Hadassah Ne’urim Youth Village is located on an enchanting cliff above the Mediterranean shore, a few kilometers north of Netanya. It provides a safe and warm home for 400 children from ages nine-14, many of whom face emotional, educational and family difficulties.
A caring team of professionals guides them through dormitory life, school, and the technology college located on-site. The youth village also provides extra-curricular programs and projects that aim to inspire the youth and help them develop their potential.
In addition to a six-year remedial academic program, the youth village offers students the opportunity for personal development through therapeutic programs (sports, music, pets and art) and extracurricular enrichment activities, which endow the young people with self-confidence and a sense of empowerment. One such project is the Rehabilitation Kennel, the first project of its kind in Israel.
This new program has the students rehabilitating abandoned dogs and preparing them for adoption.
Helping the dogs gives the children chances to explore their own abilities and earn a sense of accomplishment. The kennel provides canine psychological therapy. It was established thanks to the initiative of the Spirit of Israel, an organization working to reduce social gaps, and which supports Jewish Agency programs that empower children and teens.
The kennel’s charismatic manager, Reisel Feinstein, known as “the dog whisperer,” teaches the youngsters how to care for the dogs. The kennel takes in abandoned and injured dogs that other animal shelters consider not “adoptable,” Feinstein explains. Many were in danger of being euthanized.
At Hadassah Ne’urim, they undergo several weeks of behavioral rehabilitation aimed at renewing their trust in humans and helping them adjust to normative environments.
“Our goal is for each dog is to become easily adoptable,” she explains. “Everyone benefits from this process – the dogs and the children. The children who work with the dogs, themselves undergo a therapeutic, emotional process, which is super important.”
The first group of dogs arrived three months ago, and will soon be available to be adopted and taken to their loving “fur-ever homes” – and then a new group of dogs will join the kennel.
Lidor is a 10th-grader who came to live at Hadassah Ne’urim this year.
Each morning he goes to the kennel to care for Dror, a dog who is terrified of people and suffers from severe behavioral problems. Lidor walks and feeds Dror and, with close supervision, works on making him feel secure. The two are separated only on weekends, when Lidor stays at his home elsewhere in the central region.
“I volunteer at the kennel because it frees me,” Lidor says. “Working with the dogs makes me happy. It’s like a safe haven for me. Here, I forget all my troubles and just enjoy being with the dogs.”
The needs of the kennel are great: food and other supplies, veterinary care, preparing the facility for winter, staff, organizing adoption days, etc. The Spirit of Israel recently launched a large campaign through the Mimoona website to fund the program.
Mickey Dahav, the director of Spirit of Israel, says that this is one of the most heartwarming projects that she’s had the pleasure of being involved with.
“The children who participate in the project and the dogs, both need a helping hand, someone loving to help them overcome their past difficulties, renew their trust in adults and find their place in society,” Dahav says. “I call on the Israeli public to assist us and support this project so we can continue to create the magic of a loving relationship between these wonderful kids and the animals.”
Spirit of Israel has received some heartfelt donations, but is falling short on the funds needed to guarantee the continuation of activities.
The fund-raising campaign will close on Monday. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made at www.mimoona.co.il/Projects/4444.
Hadassah Ne’urim was founded by the Jewish Agency and the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America and is one of four youth Villages run by the Jewish Agency. The others are Ben Yakir, Kiryat Ye’arim and Ramat Hadassah.
Together, the Jewish Agency youth villages provide safety and support to close to 1,000 children and teens aged 12-14. Since the agency was founded, around 300,000 youngsters have lived in its youth villages.
This article was written in cooperation with The Jewish Agency.
Photo credit: Courtesy