“My first thought was: “How will I survive this year?” says Yarden Yifrach of Netanya Academic College. But she learned patience with a young boy who had lost his mother and closed himself off in a bubble. “When I let myself into his inner world, I saw how things that seemed so small to me were huge for him. But over the year, he made amazing progress.” Yifrach was one of 12 outstanding mentors in the Perach (“flower” in Hebrew) National Tutorial and Mentoring Project who received an Abraham Agmon Scholarship this year. The scholarships were awarded in a ceremony recently held in the Davidson Institute of Science Education on the campus of the Weizmann Institute of Science.
The connections they formed go deeper than once-a-week tutoring sessions. Hala Ramal of Haifa University read from a poem she had written about the boy she mentored: “My little friend is a very special boy; his heart is so big it has room for everyone. He is caring and has the strength of a superhero. He met his mother as a cancer patient, and he lost her at a young age. Yet he is full of positive energy and his goal is to go to university and become a Perach tutor so he can help others like himself.”
Alon Galron, Head of Perach, addressed the ceremony’s participants, as did Prof. Daniel Zajfman, President of the Weizmann Institute of Science and Chair of the Perach council; Matanyahu Engelman, Director of the Council for Higher Education and Chair of the Perach administration; Ram Shefa, Head of the National Students’ Union; and Dr. Liat Ben David, Head of the Davidson Institute of Science Education. Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin sent a written greeting and Education Minister Naftali Bennet did the same with a video.
His goal is to go to university and become a Perach tutor so he can help others like himself
Since Perach was founded 45 years ago – the initiative of a few students at the Weizmann Institute of Science who wanted to help some children they had met by chance – it has grown to encompass all of Israeli society. Today Perach involves approximately 12% of the students in Israel and tens of thousands of needy children. The largest organization of its kind in the world, Perach has become a source of inspiration and practical support to similar organizations operating in about 20 countries worldwide. The children receive tutoring, warmth and support; and the tutors receive financial assistance for their studies, as well as the satisfaction that comes from giving to the community. Perach was awarded an Israel Prize in 2008 for its lifetime contribution to the lives of over a million Israelis.
Ofir Zaruk, a student at the Givat Washington Academic College of Education, took on the challenge of a high-school student who was sight- and hearing-impaired, as well as undergoing treatment for a mental disorder. The teen had cut off ties from his family and was living in a boarding school. Ofir invited the young man to his home for family meals, helped him pass his high-school matriculation exams and took him out in public. Ofir says: “I could go on and on about all the things we did, but the biggest contribution was to instill faith in himself – that he can fully integrate into society, and marry and raise a family.”
Uri Abramov, from Ruppin Academic College, also worked with a boy who had serious behavioral problems and a complicated family situation. Uri recalls spending hours just trying to help the boy calm down and deal with his frustration and anger. Uri’s Perach adviser says: I am certain Uri influenced the future of this young man: Uri will always be to him a big brother who showed him the way.”
In addition to Yifrach, Ramal, Zaruk and Abramov, the other Abraham Agmon Scholarship recipients were Reut Negrin of Hadassah Academic College, Harduf Mizrachi of Bar Ilan University, Hadas Hebron of the Hebrew University, Sharon Ilan, Or Koren of Ben Gurion University, Jan Kovnetzki of Peres Academic College, Almog Bouchbut of Emek Yizrael Academic College and Shir Ledani of Haifa University.