Teens Develop App at KKL-JNF House for Excellence

Tuesday, August 07, 2018 1:14 PM

A culmination of an intensive summer program at KKL-JNF House in Upper Nazareth, established with the support of friends of KKL-JNF in France and Italy.

Since the establishment of the local KKL-JNF House for Excellence around six months ago, hundreds of young people from Upper Nazareth and its environs have come through its doors, in order to study, advance themselves, realize their potential and discover the wonderful world of technology. During the month of July, KKL-JNF House hosted a special summer program that culminated in the creation of a unique smartphone application designed to enhance visitors’ enjoyment of activities in Balfour Forest.

The KKL-JNF House for Excellence in Upper Nazareth provides supplementary lessons and enrichment activities for high students, which are designed to foster excellence and promote young leadership. Cutting edge classrooms, a computer lab, an auditorium and an open area for social interaction have been constructed within an innovative framework at the House. Nine more KKL-JNF Houses are slated to be built in other outlying regions around Israel. The establishment and maintenance of the first House was made possible by the support of KKL-JNF’s Friends worldwide, particularly those of France and Italy.
Over the summer holiday, when most youngsters are concerned mainly with taking a break and enjoying themselves as much as possible, students at the KKL-JNF House continue to work diligently. KKL-JNF House Director Omer Harpaz explains:
“The summer program includes supplementary lessons and preparation for the next school year. No less importantly, we also offer a variety of enjoyable technological activities, visits to startup companies, volunteer days, culmination days and enrichment activities.”
Our visit to the KKL-JNF House took place during a marathon programming session for the creation of a smartphone application designed to enhance the experience of visitors to Balfour Forest. Young people from Upper Nazareth, Yafia and the Jezreel Regional Council area all took part in this unique project.
Prior to starting work on the programming, the youngsters had explored the woodland, met with KKL-JNF foresters and spent time getting to know the area thoroughly. This combination of nature, community, education and support for Israel’s outlying areas accurately represents the values promoted by KKL-JNF.
As they embarked upon their task, the teens were joined by soldiers from the IDF’s 8200 technological intelligence unit, some of whose former officers, in their role as members of the 8200 alumni association, regularly help out with high-tech projects at the KKL-JNF House.
The students, their instructors and the soldiers broke up into groups to work on the app development. The winning app will be selected for practical use by visitors and tourists to the Balfour Forest.
Instructor and Summer Program Coordinator Dana Fridman, an Upper Nazareth resident who served in Unit 8200 and now works for the unit’s alumni association, told us:
“Our goal is to put the knowledge that we acquired during our period of military service to good use. Technology is a tool that opens young people’s minds and encourages them to believe in themselves and realize that they can achieve whatever they want. There is no greater satisfaction than seeing young people succeed.”
Dana Fridman’s personal story represents the spirit and intent behind the KKL-JNF House, as, prior to enlistment, she struggled for a year before being accepted to Unit 1800.
“There’s no reason why a unit like this one should limit recruitment to the center of the country,” she said. “After it opened its door to me and I realized what it had done for me, now I want to open doors for other young people who will follow in my footsteps, dare to dream ambitious dreams and then dare to make them come true.”
Now she herself has a new ambition: she wants to study medicine at the Hebrew University – and there is no doubt that her determination and conviction will enable her to fulfil this dream, too.
Fifteen-year-old Simon Kotliarevsky of Upper Nazareth told us:
“When I heard that there was an opening to join a course for app development I jumped at the chance immediately, because it seemed to me really cool. I’ve made a lot of new friends here, and together we’re developing a virtual game that deals with nature and the environment and includes quizzes and orienteering tasks. Our aim is to attract people to the forest and make their visit an unforgettable experience. It’s fun to work together with the soldiers, and I’ve met some good people here from Yafia, too. I believe that our application will encourage different peoples to meet up and mingle.”
Of his plans for next year, he said: “I want to continue my activities at the KKL-JNF House so that I can achieve as much as possible in my studies.”
His fellow group-member Rinan Khateeb from Yafia added, “This course develops the thought processes and encourages creativity: we confront problems and search for technological solutions. I’m investing a lot in my studies because it’s important to me to succeed in life. I believe that technology can contribute to my future, and perhaps one day I’ll work in hi-tech.”
The KKL-JNF House in Upper Nazareth serves as the prototype for other similar centers planned for outlying areas in northern and southern Israel. These Houses are designed to reduce social gaps and promote excellence among those who live far from the center of the country. Expressing his profound appreciation for the people who have made this wonderful project possible, Omer Harpaz declared:
“With the support of our dear friends we shall continue to develop this House and establish additional Houses to strengthen Israel’s periphery.”