More than fifty pre-military academies operate in Israel. The students who attend them devote a year of their lives to educational activity that shapes them and makes a profound change in their lives. KKL-JNF has given its sponsorship to these academies as well so that their graduates, on completing their army service, will be the ones who move to cities in the peripheral region, engage in education as a way of life, and be citizens who hold the values that Israeli society needs.
In the community of Mizpe Ilan, which is named after the late Ilan Ramon, KKL-JNF established a new pre-military academy called Beit Assaf, named after Assaf Ramon. This was accomplished with assistance from JNF France.
In order to create continuity of informal education from primary school to the pre-military academies, KKL-JNF operates scouting groups in the high schools. These scouting groups expanded during the decade to contain approximately 4,000 young people, and cover an area of approximately 50 focal points all over Israel. Most graduates of the scouting groups choose to embark on a year of volunteering in order to contribute to Israeli society before they begin their army service.
KKL-JNF’s social-educational flagship project, which it conceived and has led over the past decade, is the operation of the KKL-JNF Houses of Excellence: multidisciplinary spaces that operate in the peripheral regions, offering pupils enrichment during the afternoon and evening hours. The KKL-JNF Houses create an inspiring technological learning environment that provides each pupil with an individually-tailored reinforcement program while giving all the pupils an opportunity to participate in empowering leisure activities. KKL-JNF sees these houses as an important social platform that will help the teenagers to develop life skills that are relevant for the modern age. The learning centers in the KKL-JNF Houses are staffed by the best teachers, and in the empowerment and enrichment centers, the pupils can participate in workshops, listen to practical lectures, and engage in interdisciplinary activity.
By the end of the decade, two KKL-JNF Houses began operating in Nof HaGalil and in Kiryat Malakhi. The KKL-JNF House in Nof HaGalil has already led to an increase of dozens of percentage points in matriculation examination scores in the core subjects.
As part of the informal education that it provides, KKL-JNF increased its involvement with the Israel National Council for the Child and youth organizations when it published its strategic plan, entitled Magshimim Akhshav, which is based on the view that each person, as an individual and as part of society, deserves to fulfill his or her dreams and inherent potential. The program was launched in 2016, and 54 leadership groups of teenagers from communities in the Negev and the Galilee were formed within three months. More than five thousand teenagers from the peripheral regions were introduced to year-long volunteer tracks, and since then more than 30,000 young people have participated in events that were held in the spirit of KKL-JNF’s values. The purpose of the program is to strengthen the teenagers’ sense of belonging to Israel and to their communities, influence the educational discourse about Zionist values, and train alumni of youth organizations to be part of the leadership that will play a leading role, exert influence, and achieve important goals in Israeli society.
As part of its educational network, KKL-JNF completed, during this decade, the development of its field and forest centers as focal points of education and recreation in Yatir Forest, Shuni Forest, Lavi Forest, Zippori Forest, and Nes Harim Forest. These centers, which accommodated hundreds of thousands of young people over the decade, serve as bases for field training and annual trips, accommodation for youth movements and organizations, pre-military academies, and young people from abroad.
The field centers are prepared to accommodate guests in tents, and some of them have wooden cabins. They have field kitchens and dining rooms, showers, a refrigerator, attached restrooms and air conditioning. The centers are surrounded by fences and guarded, and areas have been prepared for outdoor lodging and camp activities, outdoor and indoor classes, sports and recreation equipment and places to sit in the shade of the trees, which enable experiential learning alongside outdoor activity. The content of the activity in the field centers has been adapted to the modern era. One example of this is “Haviya’ar,” an independent orienteering game that is based on the use of a smartphone, navigation using aerial images, and online activity in KKL-JNF’s core subjects.
In addition to its work in Israel, KKL-JNF’s Education Division also worked intensively during this decade among Diaspora Jewry, holding hundreds of educational activities that contributed to closer relations with world Jewry. Hundreds of thousands of young people from abroad participated in activities in Israel. Approximately 3,500 young people participated in the March of the Living, a journey from the Holocaust to the rebirth of Israel that begins in Poland during the week on which Holocaust Remembrance Day falls and ends on Independence Day in Israel. The teenagers began by visiting Poland and ended with a hike along KKL-JNF’s trails and a salute to the State of Israel at the Western Wall and at Latrun.
Young people from Russian-speaking communities participated in many other activities. These included activities to encourage immigration in partnership with the World Betar Movement and activities with Jewish youth movements, including Habonim Dror, Betar, HaNoar HaTzioni, HeHalutz LaMerhav, HaShomer HaTza’ir, Maccabi Tza’ir, Tnuat Noam–Hazit HaNoar, Netzer Olami, Bnei Akiva, Netzh, Tze’irei Ami, Dor Hadash, Kinneret Youth Movement, Hineni Yahad and FZY.