Kiryat Shmona is Israel’s most northern city, located in the Northern District of Israel near the Israel-Lebanon border. During the 2006 Lebanon War, the city was a target of Hezbollah “Katyusha” rocket attacks. Most of the city’s residents left the area during the war, and the 5,000 who remained stayed in bomb shelters, turning the city into a ghost town. As an immediate response to the rocket attack and the disruption of day-to-day life, Ayalim decided to build a student village in one of the most disadvantaged neighborhood in the city – in order to show a strong presence filling the social and educational gaps in the community.
Situated on the Manara mountain ridge, the student village in Kiryat Shmona overlooks the gorgeous upper Galilee and Golan heights. The village was founded immediately after the end of the Second Lebanon War in November 2006. Students simply remodeled areas that were damaged by rocket fire and inhabited the place. The original village included 14 apartments in Amidar, which were renovated by the students themselves. Following the great success of the village in its first year, it was decided to expand the village. In 2007, another 12 apartments were renovated.
Today, the village is home to 24 students and 6 pre-army volunteers. These individuals are not only active members of Ayalim but also full-time students at the local Tel Hai College in Kiryat Shmona. The positioning of the village, within a larger complex of apartment buildings within Kiryat Shmona, ensures constant direct contact between the students living in the village and their neighbors, the residents of Kiyrat Shmona.
The Ayalim village in Kiryat Shmona makes a huge impact on the local community through both its educational activities in the city’s schools as well as its own Family Center. The “Ofarim” Family Center was so successful as a model project developed initially only in Kiryat-Shmona, that it was implemented in all Ayalim villages throughout the country.
In addition to the numerous group activities and personal interactions with residents of all ages, the Ayalim students in Kiryat Shmona mentor children from underprivileged families on a one-on-one basis. The personal attention paid to each child leads to the development of incredible relationships which often resemble those of “big brothers and sisters”, improving the self-esteem and confidence of the youth at risk.