Coming to the Muslim’s holy month of Ramadan, I asked the Desert Stars to summarize how they are coping during this horrible time. Here’s their reply:
I hope this email finds you well.
The past month has been challenging at Desert Stars, as I imagine it is for everyone. However, in these difficult times our staff, but particularly students and program participants, have been displaying a huge commitment to their communities as young leaders – something that makes us immensely proud.
I just wanted to share with you about the activities in the different programs at the moment:
Leadership High School & Rawafed Extracurricular Center – the high school students have online studies, the same as all schools across the country. But for our students, distance learning poses a huge challenge. Most of them are from very large families with many siblings, so they cannot find a quiet corner to study in; others live in unrecognized villages that lack the technological infrastructure to enable online studies. Nonetheless, our educational staff maintain constant contact with students by phone and are trying to motivate and help with studying, within the students’ individual limitations.
Leadership Incubator – is operating via Zoom and WhatsApp. Our Stars express their hardships and how much they miss their friends from the program. Our educational staff are sticking to a routine, virtual schedule to help them get through this time.
Raidat Women’s Leadership program – our Stars here are also maintaining a new type of routine via Zoom. The young women display high attendance and great motivation in activities and are able to combine the need to help at home with their studies.
Our Alumni—together with young Stars from both the men’s and women’s leadership programs—are active in the community, offering a response to community needs during the crisis:
1) Food parcels and activity packs for children – Together with local welfare departments, our Stars have delivered hundreds of food parcels and activity packs for needy families. All activities take place with strict adherence to the Ministry of Health directives at all times.
2) Raising awareness among the Bedouin community – Our Alumni took it upon themselves to create and promote videos in a social media campaign, in order to raise awareness about COVID-19 and adhering to Ministry of Health recommendations for good hygiene, to prevent the spread of the virus.
3) Teaching Arabic – some of our Stars thought it would be a good idea to teach Arabic to Jewish people that have always wanted to learn but have never had the opportunity to do so. The instruction takes place over the phone on a one-to-one basis, with the objective to create conversation and connection between our Stars and the Arabic learners. It also helps our Stars improve their conversational Hebrew.
4) Telephone conversations with the elderly – our young volunteers call senior citizens in Beer Sheva and the surrounds, keeping in touch with the older population in these very isolating times. Our Stars are sure to ask them if they need anything and help them to ease some of their loneliness through conversation. The feedback we’ve had from senior citizens is heartwarming; they really appreciate that someone cares about them and enjoy talking to our young Stars.
5) Live Facebook streams – a small team of Alumni streams an interview with a different Bedouin community influencer each week, around the topic of Coronavirus – in order to raise awareness and give the community tools to cope. So far our Facebook live videos have reached hundreds of viewers.
To end, I’d like to attach a very moving video that our young Raidat program participants created for “Mash’en” senior citizen’s home in Be’er Sheva, following the many losses they have experienced due to Coronavirus.
I’m extremely hopeful that my next email will tell you about our return to normal, but until then, wishing you good health.
Many thanks for your partnership,
On Thursday evening Ramadan begins and we all wish the Muslim residents in Israel – Ramadan Kareem (Blessed).
Arab cities and villages are under lockdown with army soldiers handing out food and supporting the local residents. Even policemen are welcome!
So if we want to find something positive in this crisis, we can hope that the good relationship between the different communities will continue after the corona outbreak is over.
And some more interesting developments…
Before the Passover Seder we were faced with a dilemma of how to manage the Haredi community in Bnei Barak and Jerusalem. It was known that many residents caught the Coronavirus because they live with large families (4-10 kids) in small homes, where there is no option of isolating those who are sick. We are also well-aware of the fact that the Haredi are against serving in the army, and the ultra-extreme communities even proclaim not to recognize the state of Israel.
Following the lockdown, the army sent Parachute troops to distribute food to the Haredi families. It was very exciting when the Haredi blessed and hugged (virtually of course) our young soldiers.
And last, but not least…
Remember our visit to Yeruham, where we slept at the only hotel in town?
Well, the government has decided to establish a new factory for producing vaccines for influenza and other diseases…perhaps also the Corona vaccine, who knows?
The Yeruham Council Head – the young lady that spoke to us – has asked ICA to join this innovation. So, when we can, this proposal will be discussed.