Education is not Foreign to Them

While the status of children of foreign workers is debated in the government, IDF (Zahal) soldiers help the international body of Tel Aviv’s Bialik-Rogozin School

Date: 24/08/2010, 9:19 AM     Author: Amnon Direktor

One of the hottest topics in Israeli media lately has been the status of children of foreign workers in Israel. It is known that the government adopted the conclusions of the inter-ministerial committee which examined the status of children of foreign workers and recommended by a majority of 13 ministers against 10 to allow 800 children to stay in Israel and to expel 400. Those who will stay are those who were born here, who have been living in Israel for at least five years, studying in state educational institutions, are registered for the upcoming school year and speak Hebrew. Children who meet these conditions but whose parents entered Israel illegally will be expelled.

While ministers, Knesset members and citizens are trying to prevent this decree from becoming a reality, many soldiers are continuing their routine work in the Bialik-Rogozin school in southern Tel Aviv, which is a hub for children subject to deportation. The soldiers help the children both academically and socially as part of their military service, and some also volunteer. Karen Tal, principal of the Bialik-Rogozin school, explains that at the school,

“We are digesting the decision and it is not simple for us. We are speaking of approximately 90 of our pupils who are likely to be expelled from the school. We try to help the pupils and the families in many ways, and we still hope the decision will change for the better”.

A fascinating human mosaic

The Bialik-Rogozin school teaches students from kindergarten to 12th grade. The pupils come from a wide range of cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, including native Israelis, new immigrants, children of migrant workers subject to deportation, Arab Israelis, and Sudanese refugees. The students come from 48 different countries of origin.

“This is the most fascinating and complex human mosaic”, explains Principal Tal.

And what is the connection between all of this and the IDF (Zahal)? It turns out that just like in every other school in Israel, some soldiers serve here within the framework of their military service. The Bialik-Rogozin has soldier-teachers, a youth counselor, soldiers from the Nahal Brigade who are in their national community service period and soldiers who are serving in the IDF (Zahal) “Together” project.

“In our school, we have an exceptionally high number of volunteers. The volunteers are aged from 18 to 84. We have soldier-teachers, university students and more”, Principal Tal noted.

An example of excellence for the children

One of the school’s most interesting projects is the “Together” project. The project, which has been running for a few years already, involves 60 soldiers from the 8200 Intelligence Unit arriving twice a week to work together with the oldest students. Each soldier works with an appointed student throughout the entire year, mostly on subjects like mathematics, Hebrew and English.

“The fact that the soldiers arrive twice a week dressed in uniform, at the expense of their personal time and all with the purpose of helping constitutes an example of excellence for the children”, Principal Tal says.

Last year, the number of the school’s graduates who enlisted in the IDF (Zahal) increased to 68% and this year an even higher figure is expected.

“I definitely attribute part of the increase in IDF (Zahal) enlistment to the projects that the school organizes in cooperation with the IDF (Zahal): from the soldiers to the soldier-teachers to the Gadna (military preparation) week, to the meetings with officers”, Principal Tal states.

“Everybody as one big family”

To serve as a soldier-teacher in an area with low socio-economic status and in a school so complex from a population standpoint is not simple. Cpl. Noy Gor is serving as a soldier-teacher at Bialik-Rogozin in the Florentine area of Tel Aviv. Noy was drafted in August 2009 to be a soldier-teacher and participated in a course for after-school facility welfare. After the course, Noy was assigned to an after-school child care facility in southern Tel Aviv where she works half of the week. The other half of her week is spent working in the Bialik-Rogozin school where she focuses on young children with the aim of helping them improve in classes and exams.

When asked which children she worked with, Noy answered that she has pupils from Nigeria, the Philippines, Argentina, Egypt and more.

“At school, the children do not pay attention to their origins, and they really are like one big family. They are friends with everybody and accept everybody. To them, there is no difference of this kind”, she says.

A serious military task in every regard

Noy explained that the children are very close to the soldiers and that there is a long history of soldier-teachers in the area.

“The children are already used to having soldiers in the school. From the moment that I enter the classroom, all the children recognize me because of my uniform and want me to work with them and to sit next to them”. Noy says that the children ask a lot of questions about the army: “When they ask me when I have to go to war and fight I explain that my work in the army is to be with them and that I will stay with them and spend these two years with them. In my eyes this is a serious military task in every regard. I work many hours of the day and my job is intensive, demanding and fun at the same time”.

The school received additional assistance from an interesting source. Noy’s father, who by profession is a captain in the Haifa port, was also drafted into his daughter’s project. During the past year, he brought bags full of clothes and linens, helped to raise funds for summer camps and became a significant contributor in helping the children.

“My family got strongly involved”, Noy says. “These children are Israeli citizens whether they were born here or not and I am happy to be here to help them”.