The State of Israel was founded three years after the end of World War II. Another three years later, in 1951, the first Jewish orphans entered the newly built classrooms in Kiriat Yearim. Former SHEK-affiliates (Swiss relief organization for emigrant children) – Christians and Jews – founded the Kiriat Yearim Youth Village in the hills of Jerusalem, for children and young people who had survived the Holocaust, and set up the association "Friends of the Swiss Youth Village Kiriat Yearim" in Switzerland.
A home for socially disadvantaged and traumatized children and young people
Originally built for children who had escaped the Holocaust, it has developed over the decades into a place for socially disadvantaged and traumatized children and youth. Be it domestic or external violence, neglect, war – every child arriving in Kiriat Yearim has already had a difficult life.
The Youth Village offers the children and young people a home with a fixed daily structure and emotional support. Here they are lovingly cared for, supported at school and accompanied therapeutically. The central principle is to promote self-responsibility, tolerance and a sense of community.
School and education
The school in Kiriat Yearim is designed for seven years of study and comprises grades 6 through 12. The aim of the school education is to obtain a full school completion certificate or a matriculation diploma with a technical focus. With the special "Heznek'' program, apprenticeship training in technical fields can be completed.
The focus is on enabling each pupil to experience personal success, fostering self-responsibility, social competence and self-confidence, closing existing gaps in knowledge and learning and teaching the necessary school skills.
«Instrumental enrichment» and accompanying therapies
The children's schooling is based on the method of "instrumental enrichment" developed by Professor Reuven Feuerstein and applied worldwide. This means that the children are accompanied in and outside of school with a lot of human warmth and a wide range of therapies. The village's own therapy center offers painting and music therapy, body therapy, Alexander Technique, play and conversation therapy.
Living together and infrastructure
The children live together in groups (up to 15 pupils) in six dormitories. They are supervised by group counsellors ("Madrichim") who are there for them all day long. This provides each child the right setting for his or her personal development.
The infrastructure of the village includes a school building, a dining room, the multipurpose hall "Beit Helen", a synagogue, a library, a therapy center as well as offices and apartments for the employees.
Leisure activities are an important part of village life. It is very important that the children enjoy intensive supervision outside of school.
The extracurricular activities are varied and always geared to the individual potential of each child. A wide range of activities in the fields of music, sports, shop-works, sewing, theater, dancing and scouting are extremely popular.
The petting zoo and agriculture
One of the central facilities in the Youth Village – especially with regard to therapeutic work – is the farm. Values such as responsibility or appreciation of work can be communicated there. At the same time, the farm is a place of social exchange among the children themselves as well as between the children and their carers.