Israel is a country that's beaming with endless possibilities. The country's socioeconomic center has emerged as a prominent technological and entrepreneurial hub across the globe. Startups based out of Tel Aviv and other locations are further contributing to the upliftment of Israeli society.
But there's another side to the country that doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. It's the geographic and social periphery of Israel that's home to tens of thousands of children and youth who are at-risk. They lack the amenities and resources that are available in abundance to children in Israel's center.
Moshe Edry, Eyal Edry and Rafael Edry, founders of the Achinoam Association for the Promotion of Equal Opportunities, aim to bridge the gap by nurturing the youth in Israel's geographic and social periphery. Their organization has been striving to provide at-risk youth with proper guidance and financial support to build a better future.
The Israeli Periphery: A Closer Look
According to a 2018 survey, more than 840,000 thousand children in Israel live in impoverished households. Also, child poverty rates in the country have been on an incline over the past few years.
These children don't have access to basic resources, such as textbooks, shoes, and other school supplies. Nearly 32% of children in Israel's periphery don't have internet access at home. Also, more than 35% of them don't have cell phones.
A third of children in the rural periphery also lack funds for school trips. That's a whopping number compared to only 4% of children in the socioeconomic center who face similar struggles.
The unfortunate part is that the youth, both in the center and periphery, will decide the future of the country. Despite geopolitical turmoil and other conflicts, it's the gap between the two strata of Israel that threatens to disintegrate the social fabric.
A Stolen Childhood
The Edry brothers come from a humble household of Safed. Their father was a building contractor who made enough money to fulfill the family's needs. However, they ran into serious financial troubles in the 1970s.a
At the young age of 17, Eyal Edry had to give up school and start working to support his father. Despite his hardships, he managed to join the IDF and served as a paratrooper. However, a near-fatal accident that left him with a spinal injury changed the course of his life.
Edry retired from the IDF and went on to study psychology. He continued to climb greater heights in the professional world as a successful businessman. Together with his elder brother Rafael Edry, he owns and manages various companies in Western Africa and Europe.
But all these accomplishments couldn't compensate for childhood that was snatched away from him at 17. Despite being a successful entrepreneur, he could relate to the struggles of the youth living in Israel's periphery.
That's what prompted Eyal Edry to establish the Achinoam Association with his brothers, Rafael and Moshe Edry.
Hand Holding the Youth
Providing financial support to children and adolescents in impoverished households isn't the only solution. The key is to provide at-risk youth with proper guidance and mentoring. It'll help shape their worldview, develop their skills, and lead them to the path of a happy life.
Also, they need a strong support system to realize their potential and integrate into the job market.
The Achinoam Association has implemented a long-term mentoring program to identify and nurture at-risk youth in Israel's periphery. These individuals are provided with guidance and support throughout their school and college years.
The organization also helps young people from the Ethiopian community find their footing in Israeli society.
Scholarships for the Needy
Apart from mentoring, the Achinoam Association also provides youngsters with various scholarships to continue their education. The scholarship program is an outcome of Eyal Edry's firm belief that no child should be deprived of quality education due to financial hardships.
Uplifting the Community
It's equally crucial to provide the youth with a proper framework to learn and grow. They often don't have access to basic amenities, such as school libraries. Moreover, welfare organizations working in the periphery lack adequate funds to develop better infrastructure for these individuals.
That's why the Achinoam Association invests capital to develop better infrastructure in the periphery. The founders have deployed a pilot program to support welfare agencies, promote education access, and create better amenities. They even started a fundraising campaign to provide young students with computers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Building a Better Tomorrow
The future of Israel doesn't depend on its politicians or tech startups. It's the children and youth who will lead the country to a new path. That emphasizes the importance of nurturing these young minds with the right resources and support.
Both Eyal and Rafael Edry envision a future where young people from the periphery have equal access to education and career opportunities. Thoughtful mentoring programs, scholarships, and infrastructural development are critical for achieving those goals.