to live here and provide a beacon of hope for the city.”
The student village that Ayalim is in the process of building will house 300 people, all of whom are committed to giving back a minimum of ten volunteer hours per-week to the city. That totals 3,000 hours of volunteer work each week.
The housing projects will house undergraduate as well as gap year students. More impressively, the houses are being built of recycled and reworked shipping containers, thus limiting the environmental footprint while keeping the city center of Sderot, where the project is being built, clean and environmentally friendly.
By utilizing low cost housing options, Ayalim is able to launch their latest project in record time. The first students will begin moving in at the beginning of the upcoming academic year in October.
The building project, which has garnered the help and blessing of various government ministries including The Treasury and The Ministry of Development of the South and the Galilee, has also met the qualifications and standards set by The Homefront Command for reinforced buildings.
A spokesperson from the Israeli Treasury told Globes that there were many reasons why the government was in favor of Ayalim’s proposed plan. He stated that “the plan was submitted on the background of the government’s decision in 2013 to strengthen and improve civilian life in Sderot and the periphery of Gaza, and a similar proposal which was submitted in response to Operation Protective Edge. The establishment of student villages exemplifies yet another aspect of strengthening and improving the quality of life for all citizens in Sderot, the South and in the Galilee (where similar endeavors are taking place) and increases and develops community involvement in those locales. The student villages become beacons for more permanent settlement of the areas in the periphery.”
Another reason given as to why specifically Sderot was chosen was to alleviate the high demand for housing by students who study in the nearby Sapir College and other institutes of higher learning in the area.
Commenting on Ayalim’s bold initiative, Israel’s Finance Minister Yair Lapid stated that “it is our responsibility to continue to give the Gaza Periphery and cities in the south economic strength and to pull more students to live in places like Sderot. This project provides an alternative style of living which will continue to strengthen the entire city of Sderot and the surrounding area.”
Israel’s Minister of Housing and Construction, Uri Ariel, commented: “Bringing students to strengthen the cities and towns of the South in Israel is our number one goal. Our job is to encourage them and provide with a wide range of opportunities that can answer their needs. The student village and the ‘shipping container city’ is not the last but the first step in attaining that goal.”
Minister of Development for the South and the Galilee, Silvan Shalom, said, “The establishment of a student village in this hard hit city will further push the civil development of Sderot, and attract hundreds of students to the city.
One of Ayalim‘s founders, Matan Dahan, explained that each shipping container that is to be refitted for an apartment will have a specially built safe room/shelter attached to it, in order to protect residents from any future attacks.
As the city of Sderot is eagerly awaiting good news, Ayalim has answered the call. The resurgence of life for the embattled city will be a slow process, but with the youthful exuberance of the new student population, the hope is that this process of healing will become that much faster.
Ayalim has been building student villages throughout Israel’s periphery in the Negev and Galilee for more than a decade. The organization finally obtained government approval and enough funds to build the first stage of the student village in Sderot.
Ayalim secured some of the funds and is counting on the support of their friends in Israel and abroad to support this project with the remaining funds.
Click here to be a part of this project and to support Sderot.