American Friends of Neve Hanna

What we do at Neve Hanna

Neve Hanna is not an "institution". It's a loving home to these children, where 4 to 18 year-olds live in groups of ten to twelve, with a housemother and male counselor. In each unit's well-equipped kitchen, staff and children prepare and enjoy meals together. In the afternoon, more children join in for after-school activities, supper, and help with homework. All our youngsters get individial counseling, including art, dance, and animal therapy. Many of our teenagers help run their family units and take responsibility for setting goals and budgets, even earning and saving money for activities like concerts, movies, and trips.

Sports are big in the village-like campus, and everyone from the four-year-olds through the teenagers love to play basketball and soccer. Most children help care for the animals at the petting zoo – with ponies, alpacas, rabbits, goats, and a baby lamb – where they learn to nurture and to take responsiblity. Most importantly, every child at Neve Hanna gain a second family and make lifelong "siblings" and friends. The youngsters recently wrote and produced a play that movingly illustrated this: the story of two sisters triumphantly overcoming past difficulties and homesickness. A big hit in Kiryat Gat, it was performed twice in Tel Aviv.

We try to instill Jewish values in everything we do, including the mitzvah of sharing with our Bedouin neighbors. Neve Hanna is affiliated with the Masorti movement in Israel. That means we offer a traditional religious education, but one where boys and girls, men and women, have equal opportunities for learning and participation. In meaningful ceremonies, many of the children have become bar and bat mitzvah here. Together, all of us celebrate Shabbat and observe Jewish holy days and festivals.

Our approach is to teach children to earn their own "bread", not to take charity. They clamor for opportunities to work in our on-site Yeladudis Bakery, where they learn the arts of baking and marketing delicious specialty breads, cakes, and cookies, which are in demand in the dining rooms of Israeli corporations, sold in malls, and served in El Al flights. Equipment was imported from Europe, and a master baker from Germany provides expert instruction. Vocational training is just one way Neve Hanna youngsters become capable, productive citizens.

Our youngsters are prepared for the future. Our library, computer facilities, and bakery are the physical plant. The expert touch of our teachers, psychologists, and volunteers ensures that the human needs of every child are met. The Neve Hanna approach works. The next step for most of our young people is the Israel Defense Forces, where they serve their country with distinction. Our graduates have gone on to attend secondary and trade schools and to work in many professions, including becoming youth counselors themselves. They – and we – are justifiably proud of their accomplishments.

Thank you for taking our little tour. We wish you could be in Kiryat Gat to meet the staff and volunteers, tour the facility, and meet our smiling youngsters in person. Remember to put us on your itinerary next time you visit Israel. In the meantime, please support us. Every contribution is important, and helps us continue our work. With your help, we can enable more and more children from troubled homes to lead happy lives and become productive citizens of Israel and the world.