Source: Annual Report 2013

The Israel strategy of the Bernard van Leer Foundation is national in scope and therefore relevant to 1.3 million children aged 0 to 8 years, who are growing up in the country. The overarching theme is investing in young children, especially those who are most disadvantaged, in order to improve their welfare today and the quality of Israel’s workforce in the future. The three goals in Israel are:

Universal access to quality pre-school among 3 to 6 year old children

In Israel, all children have, by law, the right to access preschool education. Based on our analysis, the quality of and access to preschool education is not equal for all children in Israel. Access to preschool for Israeli Arab children, Jewish Ethiopian children, Haredi children and children of migrant workers is considerably lower than for Israeli Jewish children. A closer analysis of resource flows to all vulnerable communities will help us determine which group(s) we should focus on. Good quality early learning is the foundation for better learning outcomes in higher education and positive social and emotional development in general, increasing the potential to succeed in life. Our main interest is therefore in contributing to this goal.   

Innovative creative thinking programme for ultra-Orthodox preschool children

The Foundation’s partner Achiya reached over a thousand children from ultra-Orthodox Jewish families in 2013 with an innovative creative thinking programme for preschools. Facilitators guide the children to be curious about concepts such as gravity, friction and colours, and to reach their own conclusions about the world around them.

While such a programme may sound routine in a secular context, there is a need to be highly respectful of traditions and beliefs when adapting it for an ultra-Orthodox context. As one principal of a Talmud Torah school said:

I admire how Achiya found a way to impart the concepts behind the God-given natural elements in our everyday life to our kindergarten children, in a most simple and interesting manner.

Also participating in workshops in 2013 were 650 parents and 40 kindergarten teachers who were trained to facilitate the programme for future preschoolers. The programme was supported by the municipality of Holon, which contributed 35% of its funding, and is attracting interest from other parts of Israel.

Reduced incidence of depression, anxiety and aggression among young Jewish and Arab children exposed to political violence

All children in Israel live in a context of political violence. Societal violence has a detrimental impact on young children’s wellbeing. Investment that builds coping skills and resilience contributes to the capacity of children to deal with traumatic events, and limits the chance of long term impacts on their lives. 

Resilience workbook helps children deal with war

In November 2012, tension between State of Israel and Gaza Strip increased, and as a result, two million civilians had to run to bomb shelters in very real fear for their lives –including in the Bedouin city of Rahat, where the Foundation’s partner the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma (ICTP) has a long-standing presence. By 2013, the immediate threat of bombing had passed, but young children continued to suffer post-traumatic stress symptoms.

With an emergency grant from the Foundation, over a thousand copies of the ICTP’s ‘My Resilience Workbook’ were printed and distributed in Rahat. The workbooks help children aged between 3 and 8 to cope with the aftermath of natural disasters and war. An event to train teachers in how to use the workbooks was also attended by Faiz Abu-Seheban, Mayor of Rahat, and Randa Zarik, the early childhood coordinator for the Bedouin community at the Ministry of Education.

Reduced rates of malnutrition among young Bedouin children growing up in unhealthy physical environments in the Negev

Safe and healthy environments, good nutrition and healthcare are lacking in the Bedouin communities in the Negev. This includes lack of basic services such as clean water, electricity, waste management, hygienic conditions in the home environment, transportation services and recreational facilities. By focusing on improvement of these conditions, a contribution is made for young children to develop in a more healthy way and in a more appropriate and child friendly environment.

Programme strategy

You can download a summary of our Israel strategy for an outline of how we are approaching the goals summarised above, as well as a shorter two-page handout.


Do you have comments on our goals in Israel? Please contact our Programme Officer for Israel, Marc Mataheru:

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