In order to end the cycle of poverty for Israel’s next generation, Colel Chabad, Israel’s oldest charity, along with the Department of Education and the Israeli army (IDF), are initiating a new vocational training program. Students from impoverished homes will receive a two year deferment in their required IDF army service in order to receive this education.
“This initiative is highly unusual on many levels,” explained Rabbi Mendel Lieberman, Organizer of Activities for Colel Chabad in Israel’s southern city of Ashkelon and Emissary for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to Breaking Israel News. “Most Israeli children are expected to enlist into the IDF just after high school. However, for children from impoverished homes, receiving a formal education after army service in order to make a decent living is almost impossible.”
In Israel, receiving a degree in higher education is very expensive, even for working families. For many people living near or below the poverty line, a college degree is simply unattainable. This situation is one of the catalysts for continuing poverty in Israel.
Thirty boys and girls from struggling Ashkelon families have been accepted into the new program, which starts in September. Located on Israel’s periphery, Ashkelon’s residents suffer from a high degree of poverty, as there are limited opportunities for business development in the area.
Providing quality education to the youth of Ashkelon, which is referenced in the Bible as the place where Delilah cut Samson’s hair to sap his strength (Judges 14-16), is a Colel Chabad priority to ensure a better future for Israel.
Students in the post-high school education program will receive two years of vocational training in telecommunications, robotics and electricity. They will then begin three years of obligatory IDF army service in their field of training in order to receive on-the-job experience.
“Through this program, we hope to stop the continuation of people living in poverty,” stated Rabbi Lieberman. “[The students] will finish the IDF with job experience and be highly employable.”
Rabbi Lieberman credits the creation of this new program to a 200-year-old mandate made by the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman.
“The Rebbe called to enhance the standard of living for people settling in Israel,” shared Rabbi Lieberman. “These studies will provide the opportunity for those used to receiving to be on the other end of the spectrum. They will now be able to give back, hopefully for generations to come.”
Colel Chabad runs a large network of educational facilities across Israel. In Ashkelon alone, the organization teaches about 1,800 children from preschool through 12th grade, making them deeply knowledgeable about the needs of the students and their families.
“We expect that this post-high school training initiative, which is subsidized by both the Department of Education and Colel Chabad, will grow exponentially in the years to come,” Rabbi Lieberman told Breaking Israel News. “We are praying that this new type of education will reap a greater future for struggling citizens in Israel and the Holy Land as well.”