OAT's Israel team raises both funds and awareness for Palestinian orphans from the West Bank
In Arabic, "Jeel Al-Amal" means "Generation of Hope"—and since 1972, a Palestinian orphanage of this very name has given hope to several generations of destitute and displaced children. In spite of ongoing political conflict in the region, Jeel Al-Amal has consistently provided expert care and quality education for 350 children at a time, who are either referred to the orphanage by local social agencies or brought there by families who simply cannot afford to support them. It is the only orphanage in Palestine that accepts and supports girls.
In January of 2010, under the leadership of Area Manager Moshe Ben Simon, OAT's team in Israel organized a community service event to benefit Jeel Al-Amal, which often suffers severe shortages of supplies and funds due to the general economic instability in the West Bank. "Our goal is to create a network among our Program Directors, Trip Leaders, and vendors in Israel," says Moshe. "We are dedicated to supporting the education of these children from underprivileged social backgrounds."
What makes Jeel Al-Amal an especially worthy recipient of this support isn't just what the orphanage does—it's how well it succeeds. Beyond basic kindergarten and primary education, Jeel Al-Amal offers science and computer labs, as well as programs in drama and the arts. Children who were raised here have grown to become doctors, architects, and lawyers, and many have established happy and healthy families of their own. This exceptional level of care is a labor of love for founder Alice Sahhar, who has always considered Jeel Al-Amal to be more than just a functional institution for the children who require her services. "This is their home," she says. "This is where they grow up."
Partnering with Alhambra Restaurant in East Jerusalem, the team hosted a dinner and folk show with a dual purpose: "Our goal was not only to raise funds for Jeel Al-Amal," says Moshe, "but also to create consciousness among the Israeli society of the social problems that exist among the Palestinian society." The list of invitees included Grand Circle and OAT Program Directors and Trip Leaders, local hotel and restaurant vendors, administration members from two Israeli schools supported by Grand Circle Foundation, and a group of OAT travelers who were visiting Israel at the time. The Foundation pledged to match each attendee's required minimum donation of 100 Israeli shekels (approximately $26), with an overall goal of raising 20,000 Israeli shekels ($5190) for Jeel Al-Amal.
The event sold out completely, and exceeded our team's fundraising goal by more than $1400. Moshe gives special thanks to Trip Leader Kenny Garon, who took it upon himself to involve his entire kibbutz and presented the orphanage with a collective donation of more than $1000. All funds will be used to buy new blankets and to run the heating system for several hours a day in the rooms where children live and play. Until now, these rooms have been kept cold because the orphanage could not afford to warm them.
It was an outstanding effort to benefit an outstanding organization. Looking back on the evening, Moshe recalls the eloquent words of Alice Sahhar: In what language does a child cry? "Her words seem to fit our initiative," Moshe says, "as we aim to break down linguistic and cultural barriers between the Israeli and Palestinian societies."