Turning risk into opportunity

09 November 2022

In July, Keren Hayesod-UIA had the privilege of hosting participants from the Maccabiah Support Mission at the Net@ project in the city of Ramle.

Net@ is a bold four-year extra-curricular program for secondary school students, empowering youth from Israel’s geographic and socioeconomic periphery through technological education, personal development and social activism.

Net@ creates new opportunities for disadvantaged children in grades 5 to 12 and increases prospects for social mobility. The goal is to provide them with hands-on experience in the areas of software, design and entrepreneurship. It also teaches skills that are important for start-ups, such as teamwork and joint planning. The program exposes students at a young age to English and a technology curriculum. This encourages enlistment in the secondary school program and creates
more opportunities for Israeli youth in the periphery.

Ramle is only 5 train stations and 20 minutes away from downtown Tel Aviv, but is as far away from the start-up nation as you could imagine. A small, neglected town with a mixed population of Jews and Arabs to new immigrants from Ethiopia and the Former Soviet Union, as well as olim from Morocco, Yemen, Iraq and other places. It is a town with so much potential and yet so much work to do to bridge critical gaps.

In Ramle and other social and geographical periphery communities of Israel, KH-UIA supports Net@ - the only long-term youth program in the country that promotes co-existence between Jews, Muslims and Christian youth. Together, they are bridging the technological divide, creating social mobility and promoting technological excellence and leadership skills for under privileged youth. Net@’s educational curriculum rests on two main pillars: advanced technological skills training (based on a curriculum developed by Cisco Systems and Microsoft) and social leadership; combining four key themes: personal excellence, social activism, global responsibility and tolerance and pluralism. In the words of the participants - it is the only place where they are given a chance to succeed.

The Mission visited a beautiful campus in the middle of a forgotten neighbourhood - the only place in the city where people can enjoy a coffee while using fast internet. We met incredible Net@ students who openly say their friends in the community have no dreams. After participating in Net@, these same teens are eager to enlist into the IDF’s cyber units. A 24-year-old graduate we met is now studying at college and shared that when he was a child, he didn’t even know what BA was. Another 16-year old girl is already enrolled in Tel Aviv University and another is going to a large hi-tech company in Tel Aviv weekly to gain experience. The opportunities that Net@ presents are incredible.

There are more girls participating in this program than boys with the impact being felt throughout the community, who know that if they have any problems with their computers, they call on the Net@ FixIt Lab. Recently the local central bus station called Net@ to come and fix a problem for them. It has become a reputable service within this neighbourhood. It is this unique approach and opportunity that gives participants the responsibility of managing community computer labs and harnesses their entrepreneurial skills to produce projects on local and national levels. 
This visit was truly an eye-opening; one which we will never forget. Net@ is just one of hundreds of programs supported by KH-UIA throughout Israel, impacting the lives of so many, while shaping the future of Israeli society. Through Net@ in Ramle, we have seen the change happening right before our eyes and how a better future for so many children of Israel is possible. Keren Hayesod-UIA is proud to be at the forefront of this change.

Daniel Tuksar is the Executive Director and Shaliach of UIA Victoria. He currently lives in Tel Aviv with his wife and 3 sons.