Ofakim is located in the Negev, 20 kilometers west of Beer Sheva, close to the Gaza strip. It was founded as a development town in the 1950s in order to house immigrants from North Africa. 60 years later, the town has continued to absorb immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. Ofakim has never been able to overcome its disadvantaged beginning and suffers from high unemployment rates and low salaries.
Currently, the town of Ofakim has taken first steps in a municipality-wide development process with the aim of creating a better quality of life. Ayalim believes that the presence of young motivated students can be a positive force for change, and see great potential for impact in Ofakim.
The impact of the students’ activity is intensified by the daily contact between them and the residents of Ofakim. The interaction with young motivated people, who have come to the periphery by choice, strengthens the residents’ esteem. The students develop the community’s ability to evolve by empowering the local residents to take a leading role in their community. The enhanced capabilities, along with the students’ warm and open approaches, create a stronger community.
Today, 30 students live in the Ayalim Ofakim Village. These students study at Sapir College and other campuses in Be’er Sheva. The village is a successful blend of religious and secular individuals, living together in an intimate setting and sharing a community life. This community includes four married couples with children living alongside their single neighbors, creating a unique atmosphere in the village.
One of the main activity centers in the village is built on a framework in which local children receive one-on-one assistance with homework assignments, enrichment programs, tutoring, and more. Moreover, as part of the government’s 360 program, our students work together with local youth who are considered “on the edge”. Students work together with other local authorities to create a positive educational framework.
Intending to establish an alternative youth culture in the city, Ayalim student initiate multiple activities for the local communities. Public and communal celebration of Jewish holidays, stand-up nights, parties and gatherings for young people such as the “Southern Festival”—a large “Cultural Creation and Production” event run by the students and held at Sapir College. The event includes various activities and concerts. The village helps run many of the booths at the event geared towards children as well as working the logistics for the event.